November 12, 2014

Mindfulness and Depression

Depression could very often feel like a trap. It's a deep well that seems to get deeper and darker by the second. Very often medication can help bring about a return to normalcy, but it easy to get reliant on medication.

I was diagnosed with extreme depression in 2006 and started taking meds shortly thereafter. I took a variety of different SSRIs (Selective Serotonin Re-uptake Inhibitor) for many years. At one time I started to think of the medication as a maintenance medication and resigned myself to the fact I was going to be on these drugs for the rest of my life.

My doctors told me that may be the case but the main purpose of the medication was to bring me back to an even keel so I may do the work to return me to normalcy. That included a book my therapist gave me titled, "The Feeling Good Handbook" by David D. Burns, MD. The book included worksheets that measured feelings of depression and anxiety for a qualitative record. Being able to have a tangible result I could measure and track, as well as having a understanding of my cognitive distortions and techniques to help change my automatic thoughts went along way in my recovery.

Although I did not know it at the time this was my first introduction into practical mindfulness. The worksheets, and techniques I learned allowed me to start looking at myself and my thoughts in a non judgmental way. It brought me back to the present moment and stopped my "stinking thinking."

In addition to the book and the qualitative worksheets (click the above links to download the forms or purchase the book from Amazon) there are many mindfulness practices to help you manage depression and anxiety. Here are two you may try.
  • Meditation. Many people still think of meditation as a new practice but it quickly becoming mainstream. The Mayo Clinic lists several benefits of meditation that directly reflect Mindfulness.
    • Increases self awareness
    • Focuses you on the present
    • Reduces negative thoughts and emotions
    • Encourages being "in the moment"
    • Encourages observing over judging
  • Yoga. Hatha yoga is the most widely practiced form of yoga in the world. The word hatha is derived from the Sanskrit words "ha" meaning Sun, and "tha" meaning Moon. Hatha yoga balances the masculine energy with the feminine energy. It strengthens us and increases our flexibility. It also has several benefits that reflect Mindfulness.
    • Focuses on conscious breathing
    • Brings focus to the mind
    • Reduces stress and anxiety
    • Encourages a sense of calm

Mindfulness practices and techniques along with therapy and medication (if you and your doctor agree to it) are key ingredients to managing depression and living a more centered, present, and happy life.

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