Archives for Depression


How to Mindfully Deal with Difficult People (and Save the World)

There's a practice I've been doing for a while that is so simple and yet so impactful in working with difficult people and also bringing a sense of balance and perspective in the moment, it's almost shocking to me. I live in Los Angeles, which is well known as a city with one of the highest degrees of traffic. If we were to be able to peek into the average LA driver's brain I think you'd see a hyperactive amygdala and most of the blood flow moving out of the prefrontal cortex. In other words, LA drivers can be a large group of difficult people with emotions and stress running high.

One day while I was driving here I was cut off by some sports car that seemed to be speeding weaving in and out of the car lanes. My teeth locked together and my shoulders tensed and what went through my mind is only appropriate on HBO.

In that moment I realized how tense I was and likely how out of control that driver was. It made me think of all the cars on the road and how many people were very likely tense in their cars.

That simple recognition sparked the beginning of something important.

My shoulders dropped a bit and the question arose, "What is it that I'm actually needing right now?" The word "ease" came to mind.

So I said...

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STOP: The Surprising Power of Waiting

Most people believe that waiting is a waste of time and it's best to fill that time with something... anything. Whether we're in line at a the grocery story, waiting at a doctor's office, or sitting at a stoplight, the brain seems to be cued to fill that space. Nowadays, many of us pull out our phones and begin sifting through various messages, reading over documents, or surfing the web.

However, the belief that waiting has no value is mistaken. In fact, the secret to a sense of personal control, general satisfaction with life and even success, lies in learning how to find peace with waiting.

We've all heard the famous adage, "Patience is a virtue" or "Good things come to those who wait."

Easier said than done, why?

We're not in control of our brains

Because underneath the subtle yet intolerable experience of waiting is a little anxious gremlin that fears being alone. This gremlin is operating on old software that says if you're alone that means you're not being protected by your clan and it's a threat to your safety. In those small moments of waiting, the gremlin takes the controls of your brain and reaches for something to "be with" so you're not alone anymore.

In other words, the anxious gremlin is in control and you're not. Studies are clear that lacking a sense of control is associated with negative stress, anxiety and depression. Also, the more we let the gremlin run our brain, the stronger it gets - or as the Canadian psychologist Donald Hebb says, "neurons that fire together, wire together."

Using waiting for good

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Depression: New Mindfulness-Based Online Treatments

Let's start with the bottom line: 

Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) has been shown to be equally as effective in preventing relapse as anti-depressant medication. 

This came from a study conducted at the University of Exeter where researchers randomly assigned 424 people into a group simply taking anti-depressant medication and another group going through an 8-week MBCT course. In this course participants learned mindfulness skills, how to relate to negative thoughts differently, and how to recognize signs of relapse and take action.

The MBCT group were offered four follow-up sessions within the year and after two years many had tapered off the medication.

The results found that the relapse was similar (44% for MBCT group and 47% for anti-depressant medication group).

This doesn't mean that if you're on anti-depressant medication you should get off of it, but it does provide hope that we have the power within us to train our brain with natural anti-depressants.

These are incredibly hopeful and encouraging results and it's been accepted as a primary intervention for depression in England and Wales.

The Bad News

MBCT is still hard to find for a lot of people. While an increasing amount of people are being trained in it, it's still largely unavailable to many of us.

The Good News

The Center for Mindful Living is now offering an 8-week live online MBCT course. The next course begins September 27th and the class is only open to 15 participants.

More Good News: Building Natural Anti-Depressants. 

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12 Striking Photos Depicting Depression and Anxiety

We live in a time where there is simply too much to pay attention to. Our nervous systems are overloaded leading many people to disconnect and now we're seeing rising levels of anxiety and depression. In fact, there isn't a single person I know who hasn't experienced these in one form or another. But when you try to convey what anxiety depression really feel like, words never really do it justice.
"depression is when you can’t feel at all. anxiety is when you feel too much. having both is a constant war within your own mind. having both means never winning."

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5 Science-Based Practices for Daily Happiness

Most people I've met, if not all, would try like to be happy. There are all kinds of books on happiness, courses on happiness, and documentaries on happiness. So why aren't we all just happier? If we're approaching happiness as some goal to achieve, we're almost always going to reinforce that something is wrong with us and fall short. If we see it as an unfolding process of learning, we will most likely be able to be more grateful for the good times and more graceful during the more difficult times.

Be Mindful

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The Secrets to Wiring a Happier Brain

One of the secrets to wiring our brain toward happiness is in the simple understanding that what we practice and repeat starts to become more automatic.

