When you enter a phase in your life during which you are vulnerable
to depression, you lose touch with what is going on around you. It
is a sort of tunnel vision; you can only see part of the landscape.
You do not notice the moment when a spiral of low mood is starting.
Mindfulness practice helps you to see
more clearly the patterns of the mind, and to learn how to
recognise when your mood is beginning to go down. This means you
can 'nip it in the bud' much earlier than before.
'Losing touch' with things can put a barrier between you and the
small things in life that might give you pleasure. This tendency can
become extreme in clinical depression where it is known as 'anhedonia'
(lack of pleasure from things we used to enjoy). But we all may know
the feeling when we donít notice the small pleasures around us,
especially when there is too much to do at work or home, or we are
preoccupied with a project.
Mindfulness teaches you a way to get back
in touch with the experience of being alive.
Low mood can bring back memories and thoughts from the past, and
make you worry about the future.
Mindfulness helps to halt the escalation of
these negative thoughts and teaches you to focus on the present
moment, rather than reliving the past or pre-living the future.
When you start to feel low, you tend to react as if your emotions
were a problem to be solved; you start trying to use your critical
thinking strategies. When these do not work, you re-double your
efforts to use them. You end up over-thinking, brooding, ruminating
and living in your head.
Mindfulness helps you to enter an
alternative mode of mind that includes thinking but is bigger than
thinking. It teaches you to shift mental gears, from the mode of
mind dominated by critical thinking (likely to provoke and
accelerate downward mood spirals) to another mode of mind in which
you experience the world directly, non-conceptually, and
When you have been depressed, you understandably dread it coming
back. At its first sign, you may try to suppress the symptoms,
pretend they aren't there, or push away any unwanted thoughts or
memories. But such suppression often does not work, and the very
things you tried to get rid of come back with renewed force.
Mindfulness takes a different approach. It
helps develop your willingness to experience emotions, your capacity
to be open to even painful emotions. It helps give you the courage
to allow distressing mood, thoughts and sensations to come and go,
without battling with them. We discover that difficult and unwanted
thoughts and feelings can be held in awareness, and seen from an
altogether different perspective - a perspective that brings with it
a sense of warmth and compassion to the suffering you are