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Thankful, Grateful And Blessed - Success Or Quest? By Gwendolyn Meusburger BSN, MBA JD and Charles E. Muesburger, MD Being thankful, grateful and blessed is a very personal and subjective experience. These states of being are relative to what one feels a strong connection to, and are every bit a part of positivity and light as they are to negativity and dark. The gist of this statement is that it is what makes a person or group of people feel those emotions. What makes one person or group feel delight, glee, happy, thankful, grateful and/ or blessed can be the antithesis of what makes another person or group feel the same exact way; yet they arrive at the same emotional place. What is it that causes different influences to yield the same type of delight even though they may be coming from opposite perspectives and even dark rationales? For example, a person feeding the hungry, taking care of others, smelling beautiful flowers and taking delight in their colors, feeling blessed in their spiritual realms, rescuing animals, teaching others, and assisting those in trouble will feel thankful, grateful and blessed to be able to do what they do. Another person or group may feel delight in taking all of these things away from others because they don’t believe they deserve it; they may believe by destroying certain properties, land and/or people, they are carrying out the “will of their God,” or whoever or whatever they worship or hold in high esteem. The rationale of the people or groups regarding those they wreak havoc upon is that they are evil and should suffer punishment for their beliefs, doctrines, blasphemous behaviors, cultural norms, societal norms, or anything else thought of as unacceptable among such individuals or groups. When such persons carry out heinous acts, they are elated; they feel thankful, grateful and blessed because they have punished those who, in their minds, deserve it. It is just as important to those who carry out such acts to feel positive emotions as it is for those whose acts are the complete opposite and who feel suffering is not desirable or acceptable among humankind. The rationales are different among people and groups who choose either set of actions, among many possible examples, yet they yield the same elating outcome. Why? The answer is the nucleus accumbens. And while the nucleus accumbens is the major purveyor of pleasure and reward, the brain has many pleasure centers. In addition, it is not just the object of pleasure that drives one’s actions, but other areas of the limbic system that drive anger, fear, violence and negative emotions. Such negativity causes the release of biological chemicals fueling one’s state of mind and stimulating the ultimate quest for relief—like a pressure valve releases pent-up energy. The state of the physical being is attacked by the stress response of the body; decreasing the immune system, placing one in a position of fight or flight…or succumb. Even when a person has reason to feel thankful, grateful and blessed, and their immediate world seems to be clicking along well, they can be subject to the shadow of depression. Depression is an unwanted interloper that has a way of sneaking in when least expected. It is a bandit, a thief of one’s well-being that is not necessarily recognized for what it is when it intrudes so stealthily into one’s psyche. When depression is present, one is robbed of their perceived pleasure and/or self-satisfaction, even self-esteem; it is a burglary of the reward

or satisfaction-setting capacity of the nucleus accumbens until something sets it free. In the presence of depression, the brain cannot produce its “happy hormones” because its biochemistry is different, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). So even when an individual wants to feel good, work, be productive and feel they are a part of life in a positive way, they cannot. The fact is the leading cause of human disability is not physical illness, but depression. Sometimes the ultimate symptom of depression is taking one’s own life out of perceived total despair. WHO International states that 800,000 people worldwide have lost their lives to suicide and that suicide is the second leading cause of death among 17-to-29-year-olds. It is also an alarming fact that according to the DBS Alliance (Depression and Bipolar Support), more than 1.9 million children between the ages of 3 and 17 years old suffer from depression at this time. Over the years the mental health of people in the USA has steadily declined. The statistical data for depression just gets sadder among, but not limited to, age groups, ethnic groups, income groups, gender, blue-collar workers, and high-level professionals. Depression is not just a national problem, it is a global problem, with major depressive disorder topping the list. So…how does one feel thankful, grateful and blessed? They may start with substances and behaviors such as illegal drugs, alcohol, eating disorders, or behaviors representative of acting out to feel a false sense of satisfaction and/or at least an escape from the intruder. These are different types of intruders because they actually seem to stimulate the nucleus accumbens. In the presence of this apparently helpful “Trojan horse,” one feels “happy,” “gone,” no longer under assault for the time, maybe even a bit functional, depending on the substance of choice. And now, with COVID-19 on the prowl like a dark, slithering mist, clouding life, liberty and happiness, it is most difficult to find solace where we would have historically found it. It is hard to hold on to the positive when the world is under siege and families are suffering from job loss, inability to socialize, the huge gigantic “X” factor that represents the unknown for what, when and how we will emerge. Some would say to be thankful, you must be grateful; to be grateful, you must be thankful; and to be blessed, you must be grateful and thankful. However, we could add to that the act of being hopeful, because if we are hopeful, we can find ways to battle the enemy of the mind and body; where goes the mind, so goes the body. So to get the mind in order, it must be relieved of chaos, and relieving chaos may require some help. Help comes in many forms. Things we can do for ourselves in times of peril include taking care of our psyche. Be

