Updated: Aug 13
Most people live their lives operating from their subconscious mind where their hidden fears, unexpressed desires, and belief patterns dictate what they will experience in their everyday life. They go through their day lacking the conscious awareness that their thoughts and deeply ingrained beliefs are in control of the steering wheel of their life.
Before I go into the benefits of practicing Mindfulness and being present, I want to share my experience with depression and how I discovered what the root cause was for me. My intention is not to diagnose anyone, instead, I want to share what I realized was the root cause of my depression, and I will leave out the details of the series of losses and hardships that occurred that sent me into a period of sadness.
I recently went through a long bout of depression that lasted for months and during this time I tried to understand what was taking place. At some point, I realized that every day there was this thought pattern playing over in my head. It didn’t matter what time of day or night it was, at some point, I would hear my internal voice say: “I am sad,” and then my emotional response was to be sad. I became aware of this “I am sad” thought form that crept into my daily life and would eventually influence my overall health by simply noticing it one day.
During this long episode of depression, I started suffering from bodily pain. I went to the doctor and had bloodwork done, which thankfully ruled out a physical disease. However, the emotional pain of sadness was beginning to manifest as physical pain. I discovered there is this component inside all of us called “fascia” which is the largest organ in our body. It is an-interwoven fabric of connective tissue made up of cells, water, and collagen that surrounds and holds every organ, blood vessel, bone, muscle, and nerve fiber in place in the body. When I read about it, I knew this was where my pain was coming from, my emotional pain lodged itself deep inside the fascia in my shoulders and back from carrying too much worry and grief, this may be different for everyone but this is what my intuition told me was happening in my case. And now I am trying to figure out how to heal the bodily manifestation, but that is a topic for another day, let us take a look at how we can use Mindfulness as a tool to heal a depressed mind.
What is Mindfulness?
Mindfulness is a powerful tool that we can utilize to heal ourselves. It involves becoming conscious of our thought processes, and bodily sensations, and paying attention to our surroundings without judging them. This requires us to be fully present in the moment, and although this may sound easy, this is not our natural way of being. Most people are not even conscious that they are unconscious, so bringing awareness to this is the first step in overcoming our challenges whether they be depression, relationship issues, or physical illness.
Mindfulness Can Help Us Overcome Depression Through Awareness:
Depression often feeds on negative thought patterns. Mind over matter is a real thing, we think, therefore we become and our body responds to our thoughts. Recently I was introduced to the works of Florence Scovel Shinn, I needed the reminder of the power of our thoughts and words. She mentions that everything we send out is radiofrequency and from my understanding of radio waves, they echo into the Universe. We are constantly sending out messages that echo back to us in physical form, so it really helps if we can keep our vibration as high as we can. Yes, I understand this is what all the motivational coaches and gurus are saying but when we understand there is a metaphysical component to it, it makes perfect sense. It all comes down to what we want to create for ourselves and the understanding that we are that powerful.
Have you ever sat quietly and watched the thoughts that come into your mind?
In the space of playing the silent observer, we can acknowledge our emotions without judging them as good or bad. With mindful observance, we are detached from our thoughts, with the awareness that we are not our thoughts.
In my case, I had to cancel out the daily thought “I am sad” each time I observed it come into my mind. An example of how to do this is to replace the discordant thought with “I am not sad, “I am grateful” or with a phrase that counterbalances the negative thought pattern. Once we know what is behind our emotional triggers, we can make healthier choices through self-awareness. This may sound simple but how many of us are fully aware of our thought patterns?
Taken from the book entitled: “Learn to Meditate”, written by David Fontana, Ph.D. he explains that “mindfulness means putting the mind fully into the present so that we are always engaged with what we are doing. Mindfulness can be thought of as a process of self-monitoring. The meditator becomes aware of the essential 'nowness' of existence. All we have is the instant of each present moment. Concern for the future and over-preoccupations with the past are seen as artificial distractions from the direct experience of living."
To get started, here is a simple exercise from the book Learn to Meditate:
“ Watching the Thoughts”
1. Sit and relax. Close your eyes and turn your attention inward. As objectively as you can, watch the thoughts that pass through your awareness. Don’t judge them, or attempt to hang onto pleasant ones, or push unpleasant ones away. Just watch.
2. Notice the nature and content of your thoughts—how one thought leads to another, and how quickly a chain of associations is set up. Notice how these associations sometimes follow a single theme or go off at a tangent into a quite different set of considerations. Notice how intent your mind seems on distracting your attention, and observe the strategies it uses to do so.
3. Notice how easily your objective awareness does in fact disappear, and you become “lost” in your thoughts. Each time this happens, gently re-establish awareness.
4. Continue the exercise for as long as seems comfortable. Afterward, write down what you discovered about your mind.
Incorporating Mindfulness into Daily Life
Start Small: Begin with short mindfulness exercises, such as focused breathing or body scans, for just a few minutes each day. Gradually increase the duration as you become more comfortable.
Mindful Activities: Infuse mindfulness into daily activities, like eating, walking, or even doing chores. Pay attention to the sensations, smells, textures, and tastes associated with these activities.
Mindful Meditation: Engage in formal mindfulness meditation sessions. Find a quiet space, sit comfortably, and focus on your breath, bodily sensations, or a specific mantra. Guided meditation apps can provide structured support.
Mindfulness in Relationships: Practice mindful listening and communication. Engage fully in conversations, offering your complete attention to the person you're interacting with.
Stay Patient: Mindfulness is a skill that takes time to develop. Be patient with yourself and avoid self-criticism. Progress may be gradual, but every step counts towards your journey to healing.
Here are some statistics; according to the World Health Organization (WHO), over 264 million people of all ages suffer from depression globally. While seeking professional help is crucial, complementary approaches like mindfulness have gained recognition for their potential to alleviate the symptoms of depression. Mindfulness, a centuries-old practice rooted in Eastern philosophy, offers a holistic approach to navigating the depths of depression.
Depression is more than just feeling sad; it's a complex mental health disorder characterized by persistent feelings of sadness, loss of interest in once-enjoyable activities, low energy, changes in sleep and appetite, difficulty concentrating, and in some instances thoughts of self-harm. It affects not only the mind but also the body, and it often leads to a repetitive cycle of negative thought patterns and behaviors.
Mindfulness is not a one-size-fits-all solution, yet it can be a powerful tool when combined with professional care and a strong support system. By embracing the practice of mindfulness, those dealing with depression can take significant steps towards reclaiming their lives and finding a sense of peace and enjoyment in life again. By grounding oneself in the present, individuals can break free from the grip of past regrets and future anxieties – two common elements that fuel depression.
I have found Mindfulness to be a valuable tool in my box and I wanted to share how this process helped me get to the root of my post-pandemic depression, and perhaps this is a tool that you can utilize to help you along your healing journey.