05 Feb Taming Depression with Mindful Awareness
Here at WellnessWrx, we are committed to sharing perspectives on mental health and getting conversations going that keep our community connected. If you or someone you love, like, or just met happens to be struggling with depression, let us know on Facebook. Please bear in mind that nothing in this post is intended as medical advice. If you are suffering from mild or acute depression, please seek advice from your physician.
There is a scene in Beetlejuice (one of my favourite comedies from the 80’s) where morbid goth girl, Winona Ryder, is writing her death letter: “I’m so depressed. I’m so very, very depressed…”
There is something strangely amusing about a black-clad teen writing a love letter to her own morbid state of mind.
But let’s put Hollywood aside and get to what really matters here. Depression rates are on the rise, especially among young people. The reason can be summed up in two words: social media.
This is understandable – you can’t build an edifice of self-esteem on the quicksand of likes, shares, and tweets! As a community, we need to come together to address this very important issue.
I am not a Millennial, let alone Gen Z, but I do have some experience with depression. I can attest that depression is a dark night of the soul that requires immense courage and perseverance.
For me, mindfulness practice has been a saving grace. There is a lighted opening in the darkest of caves, but we need to know how and where to look.
The thing is, you can’t think your way to a better mood. Believe me, as a veteran neurotic, I can testify to that as well. There is now solid research to support that thinking and ruminating actually make things even worse! [efn_note]Williams, Mark; Teasdale, John; Segal, Zindel; Kabat-Zinn, John. The Mindful Way through Depression: Freeing Yourself From Chronic Unhappiness. Narrated by Williams, Mark; Teasdale, John; Segal, Zindel; Kabat-Zinn, John. Nightengale Conant, 2015. Audible.com.[/efn_note]
Mindfulness is all about accepting where you’re at, and observing whatever is happening in your body and mind with a loving and compassionate eye, not trying to change, modify or think your way out of it.
You may have heard all this before, but sometimes we just need a friendly reminder. And if this is new to you, great! I hope that these words can be of some help in lifting you up. You are not alone.
So turn off Facebook, turn off your phone (after you read this!) and let’s take a look at how mindful awareness can help you tap into your own reservoirs of healing and wellness.
Mindfulness Tips for Depression:
Connect with the magic of just simply being (thank you Rose A. Weinberg for suggesting this one). Every day, take 15 minutes to reconnect with the magic of simply being. You can do this by walking in nature, making sure to establish an intimate connection with its wonder and beauty. Touch a leaf, make eye contact with a tree, or just stand on a riverbank and watch the water flow by. If this is not available, stand on the sidewalk and watch the traffic! Or go for a walk and listen to an audiobook that inspires you. Or just sit on a cozy chair and be with the in-and-out flow of your breath.
Embrace being OK with your emotions. Feeling tired, Listless, nervous, depressed? Consider switching off your tendency to judge these feelings and embrace them with the care and love of a mother cradling her child. Lie down and pay close attention to your breathing. Refrain from labeling your emotions as good or bad. Let yourself experience them as neutral sensations. Remember to breathe! As you do this, you may find yourself enveloped in a warm, healing blanket.
Gently label your experience. This is an old chestnut from the Buddhist Vipassana tradition that can be very effective in granting some objectivity on emotions. Take a moment to check in with your emotional state. Are you feeling happy, sad, indifferent? Simply apply a label that best characterizes your emotional experience such as “depressed.” After that, try to observe that depression is taking place within the field of your experience as a non-personal phenomenon; just another island of sensation passing through your perceptual field. Experience is an ever-changing flux, and this moment’s depression is a node within that flux. Learn to notice this.
Seth Feldman, WellnessWrx Sage Copywriter and PR Strategist