Our bodies are complex machines and, like any decent piece of kit, they have buttons to tap into different functionalities. Trouble is, our human form doesn’t have clearly marked keys, so where’s our ‘happiness switch’ and how do we find it?

I’VE started experiencing panic attacks. I’m a 45-year-old woman and I have never experienced these awful episodes before in my life. I’ve been through stress, anxiety, depression, even a breakdown, but never, ever panic attacks.

Let’s just address the huge pink elephant in the room (no, not me, you cheeky blighter!) — I’m at *that* age, and yes, I could be beginning a slow tango with the menopause.

On doing a bit of research, I discovered that it’s not unusual for women to experience adrenaline peaks as our bodies start to move into menopause, which is why so many of us get pummelled by panic, but that’s for another article. In this one, I want to talk about understanding our bodies and learning how to tune them into the mood frequency we desire.

Nowhere to hide

The last time one of these panic attacks hit, I found myself hyperventilating, shaking from the inside out, feeling a sense of impending doom, tears streaming for no reason and wanting to make myself as small as I possibly could and take cover. I was in my living room. There was nowhere to hide, unless I pulled a blanket over my head and risked being trampled over by three dogs (including a fat Labrador) who’d probably assume I was playing a game.

I ended up sitting up a corner, perched on a slam ball (yes, I have bits of workout kit in my living room — don’t you?), trying to will my breathing to slow down, if only to restore the feeling to my lips and the tip of my nose.

I’m still not sure what made me do it, except the deeply ingrained knowledge that I needed to do something — anything — to change my state, but I blindly grabbed for a dumbbell.

After about 30 reps, my mood started to change. At the risk of sounding overly poetic, it was as though sunlight was beginning to shine through the leaves.

At first, not much happened, except that I was now sobbing and lifting a 7.5kg weight but, after about 30 reps, my mood started to change. At the risk of sounding overly poetic, it was as though sunlight was beginning to shine through the leaves. Another 10 or so and I was feeling much brighter — I might even say I was on the edge of happiness.

Since then, whenever I’ve felt my mood dipping, or sensed a panic attack beginning to tug at my mind and body, I’ve picked up some weights, or started doing some steps, or push ups, or some kind of high impact training.

Endorphins. Gotta love ‘em!

I’ve also started to do a quick workout first thing in the morning, just to give my endorphins a kick start. Writing in BBC Science Focus, Professor David Veale says that some people with depression seem to have disrupted circadian rhythms (it’s all to do with sleep patterns), and might release melatonin at the wrong time of the day, which is why their mood can be lower when they first wake up.

In case anyone’s wondering, endorphins are chemicals your body releases that interact with the receptors in our brains that reduce our perception of pain. They also trigger positive feelings in our body that are said to be similar to morphine — that’s why people sometimes talk about a runners’ high, or a euphoric feeling after a workout.

I’m not that academic…

For the record, I’m neither scientist nor medic. I’m not a psychologist either. I’m just a coach and trainer who’s spent years exploring and learning about the human condition.

Largely as a result of frustrations with my own rollercoaster mood patterns, I threw myself into an educational journey that encompassed Neuro Linguistic Programming, coaching and mentoring, extreme empowerment, conflict management, shamanism and even learning personal development tools developed and used by tribal societies as a way of keeping people ‘whole’.

I’ve read everything from Napoleon Hill to Anthony Robbins and Oprah Winfrey, delivered a TED talk on telomeres and the science of being silly, been consulted for TV shows focusing on mindset and transformational work and written a few books of my own. I have certificates coming out of my armpits too, but none of that really matters here.

Suffice to say, you can’t take this article as medical advice, but you can certainly read, absorb and give some of the techniques I’ve discovered a go, if you want to change your own state.

Accountability rocks

Back to that dumbbell and the endorphins… this all got me thinking.

In all the years I spent working with shamans and medicine people, learning about those ancient tribal methodologies to regulate mood and promote self awareness and accountability, there was a huge amount of importance placed on taking control of our mindset and emotions. So much had to do with learning to know ourselves at a deeper level, so that we might control our thoughts, rather than our thoughts controlling us.

