Surviving Depression: A Mindful Way
~ 2 min read
Depression is one of the most profound challenges of our time. We know that 25% of women and up to 12% of men will suffer a clinical depression in their lifetime and many more will suffer with mild depression. Author and professional blog writer, Therese Borchard writes a wonderful blog about personal experiences with depression. Whether you or someone you know is suffering from depression or some psychological pain like sorrow or grief, it can feel like a burden on the mind and heart. Maybe we hold the feeling in and we become numb, walking around like a zombie, or maybe we feel like if we actually let the tears flow they would never end. Perhaps there is another way, a more gentle way to approach the pain inside.
In an earlier blog I mentioned a way we can work with the tormented mind through acknowledging the reality of the present moment and then sending a message internally to calm the distressed mind. For example, the mind can seem fragmented, thrashing, anxious, fuzzy, numb, or any number of other ways. These states of mind can be uncomfortable and our automatic struggle with them or judgments of them only serves to feed the depression. The problem is, this struggle and avoidance of it leads to disconnection of what we are truly feeling and so the mind begins to get the better of us.
Here is another approach:
When we notice the struggle, we want to breathe in and acknowledge the mind and while we breathe out we can say to ourselves “It’s Ok.” So if the mind is anxious, just breathing in and saying “anxious mind”, breathing out “it’s ok”.
As you do this the mind may eventually change to a different feeling. See if you can notice this and then shift with it. It may start feeling fuzzy and so you can switch now to “breathing in, fuzzy, breathing out, it’s ok.”
Tip: Notice any judgments arising right now when reading this, “this will never work for me” or “nothing is going to change how I feel, how stupid.” These judgments are likely well known to you and have become automatic. If they arise, just see if you can acknowledge them as just thoughts, let them be, and gently bring your attention back to the page. If this happens while you practicing, again, just ackowledge the thoughts as thoughts, let them be, and come back to the practice.
To deepen: When practicing, you may or may not notice tears come. However, you may feel a sense that tears are about to come, but there is a holding back. If you feel safe enough, see if you can tell yourself “Whatever is here is ok…let me feel it.” You can do this with the practice by saying “breathing in, acknowledging what is here, breathing out, let me feel it.” As the feeling comes, just continue to breathe with it and let it be. Let your body lead, if it feels like moving to the bed or laying on the couch, go ahead and do that and just stay with it, without judgment.
You can tell yourself that you can be with these emotions and “this too shall pass.” Sometimes allowing our true emotions to arise, allowing them to be, and letting them come and go can have profound implications on the safety we feel with them and ourselves. This way of relating to our pain differently is not meant to be a panacea for depression, but is mean to change the way we relate to our pain and plant the seeds of recovery. The more we practice the more we sew these seeds. However, don’t take my word for it, please, try it for yourself.
May you be safe, healthy, happy, and free from fear.
As always, please share your experiences, thoughts, and questions below. Your additions here provide a living wisdom for us all to benefit from.
About Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D.Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D. is author of the upcoming book Uncovering Happiness: Overcoming Depression with Mindfulness and Self-Compassion, The Now Effect, co-author of A Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Workbook, Foreword by Jon Kabat-Zinn, author of Mindfulness Meditations for the Anxious Traveler: Quick Exercises to Calm Your Mind, the premier eCourse Basics of Mindfulness Meditation: A 28 Day Program, the Mindful Solutions audio series, and the Mindfulness at Work™ program currently being adopted in multiple multinational corporations. Join The Now Effect Community for free Daily Now Moments and a Weekly Newsletter. Dr. Goldstein is a clinical psychologist in private practice in West Los Angeles.
Goldstein, E. (2009). Surviving Depression: A Mindful Way. Psych Central. Retrieved on February 12, 2016, from http://blogs.psychcentral.com/mindfulness/2009/03/surviving-depression-a-mindful-way/