Call it a happiness or resiliency habit and it’s something that anyone can create. The fact is, we all have thoughts and behaviors in our lives that influence states of unhappiness or happiness. While the brain defaults toward paying attention to negative stimuli to keep us safe, we are active participants in our health and well-being and can nurture a happier and more resilient brain.

To help us really get to the root of all the elements necessary to make happiness a practice, I did my research. I interviewed over 20 highly respected and accomplished people in the field of happiness and well-being like Sharon Salzberg, Byron Katie, Dan Siegel, Rick Hanson, Jack Kornfield, Tara Brach, Dan Harris, Kelly McGonigal and so many more. I wanted to hear what their definition of happiness was and discover the practical ways we can make it come alive.

This is the online Uncovering Happiness Symposium and it's live daily right now through July 3rd.

For now, here’s a suggestion to start with that comes from the Daily Now Moments that many people receive in their inbox:
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Watch a Time-Lapsed Video of the Northern Lights for Three Wondrous Minutes

If you've followed my writing or heard me speak you may have heard me quote Philosopher and Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel saying, "Life is routine and routine is resistance to wonder."

Our brains are wired toward routine and we absolutely lose our sense of wonder in every day life. Yet wonder is a natural anti-depressant.

When we pause, have a moment of mindfulness and open our senses, the sights, smells, tastes, sounds and feeling of things comes alive.

There are so many wonders all around us that can bring alive the magic of the world. I wanted to share one of them with you put out by filmmaker Alexis Coram in National Geographic who films the "auroras" of the Northern Lights.

Take 3 minutes and treat this as a mindful experiment. As you watch, what do you notice. See if you become aware of the fact that here we are sitting on a spinning planet in the middle of space. Look at this beauty, what comes alive in you?

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The Simplest Happiness Tip

At the root of it all we want to feel a sense of safety and security. We want to feel a sense of belonging and that we're connected to something greater than ourselves.

In an upcoming online symposium on Uncovering Happiness that includes people like Dan Siegel, Rick Hanson, Sharon Salzberg, Tara Brach, Jack Kornfield, Dan Harris and others, you'll see and hear Byron Katie talk about an essential truth saying, "If you have something valuable, you must give it away."

This can be seen as a fairly extreme statement, but if we unpack it, what's the potential net effect?

When we give things away, we're reminding brain that we're not alone and that we're connected to others. And when we give things away to those in need, we recognize that we have the power to make a positive impact on other people's lives.

We are not islands, we are not alone and there's a sense of purpose. Feeling a sense of purpose is an essential ingredient to our well-being.

One of the simplest happiness tips around is to make giving a part of your daily life.

It doesn't necessarily come naturally to give since life is routine and many of us are often self-focused, so that becomes the routine. So we need to set a daily intention.

Just in case you are stuck on ways to give, here are 10 ways to give:

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Give a Power Boost to Your Gratitude Practice

In Uncovering Happiness I talk about how the #1 bad habit that most people have can be surprising - our thinking. Before we fall into procrastination, stress eating, isolating, habitually engaging our Smartphones or any other addictive behavior there's a thought. The thought is something like, I need to get away from something uncomfortable that's here or at times, I want to elate the good feeling that's here.

One of the most powerful ways I have found to change the atmosphere of the mind is a very simple gratitude practice (but with a power boost).

Now, before your eyes roll you need to know this, thoughts may be arising in your mind right now such as, "not this gratitude stuff again, I've read this in a thousand places." If you notice this thought ask yourself, what is the net effect of this thought here. Does it incline you to move toward this practice that you've heard about a thousand times or away from it?

The answer is most likely that it inclines you away from it.

If we all know it's a supportive practice, why does the mind do this? Because the brain is wired to habituate to things. This is the classic top-down processing in effect. You
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Learn to Forgive Yourself No Matter What

One of the greatest, most unproductive and destructive mind traps many of us face is self-blame. It's as if the brain doesn't know what to do with the uncomfortable feeling that's there and it projects it inward. I've never seen a single example where self-blame is constructive. We all make mistakes in life, some greater than others. But there is a simple truth in life that is worth understanding, we all do the best we can with what we know in any given time.

It could never be any other way.

There's a simple thing to practice that can bring us back to our senses with a bit more self-compassion. This inevitably will lead to greater ease, understanding and refocus us on a more constructive path of health and well-being sooner. Forgive yourself for not knowing what you didn't know before you learned it.

No matter what you've done, it doesn't serve you or anyone else to stew in self-blame. What would serve yourself and others more is     moving into a place of understanding and making peace with yourself. From this space you are better able to more constructively serve yourself and others.

In Uncovering Happiness I share a very personal story where in my twenties I was incredibly destructive to my mind and body. I would be constantly caught in a web of blaming myself for the things I would do - only to do them again.

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