They’d have a whole raft of tools (many of which I now carry and use to help and support my clients) to help regulate and control our mindset and outlook and, instead of looking for external factors to blame, they’d take absolute ownership for everything in their lives, which enabled them to create change.

Careful — let’s not get to ‘woo’ for you!

Outside of working with spirit and energy (which might be a teensy bit too ‘woo’ for this article, though a fascinating subject to explore some other time), if someone was depressed, anxious, stressed, they’d be given tools and exercises to help them to take back control. Everything from creating habits to retrain the brain into a more appreciative mode (the same stuff so many modern-day practitioners talk about as if it’s some new invention to tap into the brain’s neuro plasticity), getting outdoors and connecting to nature, drinking more water, or dancing, singing or breathwork to change gear on an emotional and psychological level.

However much we come up with fancy new terms to ‘science up’ some of these techniques for a modern-day audience, people have been practising them for aeons!

However much we come up with fancy new terms to ‘science up’ some of these techniques for a modern-day audience, people have been practising them for aeons!

Those old wise people probably didn’t know about neuro plasticity, endorphins, melatonin or circadian rhythms (or, at least, they wouldn’t have used that language), but they were using the tools decades before our boffins were ‘discovering’ them, creating training programmes and churning out therapists, apps and franchises.

It strikes me that us modern-day humans have lost something.

We’ve lost our innate sense of self-responsibility when it comes to managing our mood and mindset.

Nowadays, rather than taking it upon ourselves to do something proactive to create a more positive state, we actively seek those labels of dis-ease and sink into them. We go to the doctor, get prescribed our chemicals and pop them with regularity, safe in the knowledge that we can’t help it — we need the medicines because we’re depressed and there’s nothing we can do about it.

Except there, is, isn’t there?

Don’t dis anti-depressants

Don’t get me wrong here — I’ve taken the anti-depressants route when I needed to, and there’s nothing wrong with that. Hey, never say never — if I couldn’t shift things enough on my own, I’d seek the professional support I needed. I’m big into complementary therapy, not alternative. Nothing needs to be binary here; we can use a mix of different tools — be they man-made supplements or natural exercises — to get to where we need to be. It’s all medicine.

What I’m saying is that instead of working to create the energy and mindset we need for more optimism, we’ve largely become used to popping a pill and becoming the label the medics have so kindly gifted to us.

If we’re ‘DEPRESSED’, for example, it doesn’t always mean we need to stay that way for life or that we can’t take positive action ourselves to help us come further into balance. Trouble is, I’m seeing far too many people not taking any self-responsibility outside of popping the pills at the right time every day.

We’ve become disconnected from our bodies. Our heads are ruling the show and getting more and more pissed off that our bodies aren’t doing what we want them to…

We’ve become disconnected from our bodies. Our heads are ruling the show and getting more and more pissed off that our bodies aren’t doing what we want them to, even when we throw pills at them, or, maybe, a little bit of therapy and CBT.

If we were just willing to work towards healing our head/heart disconnect and recognising that, alongside the support from our doctors, we might also effect positive change by our own actions, I reckon we’d be well on the way to moving metaphorical mountains.

In very simple terms, our bodies are complex machines and, like any decent piece of kit, they have buttons to tap into different functionalities. The only difference is, our human form doesn’t have those keys clearly marked — we have to find them and learn how to switch between our different modes.

If you’re reading this and want to learn some tools to help improve your own mood, I’m going to share some with you now. Some of them might seem ridiculously simple, but give them a go anyway. I’m only sharing techniques that have worked for me — they might well work for you.

WARNING:

One word of warning — these are NOT a replacement for medical treatment, for those of you who are far enough along the path to be working with specialists or under your GP for treatment. Remember what I said about these not being an either/or. If you need to take prescribed drugs, take the prescribed drugs… just be willing to try some of these as well — you might find developing some new habits will help.

Oh, and one other tiny thing to bear in mind: if you have health conditions that exercise, or anything else mentioned here, might impact, please check with your doctor first.

Here goes — my list of simple techniques that might just improve your mood.

