Everyone at some point in their life will be affected by depression whether it’s their own or someone they are close to. Almost 19 million Americans alone have periods where they feel a lack of pleasure or interest their usual activities combined with feeling tired and heavy, potentially overly emotional or numb, and an onslaught of negative and self defeating thoughts that can keep invading the mind over and over again. The more periods of this depressed mood we have in life, the more likely we are to fall back into them again. Why does this relapse occur and how can mindfulness offer hope?
Falling into a depression feels traumatic and just like getting bit by a dog causes us to be fearful of and oversensitive to dogs, our minds and bodies become oversensitive to associations with the depression causing us to react to any sign of it. Feeling low mood is normal for everyone, but if we’ve experienced depression in the past, this may be a trigger for thinking depression is about to set in again. If we feel tired or if we notice sadness, the mind pops up with the worry “uh oh, that is how I felt when I was depressed, maybe I’m getting depressed”. Our minds begin to go in overdrive with negative self judgments, “I am a failure” or “I am weak” or “I am worthless”. It then tries to solve the mystery as to why we are becoming depressed again and the more it tries to solve this puzzle, the deeper it sinks into depression. Think of a worried, judging person coming at you trying to solve your problems when you’re already not feeling well. Probably not what you’re looking for. You see, it’s not the low mood that’s the problem here, it’s the way we get stuck in habitually relating to it that pours kerosene on the fire, with our minds continuing to fan the flame rolling us into a full blow depression.
The practice of mindfulness teaches us a different way to relate to our thoughts, feelings, and emotions as they arise. It is about learning to approach and acknowledge whatever is …
There’s a funny print cartoon that has a man and woman sitting on the couch staring at a TV screen and the caption below reads, “It’s 12 O’clock, do you know where your mind is?” As time goes on and we grow up from children to adolescents to adults, for many of us, somewhere along the way life begins to become routine. Day in and day out whether we’re walking, driving, talking, eating, going to the grocery store, or being with our families our minds get kicked onto auto-pilot and continue to develop their habitual ways of thinking, interpreting, expecting, and relating to other people. These habits of the mind can keep us stuck in stress, anxiety, depression, or even addictive behaviors. Here are a few habits of the mind and a mindfulness practice to help you break out of auto-pilot and gain more control over your life.
Common habits of the mind that are not effective for well-being:
Catastrophizing – If you’re prone to stress and anxiety, you may recognize this habitual mind trap. This is where the mind interprets an event as the worst case scenario. If your heart is beating fast, you may think you’re having a heart attack. If your boss didn’t look at you while walking down the hall, you thinking you’re going to get fired. You get the picture. This style of thinking will support increased stress, anxiety, and even panic.
Discounting the positive and exaggerating the negative – The news is wonderful at supporting us with this one. This is where we habitually reject or minimize any positive feedback and magnify the negative feedback. The glass is always half empty. If you catch yourself saying something positive and then saying “but” followed by a negative, you are practicing this. “I got a 95% on this test, but I didnt’ get a 100%”. Without awareness, this style of thinking will likely land you in a depressed mood.
Blaming - Be careful of this one. We all do it, pointing the finger at someone else for our woes or point the finger at ourselves for others woes. “If my boss wasn’t so hard on me at work, …