How Using Mindfulness for Depression Helps You Get Well
How can using mindfulness for depression help you recover? Well, mindfulness is about living in the now by taking notice of what’s around us and the feelings that are inside of us. It’s about being fully present and removing the extra layer of thought that we normally attach to people, things, and events. Using mindfulness for depression changed my life because my depressed brain was anything but peaceful.
A Brief Treatment History of Mindfulness for Depression
Jon Kabat-Zinn, considered the most prominent figure in the introduction of mindfulness to the mainstream, says,
Mindfulness means paying attention in a particular way: on purpose, in the present moment, and nonjudgmentally.1
The modern-day mindfulness movement is rooted in Buddhist meditation. It was Jon Kabat-Zinn, a student of Buddhism, who brought mindfulness to the mainstream West. He developed the secular program, now known as mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR), which is used to help people respond better to stress, pain, and illness.
Mindfulness moved into psychology with mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT) -- the combination of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and MBSR. Mindfulness-based cognitive behavioral therapy is used to treat recurrent episodes of depression.2
Mindfulness for Depression Works
When searching for “mindfulness for depression,” I came across encouraging results. A study from Behavior Research and Therapy found that MBCT can successfully help to treat individuals suffering from ongoing depression.3 In a study from Clinical Psychology Review, MBCT reduced the risk of relapse by 43% for people with three or more previous episodes. It also showed that MBCT was at least as effective as maintenance antidepressant medication.4
How Mindfulness Helps with Depression
The depressed mind is anything but mindful. Often when we are depressed, we fill our minds with thoughts of guilt, remorse, or pain from events that happened in the past. Our thoughts may become anxious about events that are to take place in the future. We may even worry about things we think will happen that never even come to pass. One thought leads to another. We find ourselves feeling bad about feeling bad and end up spiraling into a pit of despair.
Fortunately, using mindfulness for depression helps our depressed brain turn things around.
Mindfulness Encourages Present-Moment Attention
Consider what happens when we train our minds to concentrate on the present moment. When we truly engage and are aware of what is happening in each moment, there is no room to dwell on the past or feel anxious about the future. We are living in the present moment, being aware of what is happening now. Free from our troubled thoughts, we feel a sense of peace and calm.
Mindfulness Encourages Nonjudgmental Thinking
The next part of mindfulness, using Jon Kabat-Zinn’s definition, is that it is nonjudgmental. Our minds are constantly judging things as good or bad, appropriate or inappropriate, right or wrong, etc. before we even realize it. By not adding the extra layer of our automatic judgments, we allow what is, to just be. For example, when we have an uncomfortable feeling, we don’t automatically label it as “bad” nor do we attach extra meaning to it. A feeling is just a feeling and by simply letting it be, it loses its power over us.
“Nonjudgmental” doesn’t mean that we can’t form opinions about things. It simply means that we strip away the automatic judgments and allow ourselves to view things as they truly are. Then, after mindfully observing, we can choose to take action with intention.
Simple Mindfulness Meditations for Depression
We can train our minds to be mindful, but it takes practice. Please check out the video on how to practice mindfulness for depression.
1 Fisher, D. (2017, July 27). Mindfulness and the cessation of suffering: An exclusive new interview with mindfulness pioneer Jon Kabat Zinn. Retrieved November 16, 2017.
2 Williams, M. (2007). The mindful way through depression: freeing yourself from chronic unhappiness. New York: Guilford Press.
3 Barnhofer, T., Crane, C., Hargus, E., Amarasinghe, M., Winder, R., & Williams, J. M. (2009, May 1). Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy as a treatment for chronic depression: A preliminary study. Retrieved November 16, 2017.
4 Piet, J., & Hougaard, E. (2011, August 1). The effect of mindfulness-based cognitive therapy for prevention of relapse in recurrent major depressive disorder: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Retrieved November 16, 2017.
Sedas, M. (2017, November 16). How Using Mindfulness for Depression Helps You Get Well, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2020, April 5 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/copingwithdepression/2017/11/using-mindfulness-to-help-with-depression
Author: Michelle Sedas
Mindfulness helps me because it does force you to focus on the moment. Too often anxiety and depression has you dwelling on the past and into the unknown future. I think it helps reduce negative thoughts that always filter into the brain. I need to do it far more.
Thank you for your message. Yes, this is how it helps me as well. I find it wonderfully encouraging to know that there's a method to train our minds to focus on the present moment.
All the best,