I recall a particular day when I was spending some time with one of my patients in the hospital grounds some time ago. He used to spend most of the time in his room and conversations I had with him in my office tended to be very brief, as he hardly had anything to say. He used to be a tree surgeon prior to becoming unwell. It was a warm and sunny day and we sat down on a bench. I started a general conversation about nature and trees and how beautiful the day was. We spotted some squirrels running around near the trees and it was a lovely sight. He suddenly became very animated and with twinkle in his eyes asked me to look at two squirrels at a close distance from us. “Look, look!” he exclaimed. “They are talking to each other”. And they sure looked like they were having a good chat. We both smiled and continued to watch the adorable squirrels as they played hide and seek around the trees. He was fascinated by the squirrels and I was fascinated by his sudden shift in mental state. It was almost as if during those few minutes, he forgot all about his worries and his illness and simply enjoyed being in the moment. Later I pointed out to him the role of lightheartedness in changing our state of mind. He agreed that he felt different. A few days later he approached me saying he wanted to show me something. He then brought out a magazine from his room. On the front cover it said something in the lines of why being in nature was good for health. He said that the moment he saw the magazine in the shop, the lines on the cover just spoke to him. He instantly knew that he needed to spend some more time in nature.
This is a simple illustration of how just allowing ourselves to be lighthearted can help shift our mood state. When we feel low or anxious in mood, we seem to get very serious about most things. It feels as if we cannot give ourselves permission to see the funny side of things or take a break from our low or anxious state. And yet, doing so is therapeutic and helps us bounce back to a better state of mind.