Depression Success Story: “Mindfulness Meditation Isn’t What I Thought It Was. It’s Better” – Guest Post by, Mollie Player…

So, I have a confession to make: I’ve always hated the idea of mindfulness. Here I am, all spiritual and New Agey and stuff, and I’ve never even initiated a conversation about it. Ridiculous, right? Here’s my excuse.

Until very recently, I knew nothing about this spiritual practice. It was just a vague term, and not an especially pleasing one at that. Whereas for some, the idea of mindfulness inspires a sort of beatific glow, for me, it was just another entry on the never-ending to do list of life. Just learning more about it seemed exhausting. Then I actually did learn more–and abruptly changed my perspective.

Right now, as research for this site, I’m reading Full Catastrophe Living by Jon Kabat-Zin for the first time. Now a modern classic, this gives one of the more detailed, systematic (even medical) approaches to mindfulness meditation. It’s based on the successful hospital classes led by Kabat-Zin many years ago, with more recent additions in the revised version I’m reading. I’m also reading several books by Thich Nhat Hanh right now, and listening to an Eckhart Tolle audiobook. I didn’t think of Tolle as a mindfulness meditation teacher, but I’m seeing now that he is (though he might not appreciate the label).

Previously, I viewed mindfulness as a sort of bland, unoriginal approach to spirituality. I mean, it’s just so popular, right? Even non-spiritual people are doing it. After doing the above reading, though, I changed my mind.

Mindfulness, it turns out, isn’t what I thought it was.

I thought mindfulness was: Enjoying life.

Mindfulness is: Being aware of and accepting whatever thoughts come, whether or not they’re thoughts of enjoyment and appreciation.

I thought mindfulness was: Thinking pleasant thoughts about the ordinary things you see around you as you go throughout your day.

Mindfulness is: Feeling your “inner body,” as Tolle calls it–bringing your attention to the energy within you throughout the day.

I thought mindfulness was: Eating more slowly. Listening more carefully.

Mindfulness is: Being who you are. Doing what comes naturally to you when you’re acting from your highest self.

I thought mindfulness was: Not future-thinking. Not past-thinking.

Mindfulness is: Using your mind in the ways that it serves you. That includes some future- and past-thinking.

I thought mindfulness was: Being in a state of deep acceptance of what is.

Mindfulness is: Being in the state of meditation. Even when you’re not totally able to accept what is.

I thought mindfulness was: A politically correct alternative to more advanced ways of meditating.

Mindfulness is: As advanced as I ever need to be.

In other words: Before, mindfulness seemed to me both overly simplistic as well as impossible to achieve. Now, it seems to be exactly what I already do every day: meditating, appreciating, loving. Rinse, repeat.

I still don’t love the word mindfulness for some reason. At this point, the guilt-producing mental associations still sully it. But I do like mindfulness itself.

Here, a quick Q and A.

Does this spiritual practice work against depression?

Yes. For sure. Probably for everyone.

Have you tried it? For how long?

Possibly the main takeaway I got from my recent reading is that I’ve actually been practicing mindfulness meditation for at least four years now. I don’t do many long sitting meditations these days, but my main spiritual practice is to enter into a state of meditation–just a behind-the-scenes sort of sensing of the Divine–in the morning and to hold that place throughout the day. I certainly don’t always succeed in this (read You’re Getting Closer to see what I mean). But when I fail, I return. It’s my most consistent spiritual habit, and as it turns out, it’s nothing special–just what everyone is talking about: mindfulness.

What were your results when using mindfulness for depression?

At times, total transformation of my mood, immediately. Other times, frustration due to just not feeling it.

Is it easy?

For me, yes and no. It does take work, especially for the first several years of practice. It’s a tough habit to create and keep.

How long does the effect last? Does it keep working or does the effect taper off after a few weeks or months?

The mood effect does not taper off at all for me if I practice consistently throughout the day, week or month. And after a break–even a long one–I can pick up right where I left off.

How does it work? What do you do, exactly?

The answer to this question is different for everyone; there are so very many ways to be mindful.

For some, mindfulness is simply noticing what is and thinking thoughts of appreciation. For others, it is noticing unhelpful thoughts and letting them pass, turning their attention to their present surroundings instead. Right now, for me, my main mindfulness practice is to say a mantra many times throughout the day, as follows: I am sensing my inner body. I’m doing what feels deeply rightThis reminds me to come back to myself, then check in with my intuition when making any kind of decision. It works wonderfully for me.

I also say, Thank you, God, and There is time for that, too. (This last because of my Type A accomplishment obsession.) And since I’m not so great at just thinking about trees or children’s smiles or whatever, I think thoughts of appreciation about these things. In other words, instead of saying to myself, Here are the trees. They are green and beautiful, I might say something like, I so appreciate these trees. I am so lucky to live here.

Does that make sense? For me, this subtle difference is huge.

Is this practice scientifically backed?

Yes. There are many books on the benefits of meditation in general, but mindfulness meditation is particularly well-researched. It is used outside spiritual circles–in hospitals, therapy practices and much more.

What’s the downside?

None that I can think of, except that it may take years and years of practice for it to feel natural and easy. At least, it did for me. And I definitely still struggle.

How effective do you think it is against depression? What is your overall rating?

My highly accurate, soon-to-be-patented Depression Effectiveness Rating for mindfulness meditation: 10 on a scale of 1-10

Mollie

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14 thoughts on “Depression Success Story: “Mindfulness Meditation Isn’t What I Thought It Was. It’s Better” – Guest Post by, Mollie Player…

  1. Seems like switching ourselves into another dimension and forever how many moments of time that is possible depression and anxiety are not invading it.You seem to have developed a steady link to the special place and re-energize yourself throughout the day. I would think the relief from depression and anxiety while in the special place reduces intensity of them when not necessarily in that space. Also fortifies us in knowing we can control our thoughts and not a captive of depression and anxiety. However, there is a difference between being depressed and having depression. Symptoms the same but being depressed is an emotional based problem but depression is a physiological based illness wherein chemical imbalances in the brain affect emotion stability compartments of mind to become dysfunctional. I would think mindfulness could help manage being depressed but depression need be treated with meds that restore chemical balances that restore thinking levels and emotional function as electrical and chemical processes can operate in healthful manner. Particular diet regimens have also been presented to restore chemical imbalances in brain as opposed to pharmaceuticals as a natural holistic approach. When physiological processes are affected often psychological /emotional treatment may not be effective in optimum manner of restoration or freedom from anxiety/depression.

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  2. Pingback: *Press it* Depression Success Story: “Mindfulness Meditation Isn’t What I Thought It Was. It’s Better” – Guest Post by, Mollie Player… #18 | Its good to be crazy Sometimes

  3. I love mindfulness. I learned it from a referral by my GP to a mental wellbeing clinic as I was struggling to cope physically and mentally with the pain associated with my rheumatoid arthritis. It helped me focus on the moment and distract my brain from the pain, and to accept it as part of myself. As a side effect, I found that it was also useful in my writing, to help me really get in the minds of my characters, to experience scenes as they would experience them, step by step, breath by breath. It improved my ‘showing’ markedly and made my characters more three dimensional.

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  4. Nice! I love it. I think the piece I was missing before was that when you aren’t mindful, you shouldn’t feel guilty about it. I was like, What? You want me to not only do the dishes, but enjoy it and feel bad if I don’t? (If that makes sense.)

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Pingback: Depression Success Story: “Mindfulness Meditation Isn’t What I Thought It Was. It’s Better” – Guest Post by, Mollie Player… | Campbells World

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