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  • Writer's pictureDanielle Fyffe

Elijah and the Happiness Hangover

Elijah, prophet of God. Bold before a large group of men including the king, yet terrified in the face of one woman's anger.

In 1 Kings 18, Elijah has a mountain top experience where he dramatically shows that God is God and Baal is not. A few short verses later in 1 Kings 19, Elijah is at his lowest. He sits down and prays to God that he might die. He has given up on life.

Was he depressed?

Symptoms of depression Elijah seemed to have experienced are:

  • Fatigue

  • Feelings of helplessness

  • Pessimism and hopelessness

  • Suicidal thoughts

  • Impaired ability to think

Elijah had symptoms of depression, but was he really depressed? He had just had a mountain top experience on Mount Carmel, yet that didn't protect him from plunging into the pits of despair shortly thereafter.

Why is it that the valley seems to come after every mountain top experience?

"Happiness Hangover" is a term to describe the gloom that follows an emotional high. Psychologist Richard Solomon, using opponent process theory, explains that when a person is super excited and the "feel good" hormones of dopamine, serotonin, oxytocin, and endorphins are flowing, a simultaneous process activates to counteract this excitement. To prevent over-excitement, the nervous system triggers a depressing process (adrenaline and noradrenaline) in the body. Our nervous system is trying to get back to the neutral state. Even when the source of the excitement disappears, the depressing process keeps on working for a while and we end up with that "happiness hangover."

What is the best way to deal with the happiness hangover?

  • Rest

  • Take care of yourself

  • Make plans

  • Work your plan

Christmas is coming along with all the planning, the secrets, and the excitement. When Christmas is over and everyone has gone home, what then? Perhaps you have a spa day to unwind from the stress and pace of Christmas. Perhaps you take a trip. Do something that gets you out of the holiday mode and into a relaxed, peaceful state of mind.

I wonder what would have happened to Elijah's state of mind if he had gone into the wilderness for a quiet retreat with God right after his Mount Carmel experience? I imagine he would have responded to Jezebel's threat with quiet confidence in God's power.

Enjoy your holidays and make a plan for the after.

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