Mindfulness and Depression
Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s celebrations have come and gone, and we now find ourselves in the second week of January. After two weeks of being nearly housebound because of the extreme cold it is currently 55 degrees and drizzling. The little snow cover from this past week is completely gone, revealing the dead grass, mud and general muck leftover from the trees’ last-minute shedding of leaves just over a month ago.
I need the sun.
I am among the 1 in 3 who suffer from Seasonal Affect Disorder (SAD) and find it difficult to muster any enthusiasm when the sun’s rays have lost their way to my world. While I know intellectually that my depression is mild in comparison to the more than 16 million Americans who suffered at least one major depressive episode in the last year, doesn’t feel good to feel depressed.
What is more, when one is depressed, all of the well-documented methods shown to alleviate depression are often the very things those who are depressed often cannot bring themselves to do.
Mindfulness practice is one of those methods that are indicated to help. But one feature about being in the habit of practicing mindfulness is that it helps to prevent one from delving as far into the depths in the first place. It also offers tools that are practical, easier to access and doesn’t necessarily need additional medication (though, please hear me, if you do endure clinical depression, are formed with brain chemistry that is better balanced with medication, it is absolutely necessary to continue to maintain this routine).
Even just knowing how something works helps the method to work better. Mindfulness practice helps to enhance psychological resilience and improve the quality of social interactions.
It addresses the areas that conspire to impede a sense of well being by helping one to notice and be aware of bodily states (shallow breathing, ache in the back of neck, pressure or pain in the head, etc.); mental states (compulsive, seemingly unending thoughts, confusion, etc.), recognize deficient social interactions (lack of empathy/compassion for others, isolation, etc.), and addresses the existential (search for meaning).
But the first aspect of mindfulness practice is to see things as they are.
I love the poem by Rumi I’ve read before, but would like to read again here.
This being human is a guest house
Every morning a new arrival.
A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.
Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they are a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still treat each guest honorably
It is the very unexpectedness of joys and meannesses that disturb us.
It is here, welcoming the depression and meannesses that are so deeply felt—especially when the sun is not out! It is here that we recognize them as guests. Welcome each sadness, greet each sorrow.
Perhaps, ask them why they have come.
Do not judge the sorrow. Do not strive to turn away the sadness.
Honor this experience, this moment of communion together – because, you are not alone. There is always a third guest, this One who resides in the very center of the heart, of the soul.
It is this One who witnesses to my spirit that I belong to God.
It is this One who has welcomed the same guests and knows.
Remain here a while longer.
Because there are other guests who will come: hope, and joy. They may come while the others linger. They may pass each other at the door.
Do not hurry them.
Thank you, for dwelling here with me in this time.
As always, you can find the transcript of this episode and resources on my website, eirenicole.com
Today, may you walk at the pace of grace.