Sometimes you just feel down in the dumps and you don’t know why. Maybe you have everything you’ve ever wanted, everything you could possibly ask for, and it’s just not enough. You feel empty inside. Flat. Forgotten. You feel stagnated and jaded. Why?
Depression can sneak up on us when we least expect it to and take a serious toll on our lives. It can stem from something significant or nothing at all. And, it can infect every orifice of our being – physically, mentally and emotionally. An unwelcome guest constantly with us, we can quickly and easily be all-consumed by its lies no matter how obvious the facts are to the contrary.
So, what can we do to shake these dark feelings and feel “normal” again? Many researchers believe that practicing mindfulness and associated strategies is the key to treating depression along with many other mental and emotional ailments. When practicing mindfulness, an individual is focusing on the present rather than letting their thoughts wander to the past or future. While doing so, they acknowledge and accept their physical and mental state at that very moment.
Mindfulness is used to pull our thoughts inward, making us more self-aware, and thus, providing us with newfound wisdom about ourselves which will eventually lead to what is described in Buddhism as “enlightenment” or “freedom from suffering.” It has been used to treat depression, anxiety, stress, anger and addiction, and has helped many break free naturally from the bonds of past trauma.
Acceptance and commitment therapy (abbreviated ACT) is a therapeutic approach that integrates mindfulness, so we can accept the part of ourselves that we don’t like. By acknowledging the presence of this portion of ourselves, referred to as “self-as-context”—part that observes but is not necessarily connected to who we view ourselves as—we can recommit to our morals and values, eventually removing this piece altogether. ACT assumes that thoughts associated with a normal human mind can be destructive. Rather than allowing these thoughts to dominate and destroy who we are, thus causing the negativity we want to remove, we should use mindfulness to remain present, accept our present reactions for what they are, choose a valued direction, and take action on this valued choice.
Depression is often rooted in wallowing in past regrets or patterns that no longer serve us. It can also happen through becoming overwhelmed by ? or not believing we can be successful in the future. It can also be induced by trauma and our inability to break free. So, first thing’s first. We have to refocus our thoughts, bringing them back to the present.
Here are some techniques that may seem silly, but many mindfulness practitioners swear by them. They have proven to be effective with those who suffer from depression.
1. Stare at a simple, yet intricate object of your choice and analyze it for five minutes. This could be an orange, a leaf, a mandala, a tray of nail polish, a piece of clothing – anything really, as long as it is something that is easy to get ahold of and will take you five minutes to analyze. This strategy helps to bring our thoughts back to the present, the cornerstone of mindfulness theory.
2. Sit down and begin eating a full meal. Analyze everything about this present moment. Think about what you are eating – what it looks like, tastes like, how it is positioned on the plate. Think about how you are eating it – what you choose to eat when and why. Do you pick it up with your fingers or use a utensil? If you use a utensil, what is it? Do you have to cut it up?
3. Spend a few minutes of uninterrupted quiet time observing your thoughts. Meditate and focus on what you’re thinking about and how you feel. Note any body aches. Focus on your breathing, inhaling deeply, holding for a moment, then releasing. What is happening right now, in this very moment?
Once we’re focused only on the present, we can begin to understand the root causes of our negative feelings, as well as what is happening right now rather than what we did or endured in the past, or getting wrapped up in what the future will bring. Why are we feeling depressed? Is there a physical, mental, emotional, or circumstantial cause? Is there a notable separation between this depressive state and the rest of who we are, and if so, what needs to happen to rid ourselves from this isolated piece and happily move forward?
Depression is a drag. Remember the law of attraction, try to stay positive, and the next time you’re feeling down, give mindfulness a try.