Mindfulness and Depression

There I was, sobbing inconsolably while cooking lunch. It had been a tough few months, and my emotions needed an outlet. My brain was on overdrive and I kept thinking I was a failure, and the more I despaired the worse I felt. I guess one of the advantages of working from home is that no one will see you cry. We all go through tough times and we all have different coping mechanisms.

Some of us prefer to talk things through with a friend, while some of us prefer to stay quiet and solve things by ourselves.

Depression is a complex condition that requires a rigorous assessment by a qualified medical professional. We often say we are ‘depressed’, even though we might not have been diagnosed as such. Sometimes we simply have unexplained feelings of sadness or helplessness, which we interpret as the world imploding all over us, friends not caring about us and generally having negative thoughts.

In my case, I had lost a sense of perspective and saw everything in a negative light. I needed to fix that, and I knew that I needed to meditate more.

We often say we are ‘depressed’, even though we might not have been diagnosed as such, or when what we really mean is that we are feeling low and we need more help and support.

We all tend to live in our heads too much: we worry about the future and we kick ourselves for mistakes we made in the past. We forget to really enjoy life in the process and we often believe we need to struggle to achieve our goals or that we shouldn’t ask for help.

Before our hopelessness takes over and clouds our judgment, we can all benefit from learning more about mindfulness and how it can help us overcome difficult moments. While mindfulness is no substitute to medical treatment, it can help us in our day-to-day life.

Mindfulness is the art of observing our thoughts without engaging with them. Mindfulness means bringing awareness to the present moment, without judgment. It is a technique that can serve us well in life when we experience moments of despondency that we may erroneously label as “depression” hit us. We might be experiencing an extremely tough time and we may feel like we don’t have the strength to carry on. If we feel that we need support to go through such times, we do need to speak to a medical professional if negative thoughts turn destructive.

We each need to choose the mindfulness technique that best suits our needs and our personality. Thankfully there is no right and wrong way to meditate and to be mindful, as long as we make a start and make a positive change in the way we think.

I have tried different types of guided meditations and mindfulness techniques. It is really a matter of taste if you prefer visualisation, mind/body connection, humming or chanting. For example, I have always enjoyed Wayne Dyer’s soothing voice in his guided visualisations, but I have also found Thich Nhat Hahn’s walking meditations very inspiring. I love walking and I find it very meditative, especially if I walk in nature.

When I walk in a park and all I see is green lawns and trees, I feel that my mind is more rested and my breathing becomes deeper and more regular. Looking at beautiful surroundings can empty the mind from negative thoughts and helps me see things from a different perspective. I believe that we all need to work more on our mind/body connection: by taking care of both our mind and our body, we are allowing more positive things to happen in our lives. What if there’s nothing positive happening in our lives right now? We have a choice of what we focus on and how we respond to events. We can choose to feel desperate and despondent, or choose to be combative and proactive. One technique that has also helped me during tough times is Sophrology. This type of mind/body dynamic relaxation is not very well known but it works similarly to mindfulness to help me manage stress and stop living in my head so much. I learned the technique with Dominique Antiglio in London and I use it when I am feeling stressed, anxious and negative about life in general.

We can all benefit from taking 10 minutes out of our busy schedule to close our eyes, take a few deep breaths and let ourselves go. A body scan exercise can be very useful to stop ourselves from falling into a vicious cycle of constant worry. By scanning our body from the top of our head all the way down to our feet, we use the breath to relax each muscle, one by one. This type of concentrated mental and physical action devolves energy and attention away from negative thoughts to more positive (or at least neutral) ones. The result is a sense of overall relaxation and well-being. This is a very simple exercise, yet we might find excuses not to do it because we are too busy.

Whichever type of mindfulness or meditation we choose, what’s important is to choose to practise mindfulness for a few minutes a day to give our busy mind some time to decompress. What’s your favourite form of meditation?