How wonderful would it be if you could just wish away depression, or any mental health illness? Imagine if you could just think “Stop,” and all the negative thoughts and feelings would disappear. Unfortunately, there is no way for people to do that in today’s reality. If it existed, everyone would be doing it.
However, there is a realistic and rather straightforward intervention that has gained attention over the past few decades. It is called mindfulness, or more formally, mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT). When you practice mindfulness, you are allowing yourself to live in the moment and paying attention to what you are experiencing.
But before we move further into that, let’s talk a bit about depression. Depression is a mental health illness that is often characterized by persistent feelings of sadness, hopelessness, and despair. It is one of the most common mental illnesses in the United States. What makes it more pervasive is that up to 80% of people who go through a major depressive event are likely to relapse (1). In an effort to relieve the symptoms, people often consider taking medicine to deal with their depression. For many people, medicine helps them keep a handle on things and live their daily lives. However, medications can lose their effectiveness over time – and that’s if they work at all.
In recent years, people have been turning to mindfulness meditation to help manage health issues and awareness. Randomized clinical trials that incorporate mindfulness have increased from one study in the 1990s to over 200 studies from just the period of 2013 to 2015 (2). The goal of mindfulness is to adopt and embrace a non-judgmental attitude towards the experiences that one faces in life.
Here are a few things you can do to help you get through the day mindfully.
1. Take three long, deep, nourishing breaths—breathing in through your nose and out through your mouth. Then let your breath settle into its own rhythm, as you simply follow it in and out, noticing the rise and fall of your chest and belly.
2. Set your intention for the day.Intention refers to the underlying motivation for everything we think, say, or do. For example, "Today, I will be kind to myself; be patient with others; stay grounded; have fun; eat well," or anything else you feel is important.
3. Start with a goal.Doing so can change your day. When you take a moment or two to clarify your goal for the day, it makes it more likely that your words, actions and responses will be more effective. This can be especially helpful during moments of difficulty.
4. Close your eyes and meditate. Meditating can be done in several different ways. One of its main purposes is to calm your senses and allow your body to feel comfortable. You work on building body awareness and attentiveness (2).
Take the time to pause and practice mindfulness throughout the day. If you do so for a few minutes at different points during the day, you can start feeling better and more focused. Be kind to yourself.
Mindfulness is a way of life. Learn to incorporate presence, intention, and awareness into everything you do.
1. Lu, Stacy. “Mindfulness Holds Promise for Treating Depression.” American Psychological Association, 2015. Retrieved from http://www.apa.org/monitor/2015/03/cover-mindfulness.aspx.
2. Powell, Alvin. “When Science Meets Mindfulness.” The Harvard Gazette, April 2018. Retrieved from https://news.harvard.edu/gazette/story/2018/04/harvard-researchers-study-how-mindfulness-may-change-the-brain-in-depressed-patients/.
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