Mindfulness and Depression – An exercise on bringing thoughts to the present moment

Man swimming under waterThis is the fifth post in a series on mindfulness by Laurie Moffitt.

Depression often includes thought patterns that focus on the negative parts of life. We may examine all of the things that make us feel less than our peers.  We may focus on all of the things we want, but are sure we will never have. Depression is like being under water and opening your eyes. We are unable to see things clearly and the surface appears very far away. Mindfulness can help push us up to the surface so that we can see the world around us without water in our eyes.

Changing our thinking can often change our mood. Maybe life really does suck right now and it is hard to find something, anything that seems good or maybe we just don’t notice the good. Here is an exercise that may help change your thinking. Mindfulness is not a quick cure. It must be practiced everyday. Personal change takes time and effort. There is no magic. You must be willing to work if you want things to be different.

Bringing our thoughts to the present moment is important for changing mood. Try to practice this exercise in a quiet place with limited distractions. Sitting in a comfortable chair, begin by noticing your breath. Pay attention to your breathing. Notice the ebb and flow of inhaling and exhaling. Just sit and breathe normally until you begin to feel your body relaxing.

Now notice your feet on the floor, your seat in the chair and your hands resting comfortably.  Feel the connection between your body and the chair. Feel your body relaxing and resting in the chair. Keep your breathing slow and steady.

You may begin to notice a stream of thoughts arising. Let the thoughts pass through your head without stopping and thinking about them. Imagine a television screen and your thoughts are passing across the screen. You can read them, but just long enough to notice one thought before the next thought begins streaming. If you find your mind wandering, go back to noticing your breathing.

When the stream of thoughts slows, begin to think about the word gratitude. Now let thoughts of all that is good, all that you are grateful for pass by on the sign. Don’t stop and think about them, just let them pass by on the television screen. If you find your mind wandering, go back to noticing your breathe. Practice this exercise for five or ten minutes everyday.

Depression can be the result of chemical imbalances within the brain. It is important that you discuss your feelings and struggles with your primary physician and follow all medical advice. Individual therapy may also help with depression by providing a safe place to work through feelings and learn new ways of coping with symptoms.

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