Over the years, I’ve written about this issue, for four reasons.
First, I am generally opposed to taking drugs – for anything. That’s just my way.
Second, I find it frightening that so many folks are prescribed pills or injections that, in most cases, have no positive effect on symptoms. Numbers vary, but it is generally accepted in the clinical community that a mere 25 per cent of patients taking drugs feel any better after having done so. And even that may be due to the placebo effect, which runs at about the same rate.
In the case of many psycho-pharmaceuticals, the specific chemistry is known, but the reasons for any efficacy are not often clear. In other words, scientists know drugs sometimes work but can’t really say why.
I don’t know about you, but I find this spooky.
Finally, drugs take the place of self-help. Which is always best.
That out of the way, let’s look at something you can do to feel better when the black dogs of depression stray into your emotional neighbourhood.
Mindfulness. We’ve heard the term. But what is it?
Well, to be mindful (as opposed to brainful) about any physical or emotional state is not think: To not create intellectual word constructions about what the wind in your hair feels like, the sounds around you, or to the sadness in your heart. Mindfulness asks us to cast aside the judgements and filters that our egos constantly create, and to do what seems counter-intuitive: which is to stop thinking, to stop surveying, measuring, describing, and judging. To defeat self-doubt.
Whew! That seems like a big idea. But, honestly, it is the smallest. Because to be mindful is to ignore for a period of time our intellect and simply be with – and accept – our senses in each moment. Come what may.
Here’s a single example, from my own life, of how mindfulness can be so simple and effective. Peeling carrots.
Old way. Peeling. Thinking. Is the water hot? What will I do with the carrots? What would other people do with carrots? Probably more tasty than mine. Bet mine will get overcooked. What . . . ?
New way. Peeling. Smelling. Seeing curls of peel fall. Feeling the carrot, the peeler, in my hands. The sound of water running into the sink. Looking at the peeled carrot on my cutting board. Hmm.
Okay. Maybe after that two minutes of pure existential simplicity my mind starts to race and words fill me. Fine. But at least I managed two minutes of just being – just being mindful.
Each day is filled with simple moments like peeling carrots, but also with uncomfortable thoughts.
To be depressed and to be mindful is to take little snatches of the day to simply experience – not judge – our thoughts. Like the carrot process, we simply accept our present, and when the time comes, allow it to pass.
Me? Every day I meditate. I sit, stare into the distance, and simply feel what I am feeling, hear what I am hearing, see what I am seeing. I don’t allow my ego to judge, or to forecast.
There is a reason meditation is called a “practice,” because that is exactly what it is. It is a subtle, deeply personal thing we can all do – and get better at – to bring more peace and acceptance into our lives.
A version of this article will appear in the April 5th edition of the Coast Reporter. www.coastreporter.net