  1. Change Body, Change State
    This is one of the techniques I learned from those medicine people I worked with — and it’s precisely what I was doing when I grabbed that dumbbell. It doesn’t need to be a massive workout though. The concept is pretty simple: if you’re in a funk, the worst thing you can do is sit in it. Do something — anything — to move out of it. Get up and go for a walk. If walking’s an issue for you, do something with your arms — wave, clap, lift things, anything to get you moving. Dance. Exercise. Just move!
  2. Drink More Water
    I’ve written about this one before. I’m convinced that low mood can be connected to dehydration. And it’s not just me. Hit up Google! Studies have shown that dehydration may cause low mood, fatigue and depression. Have a drink of water first thing in the morning and get into the habit of having water close by to sip during the day. If your mood starts to dip, drink more water. One other point here — look at how backwards we might have it: if we’re feeling tired, we grab a coffee, and we know caffeine is a diuretic, whilst it might actually be dehydration causing the fatigue. Try drinking more water instead of an americano.
  3. Journal
    I’ve found that writing it all out can help. I keep a ‘brain dump journal’ next to my bed and, if I wake up feeling overloaded, I pick up the journal and pen and just start writing. Don’t think about what you’re going to write and don’t edit yourself — just let it flow until you come to a natural stop.
  4. Get outdoors
    There’s loads of research to suggest that getting outdoors and reconnecting to nature can positively impact your mood and overall health. Look up ‘forest bathing’ and ‘earthing’ for starters. Really connect with all that is around you. Don’t stop to take that picture for Insta — that’s a different kind of connection, and not the one we’re seeking here! Thinking of all I learned on the medicine path, the different elements all carry different teachings too — water represents the flow of emotion, for instance. Let the air blow those cobwebs away and get some natural light and warmth from the sun too. There are so, so many benefits to getting away from technology and into nature.
  5. Appreciate
    One of the tools I learned early on when I was learning about shamanism and the medicine path was to list five things I appreciate every morning. Just five things I’m grateful for. It could be as simple as my cat’s purr to the smell of fresh baking bread, having limbs that work or sunshine peeping through the curtains. If we form a habit of listing five, or more, things we appreciate every morning, we start to train our mind to be more positive. This is one of those techniques people connect with neuro plasticity, yet it’s been around for far, far longer.
  6. Exercise
    Yep, I know I mentioned it in the first point, but this is just about exercise in its own right. Whether it’s joining a gym, working with a personal trainer (I do this for accountability, more than anything else), doing Couch To 5K, walking, or working out at home, exercise releases all those endorphins we spoke about earlier, and that can have a really positive impact on your mental health.

Please remember that none of these points should be used in place of speaking to a professional. Speak to your GP if you need to. Talk to friends and family if you’re feeling low. Call The Samaritans if you’re in the UK. Don’t try to bottle everything up when there are so many people and organisations ready to help and support you. This article is not intended to replace medical advice and, again, for the record, I’m not a doctor — I’m just someone who’s been through the mill and threw herself into learning how to feel better in future and help others do the same.

I do hope this article has at least provided some food for thought and given you some ideas and techniques to try if your mood is attempting to drag you down. Do let me know how you get on.

Until next time,

#UnleashYourAwesome,

Taz

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Taz Thornton is the author of Awesome Sauce — a free, weekly positive life and business round-up, with good news stories, positivity tips and visibility hacks for your brand. In a few minutes each week, you get a dose of optimism and some awesome advice to get seen and stay happy.

Taz is also a best-selling author, inspirational business speaker and consultant on confidence, personal brand and visibility, award-winning coach (UK’s Best Female Coach 2018 — Best Business Woman Awards), speaker trainer, consultant and creator of the #UnleashYourAwesome and #BrandMastery personal and business development programmes, as well as #UNLEASHED — an affordable confidence, content and cashflow building programme for coaches, healers and therapists.

She has been featured on BBC, ITV, in HuffPost, Diva and countless other newspapers, magazines and podcasts. Taz is also a regular columnist for the America Out Loud talkshow network.

Find her on FacebookLinkedInTwitter and Insta.