When I’m depressed or anxious, it can be hard for me to remember what makes me happy or what calms me down. Every coping skill I’ve learned in therapy seems to fly out of my head and disappear elsewhere. I used to let the depression or anxiety take over and control my mind, and would be miserable as a result.
During my last hospitalization, I learned about a meditation technique called mindfulness. Mindfulness is the practice of bringing your attention to what is going on internally and externally in the moment you are in. Mindfulness doesn’t exactly rid your mind of negative or anxious thoughts, but trains you to accept them and let them flow freely without feeling bad about having them.
It’s hard to accept negative thoughts at first; you just want them to leave you and not return. But acceptance is an important step in recovery, and accepting your thoughts for what they are is important when battling anxiety or depression.
On my bad days, I try to be mindful in everything I do, not just sit and think mindfully. When I wake up, I am aware of how I feel. I’m aware of the warmth still in my body as I stretch, and am aware of the immediately negative thoughts I have about the day that hasn’t even begun yet. I let those thoughts be, and move onto being mindful about my surroundings. As I travel from my room, to the bathroom and into the kitchen, I am mindful of how the carpet feels between my toes and of the bird’s songs outside the windows. Already my negative thoughts are moving through my mind, making room for positive thoughts.
As I sit down for breakfast, I eat mindfully. I eat slowly, savoring each bite and each texture of the food. I enjoy what I’m eating, even though on my bad days I don’t want to eat. Mindfulness helps me to not only satisfy the hunger I can’t feel on a bad day, it helps me to truly find pleasure in something so simple as eating an apple. And finding pleasure on a bad day is so very, very important.
As I walk down the street with my daughter in the stroller, I am mindful of my surroundings. I notice the birds flying, the trees swaying and the bees moving from flower to flower. I notice my daughter look around, imagining she is being mindful as well. Children look at the world with such innocence and wonder, much like mindfulness has us do. I accept the worries swimming in my head for when we return home; chores, lunch to prepare, phone calls to make. I accept them and move on, back to observing the beauty around me.
When it’s raining, it’s hard for me to remain mindful. The weather matches my mood and I would like to just stay in bed. But I am mindful about the rain. I notice the size and the speed of the drops, and remind myself that water, even in the form of rain, is good. It is good for the plants, for the crops and for me. It washes away yesterday and prepares me for another new day. I used to let the rain, the bad days, control me. But when I learned to look at the rain mindfully, my mood toward it changed, just like my mind has changed when it comes to negative thoughts.
Remaining mindful helps me cope with my anxiety and depression. It keeps me in the present moment, and manages my worries about the past and the future. Mindfulness doesn’t make my worries disappear, but rather equips me with the peace and strength to deal with them. I was just practicing mindfulness on my bad days, but now I try to remain mindful on my good days, too. Since trying to remain mindful all of the time, I see my situation and the world around me in a more positive light. I find I enjoy the little things more often when I’m mindful; my daughter’s laugh, the neighbor’s dog, my mom’s cooking.
Without mindfulness, I would still be in darkness on my bad days. I would let my negative thoughts completely take over, leaving no room for an inkling of positivity. Without mindfulness, I may not see myself or the world around me in a realistic, positive way. I am glad I learned the technique during one of my most difficult times, so I could learn to use it in the most trying, and the most wonderful times. Mindfulness is not only just a form of meditation. I believe it is a way of life, and a natural medicine to help treat anxiety and depression.
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