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How I beat melancholy: A small practical guide

Old 04-24-17, 07:31 AM
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MightyLegnano
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How I beat melancholy: A small practical guide

Hello fellow cyclists,

I wrote this piece few years ago but recently decided to share it on medium. It's about mild depression, melancholia and generally negative feelings.



More and more often I read about people who are everyday feeling melancholic, sad, lonely or even experience a sense of “I don’t know what I’m doing here”. This is why I would like to write about my experience, as a kind of “sailing notice”, in case it is of any help to some souls that are suffering from the same issues.
These feelings, described by so many people around us, are feelings that I’ve had when I was still at school.
I was feeling boundlessly alone and sad. I felt that nobody found me interesting enough and that I would never find the meaning of life.
I often felt that being alive meant suffering.
This dark period in my life changed when I decided that I had to attempt to change.
I wanted to learn the art of living, I wanted to learn how to acquire control over my emotions, I wanted to feel strong, complete and happy.
Naturally, escaping from this situation that had its shackles over me wasn’t easy. In fact, it was terrifyingly hard. My existence was based on a brain that had learnt to perceive reality in a specific manner and that wasn’t disposed to change.
Throughout this whole process of change, which of course continues until this day, I felt every single day as though I were uprooting myself out of a place of safety and planting it anew into a place that seemed hostile and dangerous. This process is so painful, that often I felt myself collapsing like a house of cards. There were other times, in fact most of the times, when my brain came up with very convincing excuses to make me give up on every effort. “What is the meaning of trying when you see that whatever you do doesn’t help you?” or “you can’t change who you are, so what’s the meaning of trying?”.
In both of the cases above, I recommend rolling up your sleeves, putting one’s foot down and just keep walking. Resistance is the greatest proof that one is on the right path.
For as long as you’re on the right track, you feel that every step is a struggle. A struggle against the ghosts inside your mind, against your past, against the malice of others, against your very own psychological hang-ups. Your excuses are always blocking your way, like barbed wire, and with every misstep you feel as helpless as a flimsy boat struck by rough weather.
But I can guarantee this to you: the more you struggle, the more you’ll feel alive and the more you feel alive, the more you’ll want to take another step forward. Keep this in mind and never forget it.
Even now that I’m writing these lines I haven’t got the slightest clue whether the strategy I followed can help even one of you who are reading this. But I do believe that it is worth reading, since it has helped one person (myself) transform into a different creature, a creature that’s much more beautiful and has a lot more potential. A creature that could easily gorge up its previous self, if only it didn’t realise all too well that without it, it wouldn’t exist!
Starting on a theoretical level, I can divide my effort for change in three pillars: knowledge, thought and implementation.
Knowledge is information that makes you think.
In my case, I became addicted to documentaries, talks (like TED) and research into social behavior, the animal kingdom and human society. My interests spanned across a very wide range of subjects, from autism and intelligence to serial killers, meerkats* and lions.
Everything became interesting because it became relevant to my reality.
I wanted to become a walking encyclopaedia.
Some self-help books -as they are called- or even some academic volumes on marketing and mass psychology played a part in this.
Many of them, especially those in the New Age shelves, not only did not help but they managed to get me off track and so make me lose precious time.
Yet all this knowledge would not have helped in the least bit were I bereft of the fighter’s spirit that led me to take action and experiment with vibrant knowledge or the simple thoughts that I had in the arena of nature’s reality.
At first, theoretical knowledge may seem useless in our case, with regard to most everyday problems, but we will discover the exact opposite to be true. That is, if we find the necessary courage and energy to transform theoretical information into practical thought.
By practical thought I mean the kind of thinking that has collected information, metabolized it and tried to reach a conclusion.
That is, information is transformed into action (a step), thanks to the brain’s amazing ability to unconsciously connect information to reality.
While the brain automatically transforms a piece of information into thought and often conclusions, without any conscious guidance, it is entirely up to us a) to make the best use of and work on these conclusions b) to turn practical into experiential thought, that is, to turn thought into action. In very simple words, this means that if someone becomes immersed in the world of knowledge, if he persists, very soon he will start to understand how to make sense and use of it. Just like a baby: first it is born without knowing the language. Very soon, we see it handling the sounds and words it hears with great interest. For the baby’s mind, those convoluted sound data are meaningless information which it cannot understand and use. But, little by little, this unknown world becomes its terrain and within a few years he can use it anyway he likes.
I know how annoying theory always sounds when it comes to a practical problem. That’s why I will describe it to the best of my ability on a factual level, so it can merge with the theoretical one.
The beginning of every change is movement.
For me, this is the supreme law. Movement is the opposite of standing still. It Means dancing, running, doing martial arts, cycling, climbing, etc. Many theoretical thinkers may argue against this because it sounds simplistic but the explanation is indeed simple and its implementation always brings results.
The body is the brain’s representative.
Whatever happens inside the brain cannot be expressed outside its bounds without the body.
So if the brain is mentally healthy, but the body is ailing, the brain’s print in the environment will be unwholesome.
So, we understand that movement not only helps the body itself, but also the connectivity between body and mind.
The body transmits the information to the brain, so the body must learn to communicate with it.
