We all have those days. Days where no matter what you do, it feels like it will never end. Days where you just want to throw your hands in the air and say screw it. Days where making a peanut butter and jelly sandwich is completely out of the question, simply because even doing something as mundane as that requires too much energy.
Depression/PTSD/anxiety can make for a pretty rigorous rollercoaster ride, even with the safety bars of an effective ongoing treatment in place. (Especially for us females with those major hormone fluctuations thrown into the mix. Don’t even get me started.) But instead of calling up the doc and asking for an increase in meds every time you have one of those days, some of the simplest pleasures in life can turn out to be some of the best possible remedies. (Now, if one of those days turns into several of those days in a row, I would definitely recommend consulting your doctor. But for this article’s intents and purposes, we’re talking about those days that are singular in occurrence.)
Pleasure. [plezh-er]. noun.
There are three main areas of gratification: mental, physical, and spiritual. And everyone’s idea of each and “what is to one’s liking” is, of course, going to be different. But let’s just talk about some basic examples, shall we?
♥ Mental: Comfort Food.
It’s cliché and has been stereotyped to death in movies by the depressed, mopey girl (or guy) reaching for the pint of Ben & Jerry’s after a particularly bad day. But nevertheless, Hollywood may actually be onto something here.
There’s a reason it’s called comfort food, and it is strictly psychological. When instincts tell us to reach for that Ben & Jerry’s to prevent a total meltdown, it’s because comfort foods tend to be linked to pleasant memories whether we are conscious of them or not. A corndog could represent that day you had the most amazing time with your dad at that baseball game. That carton of ice cream could remind you of that all-nighter you pulled with your best friend, laughing until the sun came up. That big ol’ plate of spaghetti might be reminiscent of mom’s home cooking when you were little and hadn’t a worry in the world. A lot of times, the pleasant memory these comfort foods are linked to are actually stored in our subconscious; things that happened in passing that affected us strongly but were recorded in the background. Whatever the case, the brain recalls the pleasant feelings that accompanied that particular experience and will try to conjure them back up by craving the associated foods in an attempt to self-soothe.
One must be cautious, however, when reaching for those comfort foods not to overdo it as most tend to be unhealthy foods. Without proper moderation, that mini mood booster could quickly do a 180 and become a persistent problem, contributing to the symptoms rather than alleviating them (weight problems, eating disorders, etc).
♥ Physical: Massages.
I like this option in particular for multiple reasons. 1) It doesn’t really matter who you get the massage from – a professional masseuse, your significant other, your bestie, your cat – they will all yield identical results. 2) You can get one virtually anytime, anywhere – just don’t strip down in the middle of the park for that full body massage, oils and candles and all. (Getting arrested would be counterproductive, duh.) Use your best judgement on propriety, of course. 3) There’s not really a way you can “overdo it” – some people will make it a point to get a massage multiple times per week! (Just make sure you’re tipping well or rewarding your significant other/bestie for all that work!)
If you’re like me, you tend to hold most of your stress and tension in your traps (trapezius muscles; lower neck/along the shoulders) and rhomboids (between the spine and scapulae, a.k.a. your “wings”). If I don’t get regular back rubs from my honey, those muscles turn into cement (not even kidding). According to multiple studies, those are the most common areas for people to develop tension and “knots” from stress and depression and the like – massages focused on those areas in particular could be the most beneficial.
Getting regular massages won’t just help keep your muscles nice and relaxed, but it also stimulates your brain’s production of the neurotransmitters serotonin and dopamine. Serotonin is in charge of regulating your moods and sleep cycles, and promotes a general feeling of overall wellbeing. Dopamine has similar duties, but is mostly concentrated in the “reward center” of the brain and activates feelings of comfort, pleasure, and satisfaction.
♥ Spiritual: Bow-Chicka-Bow-Wow.
Now before you start thinking how the hell is doing the wild thing considered spiritual, I’d just like to reiterate that each area (mental, physical, and spiritual) will carry different connotations for each individual. Yes, sex is most commonly thought of as being in the physical category by default, but I also see it as a spiritual experience. The most pleasurable sensations and most powerful orgasms tend to be experienced by couples who are very deeply connected emotionally and spiritually. So idealistically, the stronger the connection you feel with your partner, the more pleasurable the sex, the more the benefits you reap. It’s an all out win/win.
So what exactly is the big deal about “the big O”? Sex – when practiced and enjoyed safely and responsibly – has a straight-up smorgasbord of health benefits.
- A sense of calm. During orgasm, the brain is triggered to release oxytocin, which acts as both a neurotransmitter and a hormone with anti-depressant effects. It creates feelings of calm and closeness, and kills off anxiety.
- A good night’s sleep. Oxytocin is also known to aid in the regulation of melatonin production in the brain – the hormone that’s responsible for a proper sleep cycle.
- Stress relief. Stressful day? Go ahead, take it out on your partner. Oxytocin counteracts the effects of cortisol, the “stress hormone,” in your body.
- Pain killer. The next time you are about to turn down a roll in the hay because of a headache, you might wanna think again. Orgasm also stimulates the production of vasopressin, our body’s natural pain reliever.
- Vitamin O? Studies have shown that people with a healthy active sex life have stronger immune systems due to an increase in production of Immunoglobulin A – our body’s primary line of defense against infection.
In addition to the health benefits involved, oxytocin acts as a catalyst to strengthening the bond with your partner. Not only do you have heightened orgasms when you have a deeper emotional bond, but that bond is also strengthened with each and every orgasm experienced together. Call me crazy, but that’s pretty damn spiritual.
So, what comforts you? What strategies do you have to get you through those days? I would love to hear from you! Feel free to share your thoughts and coping tactics by commenting below!