Mindfulness as a tool for coping with depression is often distilled into “thinking your way out” of depression — which angers pretty much anyone who has ever struggled with depression. Mindfulness is more about becoming aware of how negative thoughts build on each other and cause additional emotional pain, then learning how to attend to such thoughts in a way that limits their damage. At least, that’s how it works for me.
Zindel Segal, who wrote The Mindful Way Through Depression and developed the technique of mindfulness-based cognitive therapy, explained in a TEDx Talk how mindfulness can be an effective tool for coping with depression and preventing relapse. He also talks about the science behind the approach and research about its application. Here’s his basic description of how it works:
What we’re trying to get people to do is to anchor themselves in their experience so that when a negative emotion comes up in the mind, it can wash over them; it doesn’t…bring to mind all of the negative associations that for some people can happen very automatically. Instead they can find a different place for standing and working with these feelings, and as a result have much more of an option for selecting a response and influencing what happens next.
Segal’s TEDx Talk is good, but If you’re looking for help with depression and guidance on how to apply mindfulness to cope with it, start with the book. It’s tone is less academic than the TEDx talk and it provides concrete hands-on guidance.
You’re probably tired of hearing me say that I’ve found mindfulness to be an invaluable tool for coping with depression, chronic illness and even migraine attacks.