You only get one mind, how are you treating yours?
Today’s world is riddled with a hundred and one depression-causing factors. From genetics to personality, trauma, and, in women, post-natal stress, there seems to be no existing singular factor for this multi-faceted condition.
Many people live with depression but have no idea what exactly is going on with them. Some chalk it up to mood swings, while others do not have the slightest inkling of what exactly constitutes depression or their possibility of having it.
The average person would go about their daily lives dealing with severe depression until there’s a mitigating factor like a panic attack, which lands them in a hospital, leading to a definite diagnosis. Even at that, the idea of being depressed seems inconceivable to them. You’d most likely hear – ‘It’s just a downtime.’
Is Depression Really Just a Downtime?
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Have you been experiencing a persistent overwhelming feeling of sadness? Finding it difficult to sleep? Have there been drastic changes to your eating habits or in your relationships with others? Suicidal or harmful thoughts about yourself?
So, if you’re experiencing three or more of these all the time, it’s probably not just a bad period. The truth may just be that you are depressed. Depression isn’t age-limited, nor does it only affect one specific gender.
According to the WHO, globally, about 280 million people live with depression. However, researchers believe this estimation is way below reality as a result of people not seeking necessary medical attention, resulting in a lack of diagnosis that could’ve helped research statistics.
Without treatment, it has been established that people suffering from depression tend to deteriorate without help. It’s time to get that help.
Luckily, depression happens to be a treatable mental condition. Psychotherapy, medication, complementary medicine, and even stimulant therapy are all treatment options available to people living with depression.
However, mental health professionals say that one of the most effective ways of overcoming depression is by changing one’s thought process. That is, you can actively choose what to think, how to think it, and how it affects you. This is a major component of traditional cognitive behavior.
Mindfulness happens to be one of the most accessible, cost-effective, and do-it-yourself methods of taking oneself out of the depressive statistics.
What is Mindfulness?
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Mindfulness is the practice of consciously bringing your thoughts, feelings, actions, and sensations to a present state of awareness, paying attention to thoughts and feelings without bias, and learning to identify and control negative thoughts.
It was brought to the forefront of mainstream medicine by Kabat-Zinn, founder and former director of the Stress Reduction Clinic at the University of Massachusetts Medical Center.
Ever since his Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) program in 1979, with which he was successfully able to demonstrate the benefits of mindfulness as a means of improving physical and psychological symptoms as well as bringing about positive changes in health, attitude, and behavior, countless programs have adopted this method.
Benefits of Mindfulness in Overcoming Depression
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Although it has extensive benefits and well-defined results, mindfulness should not be seen as a quick fix to the dilemma of depression. Below are the ways it helps you overcome depression –
1. It improves your physical health.
Mindfulness is a tool that significantly helps in bringing about a general state of well-being, boosts immunity, and improves the body’s systems. Many have experienced a lowering of blood pressure and the relief of a wide range of symptoms and pain, significantly increasing their quality of life.
Whether we’re conscious of it or not, health concerns and pain are major causes of concern that can propel one into a state of despair and loss. From lower back pain to diabetes, fibromyalgia, or rheumatoid arthritis, mindfulness therapy has successfully helped with them all.
2. Improves mental health, capacity, and performance
One thing mindfulness actually gives you is the ability to exert control over your emotions. Hence, an individual is able to either absorb an emotion, experiencing it fully, or dispel it. This has been found to lead to peace of mind and the ability to perform better in daily activities.
This ultimately improves self-control and objectivity in individuals, enabling them to make rational decisions from a position of strength.
In 2005, a study showed that mindfulness meditation increased the thickness of the brain cortex used for sensory processing and cognitive function, leading to higher levels of brain functioning. That is, the subjects of this study experienced a significant boost in their mood and memory capacity.
3. Improves Sleep
As mentioned earlier, lack of sleep happens to be a major symptom to watch out for in people living with depression. Troubled thoughts that play over and over in their minds usually cause difficulty sleeping. Some people live in regret, while others replay what went wrong and what could have been done better. This leads to a place of dejection and apathy towards life, as well as an overwhelming sense of failure.
Mindfulness Meditation, on the other hand, teaches the mind to control itself. Patients now have the ability to choose what thoughts to entertain and how to handle them. Vulnerability to thoughts ceases to exist. Hence, when they choose to rest, they truly rest. Even while sleeping, both the unconscious and conscious selves have control over their emotions and thoughts.
4. Reduces day-to-day anxiety, stress, and irritability
Through the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction approach, an eight-week program that combines yoga and elements of mindfulness in helping people address the mental factors that add to stress, it has been discovered that stress, anxiety disorders, and irritability can be successfully terminated. It helps people create better responses to day-to-day stress.
5. Lower Risk of Falling Back Into Depression
A research study showed that, in specially selected patients with recurrent depression, when a mindfulness-based treatment was used on them, their risk of falling back into depression was significantly reduced. This treatment has been proven to change the brain. It was discovered that those who engage in it react differently to sadness than those who don’t. It was discovered that those who had participated in mindfulness exercises used their brain’s “present moment network” when feeling sad, whereas those who had not received the treatment used their evaluation network, which led to them slipping further into such thoughts.
How Can You Practice Mindfulness?
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It is just too easy not to pay attention to things around us.
Begin to make a conscious effort to touch, hear, feel, and smell! Take the time to notice the intricate patterns and savor them. Enjoy the comforts of life. Enjoy the comforts of life.
Live the moment!
Don’t miss out on the simple pleasures of the present. Be intentional about how you’ll spend each day; make plans, go shopping, and arrange a picnic! Breathe in the fresh air as you take a walk in the park. Be there! Get a camera and make memories!
How would you treat a really good friend who was close to your heart or a loved one? Treat yourself the very same way! Meet and connect with people with the mindset that they want to meet you. You are the best person there is, not someone else.
Distancing yourself from negative thoughts
When those negative thoughts come knocking on the door of your mind, dispel them hard and fast! Make positive declarations regarding your happiness. When they do come, however, close your eyes and take deep, calming breaths.
Acknowledge depressive feelings and thoughts.
We felt a need to say this, so here it is. Dispelling those dark thoughts doesn’t mean you don’t recognize them. We aren’t playing a game of hide and seek. You recognize what they are—negative. Just don’t embrace them.
Structured Techniques and Exercises
When your feelings overwhelm you and there seems to be no hiding place, you can try some of these structured exercises to calm you down. It only takes 10 minutes a day!
Body Scan Meditation
Lie on your back, extend your legs, and ensure your arms are straightened out beside you, palms facing up.
Slowly and deliberately, focus on each part of your body. (Depending on which suits you best, you can start from your head to your toe or vice versa.)
As you focus, take note of any sensation, emotion, or thought you discover in each part you’re focused on.
For this, get yourself into a comfortable sitting position with your feet planted flat on the floor.
Keep your hands in your lap and breathe through your nose. Focus on how your breath moves through your body. If any sensation interrupts this process, take note of it and continue the breathing exercise.
For this, you need at least 10 to 20 feet of free space to walk in. Walk slowly in this space while focusing on the experience of walking itself—the standing sensation and subtle movements that keep your balance. Pace this area back and forth while continuing to maintain a consciousness of your sensations.
We’d like to add that it’s okay to seek help. When you get to a place where you don’t feel you’re making much progress, have the confidence to seek assistance from a trained expert and find a therapist near me. It will do you a world of good to be accountable to someone. You only get one mind; have you started treating yours well already?
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