Growing up, I’d always had a low-level feeling that everything was going to be alright. Don’t know why I felt that way, but I called that feeling my pilot lite, always burning strong, keeping things moving in the right direction. But, every now and again, something would happen and blow it out. Couldn’t tell you what, but I would wake up one morning, and everything was different. It felt like I was empty inside, all while feeling like my heart was being held down with a cinderblock. I constantly wondered if I would feel like this forever, and I couldn’t see a way out. I used to sit in my closet and cry after school and then berate myself for doing so because… what did I have to be sad about?
It’s strange to look back and now realize what I felt was real. Because, when it happened, these intense sensations, I thought it was all in my head, I didn’t realize I was sad and that my body was sending me signals. I know it sounds odd, but I was detached from my body.
Why do I bring this up? Because I went through it again in the early parts of 2021. I was in it and feeling stuck. Having a tough time remembering the sun was still doing its thing, shining bright behind the clouds. I wasn’t my usual self skipping down the street. Couldn’t tell you why; I just felt like my pilot lite was out, the feeling of lost hope.
Feeling sad and alone.
One afternoon, feeling particularly low, I jumped onto Clubhouse, a new social app. At first, as a distraction, but then I joined a call my girlfriend was hosting and I listened in. It was a talk about sleep practices and toddlers. I don’t have kids, but I stayed on the call because it was better than feeling shit and staring at a wall. The talk lasted about an hour, and halfway through, I found myself cheering her on. She was nailing it, and I was proud of her. At the end of the call, I hung up and noticed I felt a bit better. Don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t singing from the rooftops but, I noticed a dainty feeling of excitement somewhere deep down and grabbed onto it.
I asked my therapist about this, and it turns out when you do something nice for someone else, it activates the hope circuit in your brain. The parts of your brain that deal with joy, connection, hope and creativity.
Joy, connection, hope and creativity.
Hope, which includes belief and expectation, causes the brain to deliver neurochemicals called endorphins which mimic morphine. The result is that the brain can begin to overcome obstacles and move to a place of healing. Curious to dive in a little more, pick up a copy of The Hope Circuit by Martin Seligman. And, you dive right into hope by booking a light session here.
I know it’s hard when you’re in it. It’s hard to see a way out because our feelings feel insurmountable. But, this simple act of focusing your attention on making a better moment for someone else might be the pull you need to jump-start the upswing.