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Blue thoughts: how to break away from a bad mood.

Blue thoughts: How to break away from a bad mood

Feeling blue? Down in the dumps, depressed, gloomy, bumed out?

By any name, it's still a gray, empty feeling that all of us have known at one time or another, it seems to creep up from nowhere and take hold of its victims when they least suspect it. With it come apathy, lethargy and boredom.

It's not the clinical type of depression that can be serious. It's just a down-and-out kind of feeling that dulls your sense of joy and makes any unnecessary effort seem like too much trouble.

Although no one is immune to blue moods, people with arthritis or other chronic diseases may be more likely to experience them than others because they cope with more pain, stress and uncertainty in their daily lives. It's hard to always be "up" and positive when your joints are hurting; hard to feel cheerful when stiffness slows you down. And when arthritis keeps you from doing some of your favorite activities, you can really feel deflated.

Does it help to know that it happens to everyone at some point? That it won't last forever? That there are things you can do to help yourself shake that blue mood and let the sun come out?

Your outlook

It goes without saying that your thoughts have a major impact on your outlook. For instance, if you think to yourself during a flare up. "I feel awful and I'm going to have to miss the party tonight. I'll probably always have to miss out on the sun events because of arthritis. I don't want to live this way for the rest of my life," you set yourself up for depression. By projecting into the future and predicting a bleak outcome for all social events, you make the immediate situation worse.

A more positive, upbeat outlook would be to say to yourself, "Although I'm not up to going to the party tonight, I bet if I rest up I'll be feeling good by next weekend and I'll be able to get together with friends then." Realize that it's not the circumstances that dictate how you feel, but your reaction to them.

If you're not a natural optimist (and many of us aren't) try to train yourself to have a more optimistic outlook. Negative thinking can be changed, but old habits are hard to break. Remind yourself often that the glass is half full, after all, not half empty!

One factor that affects your outlook is how much control you feel you have in your life. Feeling that arthritis has taken over your life and that you are helpless against it is a sure way to make yourself feel physically and emotionally worse.

Try setting small goals for yourself and working toward them. Several small successes will bolster yourself esteem and prepare you for tackling bigger hurdles. Success is a natural mood-booster, and who knows, you might surprise yourself with what you are able to accomplish!

Joining a group of others who are coping with arthritis can also improve yourself confidence and help you have a more positive outlook. Call your local chapter of the Arthritis Foundation to see if it offers support groups. Other programs your chapter might offer include the Arthritis Self-Help Course and the new PACE (People with Arthritis Can Exercise) program.

Another way to improve your outlook is to get involved in an activity that interests you and takes your attention away from your problems. Take up a new hobby or start a project you've been wanting to do. Isn't it time you put that photo album together, or learned to play chess? Why not volunteer for your favorite charitable group?

Mood brighteners

Training yourself to think positively will boost your outlook longterm, but there will still be days now and then when you feel down. However, you can take action against the blues in a number of ways whenever they threaten to ruin your day.

Exercise that boosts the heart rate is by far one of the best and most immediate ways to help yourself feel better when you're sluggish. Walking, swimming and low-impact aerobics are examples of this type of exercise. It may be hard to make yourself exercise if you're in a bad mood, but the benefits are well worth the effort!

Sticking with a regular program of exercise can help keep your outlook bright on an ongoing basis. In addition to the immediate mental benefits, imagine how your self esteem will soar when you see the physical benefits of regular exercise! Of course, be sure to check with your doctor or physical therapist to find out what kinds of exercise are safe and appropriate for you.

Sleep is another powerful weap-on against the blues, especially during a flare, when you may be in more pain and need more rest than usual. Taking a short nap or going to bed earlier than usual may do wonders toward restoring a sunny outlook. Sometimes just cutting back on some of your activities or taking short rest breaks can help.

There are also a lot of little things you can do to boost your mood, from creating a cheerful environment to treating yourself to something you enjoy now and then. Try these suggestions, then come up with your own personalized "blues busters". . Surround yourself with bright, cheerful colors. Wear a fuschia blouse; buy a bright yellow umbrella. Stay away from dark tones like navy blue and gray when you're feeling dismal. . Do something just for you. Try putting fresh flowers in your living room or sneaking off to a movie alone. Splurge on a treat, such as a new scarf, maid service for the day or a box of gourmet chocolates. You deserve it! . Turn on your favorite music, put up your feet and relax. Or sink into a hot bubble bath with a good magazine. . Don't over-indulge, but eat your favorite "comfort foods" such as soup or macaroni and cheese. Carbohydrates like popcorn or potatoes have a natural calming effect. . Call or get together with a friend who makes you laugh. Another person's humorous outlook can be infectious! . Do something nice for someone else-take a meal to someone who is homebound, for instance. By getting "outside" of yourself for a little while, you may realize that there are others worse off than you -and you may see your own problems in a new perspective. . Try the whimsical suggestions on the next page.

When depression persists

If you find that, despite your efforts to the contrary, your dark mood persists for days or weeks, it's time to consider professional help. Do you find yourself withdrawing from family and friends? Are you often irritable, gloomy and negative? Are you paying less and less attention to your personal appearance? Do you frequently feel that life is "just not worth the bother"?

These are possible signs of serious depression, which can be helped with treatment. Talk to your physician about your concerns-some medications can even cause depression. Your doctor can also refer you to a qualified psychologist or psychiatrist if necessary. Or you might feel more comfortable talking with a clergyman or social worker.

Talking to a professional about your feelings is certainly nothing to be ashamed of. Many people have benefitted from having an objective, trained person help them sort through disturbing emotions. If you can't seem to shake your depression by yourself, the best thing you can do for yourself is get help!

Above all else, remember that no matter how down you are, you will feel better eventually. A time will come when you can't really remember why life seemed so grim. Ride out the bad times, knowing that good times are ahead.

Life is, after all, a spectrum of emotions. The only people who truly appreciate the highs are those who have known the lows!
COPYRIGHT 1989 Arthritis Foundation, Inc.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1989 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Author:Witter, Dianne C.
Publication:Arthritis Today
Date:Jan 1, 1989
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