If you’re searching for an end to your depression, you may be at the point where you’re willing to try anything. Thankfully you don’t have to try quack remedies or magic rituals to get better. With the help of mindfulness-assisted therapy, countless people have overcome their depression. And you could be one of them!
In this article, we’ll talk about therapy and mindfulness, plus how the pair can squash depression. But first…
What is Depression? A Quick Overview
Depression is the feeling that life is gray, or meaningless. Clinically, depression is marked by having 5 or more of the below symptoms for 2 weeks or more:
- Depressed or irritable mood
- Feelings of helplessness or hopelessness
- Agitation or severe anxiety/panic attacks
- Prolonged sadness or feelings of emptiness
- Excessive guilt or unrealistically low self-image
- Changes in appetite (i.e., eating too much or too little)
- Significantly worse concentration (i.e., sharp decline in grades or performance)
- Significantly low energy and/or change in self-care (i.e., not showering anymore)
- Sleep problems (i.e., sleeping too much or too little; sleeping mainly during the day)
- Change in interests (i.e., not being interested in what you used to enjoy) or low motivation
- Suicidal thoughts, plans or behaviors — including self-harm (i.e., intentionally cutting or burning yourself)
If you can relate to some of these symptoms, a therapist can help you figure out if you’re experiencing depression.
Now that we’ve refreshed our knowledge of depression, let’s move on to mindfulness.
What is Mindfulness? A Quick Overview
Did you know that humans have been practicing mindfulness for thousands of years? It’s true, even since before the Buddha reached his spiritual stature. And today Western science is discovering the value of this simple practice.
So, what is mindfulness?
In short, it’s the practice of being in the present moment. And that’s a very good thing, because when our thoughts keep us in the past, we feel sadness, regret, anger and more. Further, when our thoughts are all about the future, we feel anxiety, distress, egoic forms of pride, and so on.
When we train our minds to be in the present moment, we experience:
- More joy
- More connection with others
- More happiness and fulfillment in our careers
While these are just a handful of benefits you can get, there are much more. Mindfulness can help overcome depression and depressive episodes!
How Can Mindfulness Aid Therapy to Overcome Depression?
The most common forms of therapy for depression are Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing (EMDR), and Somatic Experiencing (SE). And mindfulness can support each of them.
By bringing our full focus to our emotional challenges, we can access deeper parts of ourselves and heal more thoroughly. Therapists do not recommend mindfulness as a stand-alone treatment for depression. However, it can aid both during and in-between sessions.
Moreover, mindfulness can assist your therapy by:
- Helping you let go of self-judgments
- Helping grow your self-compassion
- Allowing you to see your thoughts and emotions more objectively
- Speeding up your trauma resolution compared to therapy alone
- And more
Lastly, mindfulness can help you unpack certain emotions that you may have pressed down. As the physician and bestselling author Dr. Gabor Mate points out, “If you’re de-PRESSed, perhaps you’re PRESSing something down. Perhaps your energy is tied up in keeping something from your awareness (paraphrased).”
Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy in a Nutshell
Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT), popularized by Jon Kabat-Zin, has been shown to be as effective as maintenance doses of antidepressant medication for fending off depression.
MBCT teaches you to pay attention to your thoughts and feelings without taking them so seriously. You can explore negative experiences without making them worse. This helps in two ways: you can experience strong emotions without panicking, and when you do have a negative experience, it’s less likely to trigger a full-blown depressive episode. The neuroscience of this is growing rapidly.
How I Overcame Depression with Mindfulness-Assisted Therapy
I was in college when I experienced my first major depressive episode. Things just didn’t feel right to me. I was working out 4 days per week and running once weekly… And I usually enjoyed being in school environments.
But inside, everything felt gray.
I was dragging myself to do everything I was doing. And there was nothing that could give me honest hope. That’s when I decided to enter group therapy at the mental health center.
The therapy sessions helped me in many ways. I got to be around people my age experiencing similar problems. And I was able to talk about my problems and express them verbally. This is what helped me the most.
As I attended each session, I noticed my regular meditations were becoming more effective, because I was focusing on the right problems from the start.
Eventually I went on to cure my depression without medications or relapse, and I can confidently say that the combination of therapy with mindfulness is what did it for me. Perhaps it will help you, too.
Okay, But How Do I Do Mindfulness? How Does It Work?
To start, you’ll want to pick a time of day where you can consistently practice. The goal is to build this into a daily habit of at least 15 minutes, ideally 1 hour.
Once you have a dedicated time of day and a place you can practice (in your car, sitting in a chair, on your couch, etc.), set a timer for 5 minutes. As you progress, you’ll add more time to each session.
Begin by paying attention to your breath. Pay attention specifically to where the air meets your nostrils as you breathe. You’ll notice that the inhale is cooler and the exhale is warmer. Just notice these sensations as you pay attention to your breathing.
When your timer is up, you’re finished. You’ve successfully completed a mindfulness session!
Like I said, the real benefits come from longer sessions. But with even 5 minutes per day, you can see improvement in your depressive symptoms, energy, and productivity. No wonder people have been practicing mindfulness for millennia!
To wrap this up, I’d like to offer my therapy services to you. I’ve helped hundreds of people overcome depression with mindfulness-assisted therapies. You’ll find that your internal world can be a great source of joy, once we clear out the energies of depression. Contact me today.