Many of us who have Borderline Personality Disorder experience an array of emotions on any given day. Our experience of these emotions tends to be much more intense than that of someone who is not diagnosed with BPD.
Included in the mood swings we experience are often deep levels of sadness and depression. Because I suffered for many years, feeling at the mercy of these particular (yet just just as transient as any other) emotions, I sought out ways to support my mind and body in feeling well.
We don’t have to be powerless over this situation.
For me, in addition to Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT), my action plan turned out to include a combination of things revolving around something called serotonin.
What is Serotonin?
We hear a lot these days about serotonin – a naturally occurring chemical in the human brain that promotes feelings of well-being. Scientists say that people with low levels of serotonin suffer from depression. A class of drugs called SSRIs (selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitors), such as Zoloft and Celexa, work by lengthening the amount of time that serotonin is in contact with certain brain receptors.
In addition to taking an SSRI, I’ve learned that there are other ways to increase my serotonin levels and feel good, and in my experience — they work!
A Visit to the “Serotonin Store”
This weekend, I went to the “Serotonin Store.” This place can look different from person to person on any given day. For me on Friday, it was the beach. Yes, instead of Black Friday, I celebrated Beach Friday, and it did me some good.
|My view the other day|
According to WebMD:
“A new study shows that the brain produces more of the mood-lifting chemical serotonin on sunny days than on darker days….Researchers found that regardless of the season, the turnover of serotonin in the brain was affected by the amount of sunlight on any given day. And the levels of serotonin were higher on bright days than on overcast or cloudy ones. In fact, the rate of serotonin production in the brain was directly related to the duration of bright sunlight.“
Yesterday was a sunny, warm day at the coast here in California, with temperatures ranging from the 60s to the 70s and not a cloud in sight. I felt the warmth of the heat of the sun on my skin and felt enveloped and comforted it by it. I knew that not only was my body absorbing vitamin D from the sun, but it was also creating more serotonin.
Whether the effects were technically immediate or not, I felt better during my walk and outing of over six miles. In addition to sunlight helping with the production of serotonin, exercise is also shown to do the same, so I surely picked up some more while engaging in my brisk walk.
An article on how to increase serotonin in the brain by the National Institute of Health states that a strategy “that may raise brain serotonin is exercise. A comprehensive review of the relation between exercise and mood concluded that antidepressant and anxiolytic effects have been clearly demonstrated...Several lines of research suggest that exercise increases brain serotonin function in the human brain.”
I find it helpful and empowering to know that there are things that I can do to potentially increase serotonin production in my brain and feel better.
DBT Skills In Action
I practiced several DBT skills, including:
- Creating a Life Worth Living: I enjoy being out in the sun and going to the beach. While there, I collected a bunch of beautiful seashells and stones to take home and admire. I also intend to pick out one that I will carry as a “grounding” tool. I will have that part of the ocean with me to remind me of its vastness and beauty. While there, I felt an immense amount of gratitude and thankfulness for all of the good in my life.
These are some of the shells and stones I found at the beach.
I suppose they were my “currency” at the Serotonin Store. 🙂
- Distracting: I got my mind off of my problems by engaging in walking and observing the beach while collecting keepsakes.
- Self-Soothing: I observed that nearly all of my senses were soothed during this outing:
- Through sight: I, of course, looked at and enjoyed the beautiful scenery all around me.
- Through sound: I listened to the waves coming in and going out and crashing on the shore and rocks.
- Through touch: I felt the sand with my hands and noticed how it felt as I walked on it.
- Through smell: I smelled the salty sea air.
- PLEASE: Through exercising and staying hydrated (I took my trusty bottle of bubbly water with me), I took care of my physical well-being.