Depression creates negative thinking patterns.
In turn, these patterns reinforce depression.
Negative emotions lead to negative thoughts. Then negative thoughts deepen negative emotions.
Escaping this cycle requires us to interrupt the ruminating mind.
Mindfulness meditation can help by quieting the voice of our inner critic. Hence, we are able to pay attention to things other than those circulating thoughts. And we come into the present, in the moment, with mindfulness meditation.
At the same time, when we stop focusing on ourselves, we find ways to feel compassion for others.
These things reduce the symptoms of depression.
The Inner Critic
Negative thinking patterns are often the voice of an inner critic in our minds. The inner critic tells us that we aren’t “enough.” We aren’t “good enough,” “smart enough,” or “successful enough.”
Worst of all, the inner critic tells us that we have no right to feel the many complicated emotions that we are feeling. We end up not only have bad feelings, we also feel bad about having bad feelings.
Being with What We Feel
Mindfulness meditation is a structured approach to sitting with our feelings. In other words, we can learn to accept these feelings without giving in to the words of the inner critic.
When we try to deny our feelings, they become bigger. However, when we make room for them, they settle into a proper place instead. Therefore, when we honor whatever feelings arise, this breaks negative thinking patterns.
Not Avoiding Our Thoughts
We often do all we can to escape the negative thoughts causing our pain. Most of us numb ourselves in myriad ways. However, often the thoughts come back stronger the more we try to avoid them.
Mindfulness meditation allows the thoughts to arise. We acknowledge them without judgment. Just as with feelings, letting these thoughts happen actually reduces their power and the pain they cause lessens. Then we can begin to think more clearly.
Benefits of Mindfulness Meditation
As noted, when we allow feelings to simply exist and acknowledge our thoughts, we can gain some breathing room and moments of silence. Interrupting the rumination relieves the negativity that reinforces depression.
Some of the other benefits of mindfulness meditation for depression include:
- We notice moments of relief or even pleasant feelings. A ruminating mind emphasizes negative emotions. A mind that is simply noticing feelings may discover there are nice thoughts in the mix as well.
- We see more truths about ourselves. Noticing our many dimensions allows us to see beyond the things we dislike in ourselves.
- We can increase our ability to concentrate. This helps us find solutions to life’s problems, including ways to alleviate symptoms of depression.
- We see beyond ourselves. Depression is rooted in self-absorption. Mindfulness can help us see what exists around us, instead of just within us.
- We practice being “here now.” It is rare that something terrible is happening in the moment. Instead, most of the pain of depression is because of thoughts about the past and future. Being here now turns out to have little pain at all.
Mindfulness Meditation as a Treatment Option
Mindfulness meditation works well on its own, but it also complements other therapies. Breaking negative thought patterns can be done in many ways. Mindfulness is a method that we can easily add to most treatment plans.
In some cases, people choose to try mindfulness meditation after other depression treatments have failed. In other cases, a new situation may create the need for a new therapy. For example, someone who wants to discontinue depression medication during pregnancy may try mindfulness meditation.
Above all, mindfulness meditation is particularly good for preventing depression. Therefore, it is a tool that may be used to avoid depression relapse. In this way, it can be a form of self-care. It may be used in addition to exercise, nutrition, journaling and other daily self-care activities.
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