In short, we need a brain that can feel intimate with the body that accompanies it (and vice versa), so as to be able to use it daily in social interactions without friction. The Ancient Greeks had a name for this, the famous “a sound mind in a sound body”, which confirms it to be true. For the mind to be healthy, the body must also be healthy.
I could add to this the behavioral potential offered by anything relating to movement (getting to know new people, forging friendships, learning how to adapt etc) but I feel this is more or less known and I do not need to go into it.
Aside from movement, there are also our interests.
Although both these sectors often coincide, they present a distinct appeal.
By “interests” I mean the activities that for some reason allow us to express who we truly are, while helping us to create an identity we feel happy with in relation to society and people around us.
Through this occupation/ identity, the environment around us is no longer unknown and hostile, but becomes a puzzle of identities that invites us to make the perfect fit.
It is not our own self, but a thing we take pleasure in representing us to the outside world (as we still lack the skill of making our proper introduction).
Something of this kind, as an ability with limitless potential for improvement and development, among other things, can help us acquire a sense of meaning of life (be it alternative).
Interests and hobbies are essential but can’t solve the problem without some basic rules. Like “The rule of not analyzing”. Analyzing, as far as people suffering mentally are concerned, is definitely a catastrophic habit. Most of the times it can be masked as a “straightening comb” and convince us that it can untie the knots in our mind. But in reality, it does the exact opposite. By trying to untie a knot, we turn all our mental energy to the knot (i.e. the problem), which of course is not what we want happening. The knot is an open wound; the more we analyse it, the more it bleeds. For it to heal, we need to forget about it for a little while. In neurological terms, we could say that by trying to untie a knot -that is, when we intellectually attempt to cure a condition- the neural networks around the problem grow and are turned into highways in order to accommodate the increase in traffic. But we would like the exact opposite to happen.
We would like the the neural networks that lead to the problem to be forgotten and turn into small paths, while the avenues of thought would be the networks that lead to much more simplistic (oversimplified, one might say) and quaint thoughts. “This noon I’m having my favorite dish”. “This afternoon I’ll up the weight on the chest press”. These are thoughts that heal.
I’ll relate to you one last thing, as a closing statement. It is what I call -with poetic license- “The pill of Surprise”. When a man is suffering psychologically, he faces various symptoms. One of them is lack of energy. Not necessarily the kind of energy we need to climb a mountain, but the energy needed to get things done, to go out, discover the world, be amazed! Surprise is for me a great tool to help someone see life from a different perspective. It serves kind of like a spring board.
Say you place an elastic band around an ant. The ant is going to spend the rest of its life trying to find a way out. But if you jerk your finger beneath it, it is going to shift level and find itself someplace else, free.
In this sense, when you surprise yourself it is as though you are always shifting the ground, forcing yourself to adapt and find solutions to the problems that may come up.
Every surprise is a kind of small rebirth, which will reboot man and take him back to his most basic instinct; the one that mental illness had buried underneath tons of thought, routine (mind you- the existence of a routine is important, but it needs to be combined with surprise) and boredom.
The instinct of survival. The pill of surprise can very easily be popped by doing things that we wouldn’t usually do. Instead of a hot relaxing bath, take a cold shower. Don’t carry the groceries by car but on the bike! Go running. Go dancing in a club. Join a tango school. Gather all the rubbish in your neighborhood and groom the trees. Go to a party (even if you have a lousy time). Make small talk with the grumpy neighbor. The choices are endless! The more we do, especially from the point of view of change, the better it is (always combined with a good night’s sleep).
Even though what’s been said above does not begin to cover even in the least bit the real knowledge for change, I feel it gives a very good boost to the right direction.
Besides, it is are more or less the sum of my personal philosophy, that has made me change to such a degree as to be able to describe how I’ve managed it (and keep trying with the same amount of passion).
I know few people will read it and be convinced or inspired to try evolving. Most will classify it as quirky internet theories, self-help books and other such magical gimmicks.
It is none of these. It is simply the thoughts that came about through a persistent man’s hard experiences as he managed to transform a personality that once tormented him.
Finally, in conclusion, I’d like to add the most important -at least for me- point in this text, which is presentation.
That is, how will all these efforts affect one’s social life and relations with others?
For better or worse, one can only realize this by going through the major hurdles and the numerous, albeit small, successes of the road to personal growth.
But I can boldly state that every bit of progress, every success and every battle will show in your glance, in your way of moving, in the way you speak.
* You can watch the incredible documentary “A Meerkat Family Saga” in youtube.
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Old 04-24-17, 01:12 PM
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Dear boy,
for someone that has a rule about not over-analyzing... You need to let the beast out to play.
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Old 04-24-17, 02:12 PM
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Originally Posted by late View Post
Dear boy,
for someone that has a rule about not over-analyzing... You need to let the beast out to play.
Can you elaborate on that?
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Old 04-24-17, 02:33 PM
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Originally Posted by MightyLegnano View Post

Can you elaborate on that?
You're overthinking overthinking...

You need to take the dog off the leash. My favorite thing was hiking, which is literally getting the hell out of Dodge.
But any of the animal appetites apply.
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