It is well known in our lives that losses happen – from minor ones, such as not getting the last piece of chocolate to major ones, such as the death of a loved one. How we react to these losses is what is important in determining how the rest of our lives will go. Emotions that are proportional to what is actually happening in our lives are felt as clean and right for the time. We appear to be going with the flow of our lives. Looking back, we can all remember episodes of sadness that had this quality of the right intensity, the right amount of time and a sense of integrity.
We have all had other experiences of excessive sadness with a ruminative painful, sticky quality, that lasted far beyond what seemed to be appropriate and affected our lives in significantly negative ways. Some of us may also have had periods of our lives where all of the colors were dark gray to black, where sounds were muted and somber, and where it seemed we could only play the bottom ten notes of an 88 key piano.
We may have had to take prescription medications or do therapy to lift of this veil from our lives. Some of us may have had wild rides from crazed euphoria to abject depression, wreaking havoc with our relationships and professions.
In this article, we will explore what neuroscience, psychology, and spiritual practice have to tell us about how we can assist ourselves to recover from these kinds of episodes, how we can rebalance our lives, and how we can inoculate ourselves against future events.
Overall maintenance of mood is dependent on continuous and coordinated input from brainstem neurons to the limbic system and cortex. This is summarized as the monoamine hypothesis of depression. The important monoamine transmitters are norepinephrine, serotonin, and dopamine.