August 10, 2011

Mindfulness & Depression—How Meditation Keeps Me Happy (Almost) Everyday.


Update from the Guardian (April 21, 2015): Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy may be as good as pills at stopping people relapsing after recovering from major bouts of depression, according to a study.

Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT) was developed from mindfulness techniques, which encourage individuals to pay more attention to the present moment, combined with cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT), specifically to try to help people who have recurring depression. 

Read the full article here.


The first article in a series of four from Everyday Mindfulness.

A friend of mine is one of the 20 million Americans struggling with a long stretch of depression today.

I know what she’s going through.

I still go through these myself, but they’re not nearly as bad as they used to be.

I remember the years I was debilitated by my depression. Months would go by when I couldn’t seem to remember one happy moment in my life.

It was if I had always been and always would be trapped in that terrible darkness.

Coming out of the closet, getting help with my addictions, going to therapy, working on my health and pursuing life-affirming goals are all things that I believe have helped me to heal from depression. But, one of the most useful tools in my toolbox has been meditation.

Through daily meditation practice, a practice that I continue whether things are good, bad or even if the sky is falling, I’ve been able to see, at least a little bit, how everything is so impermanent. Even depression. Depression comes and goes. When I’m caught up in it now, I’m able to recognize that impermanence while it’s happening. I don’t see this all the time, but usually I can say to myself:

This state of mind will pass…

Then, through mindfulness, I can look at the truth of my life at that moment. What is really occurring? Where is the depression? What does it look like? Where does it come from? What color, shape and size is it? Pretty soon, the depression becomes just another transitory phenomena, vaporous and intangible.

This is a realization that has come over time. At first, if I tried to look at depression this way, it would almost always backfire on me.

Well, if your depression isn’t even there, then why do you feel so bad in the first place?

That would just send me spiraling further into a state of despair, like I was even more pathetic for letting some delusion get the best of me.

Now, all this doesn’t mean we should be dismissive of depression. It’s not something we can snap our fingers at and hope goes away. We should listen carefully to our depression. Sometimes it is a message from a deep part of ourselves that needs to be heard. Maybe there are good reasons for being depressed, and if we pay attention we can find a skillful way of dealing with them.

Not everyone has experienced chronic, clinical depression, but we’ve all gone through times of darkness. That’s just part of being human. How do you deal with depression? What techniques have been successful for you? What things have you tried that don’t work at all?


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