Saturday, July 11, 2009

Serenity 101: Or "Somebody Stop that GERBIL!"

(Picture of beach at San Clemente at Sunset. Serenity to me.)

For some reason this has been a week where my mind -- probably my cingulate gyrus in "brainspeak" -- tended to get stuck on a fretful or bitter or "gee, I'm dreading that" loop. Twice I felt as though I missed great chunks of good days because my brain had been kidnapped into Somebody Done Me Wrong Land. Do you ever have days like this?
I have a friend who lived her whole life like this. Could not let go of even the smallest resentments from years and years ago. Nor could she stop voicing them to anyone who would pause to listen. You can imagine how many friends she put off; and how distressed her inner life felt. She had one of those brains "you wouldn't want to go into alone."

She read This is Your Brain on Joy, especially the chapter on the cingulate gyrus which we nicknamed the Circular Gerbil Wheel -- as this is the part of the brain that gets stuck and obsesses. She began taking an anti-obsessive antidepressant when her life hit bottom and within a week, the gerbil wheel stopped and she wondered aloud, "How could I have let all those things bother me so much? What was that about?" She told me people are telling her, "Wow, you seem so much more serene. So relaxed and real." Then she added, "I've got mixed feelings about that. I'm glad they like me now, but the hidden message is that I must have been a real pain in the patooty before. I hate that I wasted so much time not being my best self."

I've found that taking a supplement with GABA (my favorite is True Calm by Now Products) works well for my occasional Gerbil Wheel Moments. In addition, this wonderful advice came in my InBox this morning and felt as though it were heaven-sent. Wanted to share it with you
just in case you may also need the reminder to let go of angst, breathe in serenity.

The Serenity Prayer is most commonly attributed to Reinhold Niebuhr, although there is some evidence that it existed before he popularized it in the 1930's. This prayer became well known with it's adoption by Alcoholics Anonymous in 1941.

God grant me the serenity
To accept the things I cannot change;
Courage to change the things I can;
And wisdom to know the difference.
To apply this great wisdom...

1.The past cannot be changed, so what there is to do is to accept what has been with no regrets, no resentments, and no call for vengeance.

2. Remember that there are a million "wrong things" in the world (as well as a billion "right things"), so focus your energies on addressing with courage the few issues closest to your heart, and accept the rest of life with serenity.

3. Never waste your time or energy complaining. Either take positive action, or accept with serenity.

Jonathan Lockwood Huie

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