Serotonin is our built-in stabilizer: a confidence chemical and neurotransmitter that boosts a sense of safety, self-esteem and wellbeing. But once it runs low, we’re in for a truckload of self-hate because it affects mood, motivation, cognition, memory, decision-making, appetite, sleep, pain sensation, stress levels, sex drive and so much more.
1. Mute the Negative Self-Talk
Don’t hate yourself. But that’s too easy to say. You’ll stop self-hating only when you’re ready. For decades, I would say, “bitch,” “idiot,” “moron,” to myself after reliving embarrassing moments on endless loops. And then there were the times when I wish I would’ve said something smart in a conversation or argument. My critical thinking cells bust their moves only a day later. Naturally, more self-cursing follows.
Then I found this gem: would you let a friend talk to you that way you talk to yourself?
A light bulb went on. Wouldn’t you fight with this mean-girl saboteur, tell them to shut up, or break off the relationship? Bingo. I don’t know if men trash-talk to themselves, but women internalise negative self-talk to a higher degree. So, ditch this frenemy. Tune her out.
2. Practice self-kindness
Stop sanskari-judging yourself! Yes, there are days when we feel inadequate as daughters, moms, wives, or daughters-in-law. Too often we struggle with the imposter syndrome at work or chide ourselves for not being good enough. Screw that. Instead, try an occasional self-pat on the back, a round of applause for a job well done, and it will make for good baby steps to half-wellness. But this too won’t happen overnight. Alison Ledgerwood, professor of psychology at University of California, Davis, has some great advice to help you unstick this debilitating pattern.
3. Get some sun (if you can bear it)
Vitamin D is a great serotonin booster. So are those fishy Omega-3 fatty acids, which make serotonin function better by reducing brain inflammation. Do consult your doctor, however.
4. Be Creative
I despise cooking. But listening to music helps me through it. Now, as I start cooking, I line up my playlists before assembling the ingredients. Some friends on the other hand, find cooking therapeutic and science proves them right. Studies show that daily bursts of creativity lead to satisfaction and joy.
Flex your creative muscles for that extra high. Find your voice and power in whatever helps you feel like a goddess. I lucked upon writing. But for the longest time, I found my artificial high in binge-watching TV, gardening, decorating, and shopping. Many over-stuffed closets and dead plants later, I’m trying to cut back on this addiction: downsizing and detoxing. Not exactly at the Marie Kondo level yet, but hope I can get half-way there some day.
Not enough time or energy? Try to claim your thin slices of joy for a few seconds.
5. Pamper yourself
Remember Donna Meagle from “Parks and Recreation”? Follow her lead and “treat yo’self!” A facial or a massage? If not monthly, try mani-pedis every 2-3 months. Try a nail colour or a hairstyle you wouldn’t be caught dead in ten years ago.
There may be something to that laughter therapy after all. If you can, laugh at your embarrassing moments. Or the time when your dad said that one thing? When you got that gag gift? Remember, when you laughed so hard you peed? Or when you couldn’t stop smiling? Laugh like Gabbar. Channel your inner Mugambo. Cackle.
There is so much stand-up comedy talent on the interwebz these days. I would highly recommend Aditi Mittal and similar artists who are doing amazing work to entertain, advocate, and empower.
Is there a film you’ve been wanting to see, but no one will go with you? Seriously, nourish yourself. Take yourself out on a date—lunch, and a movie after. Recharge yourself with mini vacations. Off to the terrace with a book, a quiet corner in a café or bookstore, or even the balcony.
8. Cuss, scream
Swearing is instant therapy. Can’t meditate even though everyone and their mother have been raving about its benefits? Try this instead: F*ck That: An Honest Meditation.
When alone in the house or the car, I’ll yell, “Not today, motherfuckers!” I laugh and feel as if I’ve gotten away with something; it’s exhilarating. I’ve invested in merchandise that cusses too: a “Goeth and Fucketh Thyself” coffee mug, and a “Zero Fox Given” pin for my purse.
Screaming out loud is deadass restorative too. In the car, into a pillow at home, in the shower. Do it. Or just sing out loud. Make some noise.
Get angry. Reach deep inside of you and find that wrath. Get angry at the sexist bull crap thrown your way in WhatsApp wife jokes (that’s how I got started), or toxic people who are weighing you down. Delete them from your contacts. Recognize triggers.
10. Walk away
Or stay, and speak up. Anger may make you say terrible things, but it is valuable in getting people around you to sit up and pay attention. The people who care, will stick around. And listen.
So they say (but tell that to my resistant ass). It helps clarify and burn the haze. “Meditation is a great way to de-fang” that inner nag, says Dan Harris—a guy who had a very public panic attack on American national TV.
12. Be vigilant
Don’t let anyone guilt or shame you into self-harm. This will be hard. Especially for Indian women who’ve been trained to never say no. Sometimes, for your own sanity, you have to own the NO. Occupy it. Practice saying it: Sorry, can’t come to your party. Nope, won’t be cooking today — dhaba’s closed. Get your own damn report — not doing your secretarial work.
Also read part 4.
Featured Image Credit: The Positive Psychology People