involved in something you care about. The absence of social interaction is a negative factor in the fight against depression and sadness. People are social; we are a society of diverse and wonderful other people, animals, flora and many beautiful things. Sometimes we fail to notice what’s close to us because we are consumed by what we cannot see that is affecting us. So be a part of something. Choose your meals wisely. There are many toxins in the things we eat, such as preservatives. They are chemicals that are to supposedly keep things “fresh…” hmmm, really? The chemicals build up in our bodies, causing fatigue and disease, and could, in fact, shorten our life. Exercise to keep the body active and lively by stimulating endorphins that make you feel comfortable and part of the world. Take care of your surrounding environment. Keep it free from clutter and junk; it just adds to chaos and feelings of being trapped. Balance your self-needs with the needs of others. Hydrate yourself to keep the toxins flowing out of your body and reinvigorating your cells in ways that foster youth-retaining balance at the cellular level. Even with all we can do for ourselves, sometimes the mind and body need assistance. Assistance comes in the form of a professional experienced in mental health disorders. First is talk therapy that often begins with cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), where a person learns to develop coping strategies to manage challenging distortions in their life, in addition to acquiring other skill sets. Dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT) is a form of CBT that focuses on the psychosocial aspects of one’s treatment. Additionally, psychopharmacological treatment may be required to treat the acute phases of mental, behavioral and substance use disorders. The purpose of treatment that includes pharmacological protocols is to assist in diminishing the acutely intruding clinical manifestations of the offending condition/s. However, it is strongly advised not to take medications in the absence of talk therapy. They are complementary to each other. Subsequently, as the clinical manifestations are more controlled, consideration can be given to decreasing and/or altering the treatment regimen that may or may not require taking medications over extended periods of time; the primary purpose of medications is to quiet the intrusive symptoms and enable an individual to describe what they are experiencing in a less encumbered manner. However, several genetic/biological psychiatric disorders often require medications long term to best manage the symptoms. It is individually determined. Other forms of reducing stress and fighting depression include meditation, yoga, and reasonable exercise, hobbies you enjoy, and finding connections to things and/or people that soothe rather than agitate or aggravate; this is tougher to do currently because of COVID and social distancing requirements. For many, socially friendly technology platforms can help as we muddle through this trying time. Free yourself from self-imposed “have tos.” Find what it is that makes you feel thankful, grateful and blessed. After all, in this country we are endowed with three inalienable rights to life, liberty and, oh yes, the pursuit of your deficit in happiness. So let us pursue precisely that—thankfully, gratefully and feeling rather blessed to have these opportunities at our disposal. Don’t forget them—ever!

Don’t suffer alone ...

Charles E. Meusburger, MD • Call 609.484.0770 or visit www.SouthJerseyPsychiatry.com. 3069 English Creek Ave., Ste. 225 • EHT, NJ 08234

The County Woman Magazine www.TheCountyWoman.com

November/December 2020

Profile for The County Woman

Atlantic County Woman - November/December 2020  

The County Woman’s Newspaper is published bi-monthly in Atlantic, Monmouth and Ocean Counties in New Jersey and is available free of charge...

Atlantic County Woman - November/December 2020  

The County Woman’s Newspaper is published bi-monthly in Atlantic, Monmouth and Ocean Counties in New Jersey and is available free of charge...