For some, seasonal depression strikes around the same time every year. For many others, that season seems to last all year… especially when the last two years have been chaotic as heck.
If you have felt like you are checked out, losing interest, pulling away, and lacking energy, you might be experiencing seasonal or other types of depression.
When we are stressed, our brains activate stress responses and shut down other functions in order to survive. However, survival mode gets exhausting. Eventually our brains compensate by under-activating altogether. We feel “dysfunctional” or “numb” when this state gets stuck. Brains are so adaptive, they can have this response when triggered by even the slightest connections to threat. Fortunately, our brains are so powerful we can use our imagination to find relief. We can induce other feeling states like calm, ease, or neutral. There are even methods to heal past experiences by reprocessing memories with less survival reactions.
OUR BRAINS CANNOT TELL THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN REAL AND IMAGINED
Studies have compared pianists’ brain activity while they played a piece of music for real, and while they imagined playing the same piece. Real and imagined piano playing activated similar areas in their brain! This suggests that even though we know there is a difference between what is real and imagined, our brain and nervous system interprets it all as real. Guided imagery is used as a coping skill to promote relaxation, confidence, and recovery. It can even adapt memories to change their effect on us. This could also explain why catastrophizing, worrying, and flashbacks cause such real emotional reactions in our bodies.
HOW TO GET RELIEF USING YOUR IMAGINATION
What is the most relaxing or peaceful place or activity you can imagine? Imagine it. What does it look like? And feel like? How is the weather? Notice what you hear or smell when you’re in this place. Get a clear sense of this place. Really imagine yourself being there in vivid detail. No one is around. You don’t have any responsibilities in this place. You can just be at peace. Notice the positive sensations and feelings that show up as you do this. Let them soak in. Notice them. Breathe. Immerse yourself. Spend time doing this and notice the effects you feel.
Think of something stressful and notice how this peaceful exercise might change how you behave or feel in that situation. Practice using this imagined scene and the positive feelings it induces any time your brain needs it!
HOW THERAPY CAN TAKE THIS A STEP FURTHER
You and a therapist can decrease the distress associated with anything that triggers an uncomfortable response. Triggers can be certain people, conversations, smells, thoughts, really anything that your brain connects to a threatening experience in some way. Uncomfortable responses can range from panic to shutting down and feeling depressed. A trained therapist can guide you to focus on whatever your brain finds threatening, stay relatively calm, and reduce that negative response. You can find relief from real-world fears using your imagination. Seriously! Even though you can, studies show your brain can’t tell the difference between your real and imagined experiences.
If you’d like to learn more about how a highly-trained therapist in Kansas City can help you and your brain find relief from depression, trauma, and other mental health concerns, contact us now! We believe everyone deserves relief and to know their options, so we offer free 15-minute consultations. Heartland Therapy Connection believes everyone is #betterconnected. We hope to hear from you (and help you out) soon! Take care, Londonne