The Holidays are coming and store windows are turning red.
But while the holiday season can be a fun filled and joyous time, it can also be very stressful as many of us know.
With the combination of budgeting, shopping, preparing and attending social gatherings and other holiday preparations, it can all become too much.
The results leave us off balance both physically and emotionally and really does take away all the pre-holiday fun.
Can you believe that an American psychological association poll reveals 8 out of 10 people actually anticipate an increase in stress leading up to and during the holidays. Symptoms of depression in some cases can then escalate.
British novelist and screenwriter J.K. Rowling gives her perspective of this debilitating condition:
Depression is the most unpleasant thing I have ever experienced… It is that absence of being able to envisage that you will ever be cheerful again. The absence of hope. That very deadened feeling, which is so very different from feeling sad. Sad hurts but it’s a healthy feeling. It is a necessary thing to feel. Depression is very different.
It could be that you are currently suffering from depression or have done so in the past.
It may instead be that you know someone who is currently feeling depressed and you’re trying to help in any way you can as the holidays approach.
Whether you’re a calm and collected person most of the time, the holiday season can still be a time that tries you.
Sadly, for many long term sufferers of depression, the only thing keeping them going are in fact prescription drugs.
Have you ever wondered though, if there was a more effective and cheaper solution to the downward spiral (of overwhelming symptoms of depression) than anti-depressants?
What if there was a way that offered up no side effects.
What if the solution was long-lasting and didn’t require a prescription!
Well you might be surprised to hear that ‘mindfulness meditation’ and ‘depression’ are currently hot topics among medical researchers.
In many cases, meditation is showing to be a very powerful cure for mild to severe symptoms of depression and is at the very least, a wonderful complementary therapy to medicine-based approaches.
Anti-depressants do work.
There is no doubt about it, particularly to “jump start” a patient’s recovery from depression.
So why then, should one attempt to find any other kind of therapy, when these anti-depressants do the job?
While they do reduce the symptoms of depression, anti-depressants have some extremely serious physical side effects including weight gain, nausea, fatigue and loss of libido (these are just a few).
Just as seriously, people have a tendency to relapse once they stop taking anti-depressants.
Medical researchers ( conducted at the University of Exeter ) now tell us that mindfulness based meditation has been found to actually be more effective than drugs and/or counseling in treating the symptoms of depression.
Specifically, participants were introduced to MBCT or mindfulness-based cognitive therapy, which is a combination of cognitive therapy and meditation.
The study ran for four months, during which a staggering 75% of the participants reported feeling well enough to stop taking anti-depressants.
Not exactly an insignificant number is it?
So how exactly then does mindfulness meditation help with depression? When you practice mindfulness meditation such as breath-focus meditation, you become detached from your thoughts.
Do this now, for 90 seconds (it’s a great and essential mental health pause during the day):
- Close your eyes, sit up straight or lie flat and relax.
- Get mindful of your breathing pattern.
Your mind will intrude with thoughts but as soon as you become aware of them, simply let them go as you come back to your breath.
At the moment of letting those thoughts go and returning to focusing on your breath, you realize then that you are not your thoughts.
You don’t need to get attached to thoughts. You can let them go.
Same with emotions, you can experience them (it’s unhealthy to resist) and let them pass.
One of the key features of depression is that it hijacks your attention,
says Professor Williams of Exeter University.
We all tend to bring to the forefront of our minds the thoughts and feelings that reflect our current mood. If you are sad, depressed or anxious, then you tend to remember the bad things that have happened to you and not the good.
This drives you into a downward spiral that leads from sadness into a deeper depression.
Mindfulness meditation interrupts that spiral.
You quickly come to realize that when you don’t latch onto thoughts (no matter how distressing) and instead let them go, it avoids rumination.
You become able to experience an emotion without generating more sad thoughts, and regain your sense of well-being in just minutes.
Anytime you’re having a sad thought, that threatens to become more sad thoughts, practice this simple 2 step technique:
1. When a sad thought generates a negative emotion, hit your inner pause button.
Focus on the physical feeling of the emotion rather than the sad thought that produced it. Sadness can manifest as a strong urge to cry or a heaviness in the heart. You may simply feel exhausted.
However your own body responds to the thought, you must focus only on the physical sensations until they have passed.
Fully experience what it feels like to be sad, until the feeling passes.
Why this works:
An emotion is an electrochemical cocktail that is generated by the brain in response to a thought. This cocktail is released into your system and it quickly leaves the system, unless you start “mixing” more of the same emotional cocktails by thinking the same sad thoughts.
This all takes place within 90 seconds, depending on the intensity of the thought/emotion and your ability to ride it out (yes, you can get really good at this, with practice).
2. Once you feel the release of the emotion (the physical symptoms subside), your system goes back to a more neutral equilibrium and you can release your focus on the emotion.
The result is heightened clarity of mind and well being.
Once you’ve ridden out the ’emotional wave’ (having avoided adding more emotional cocktails), you’ll see that keeping out those additional cocktails of thought was what did the trick. Hence, preventing decline into a depressed state.
The below quote from J.P. Morgan is very reassuring and might indicate that patience and understanding are to be required, as this is just an essential part of your journey through life:
The first step towards getting somewhere is to decide that you are not going to stay where you are.
If you are suffering from the symptoms of depression or care for someone who is, remember… where there’s hope, there’s a way! And it’s a natural way!
Not only might mindfulness meditation (or any other technique for that matter) cure the symptoms of depression, it might just change your whole entire life.
If you’re taking medication, don’t stop it. Yet! Patience is part of the recipe.
It really wouldn’t be wise to just stop as there’s side effects to stopping taking them abruptly just as there is by taking them.
Do have faith though that it might not be too long before you and your doctor are discussing the possibility of reducing dosage.
Whether you’re taking prescribed meds or not, if you’re going to become addicted to anything, try meditation first!
You’ll never look back!