A Mindfulness Trick for When You're Really Depressed
Any kind of mindfulness trick can seem too difficult or pointless when you're really depressed. During one of my worst periods of depression, I had a coach from a personal development program. He suggested I list all the places and activities that made me happy, then go do them. I became even more distraught when I realized I had exactly zero items to put on my list. But check out this mindfulness trick, it's different.
Those of us with a mental illness often feel hopeless. In the depths of depression, we feel lost, our senses dulled; we know for a fact that everything will always be miserable and nothing will help. Thus, suggestions of “going to a happy place,” “being present,” or other mindfulness tricks that may work for a neurotypical person feel like cruel jokes.
How, then, can people with mental illnesses be present in our dark moments? What does it look like to fully experience life when everything is awful?
You can actually trick yourself into a mindful state. I know it may seem pointless, but give this mindfulness trick five minutes; it likely can’t feel worse to try.
The Five Minute Mindfulness Trick
1. Feel Your Feelings
This may sound ridiculous, but in reality, we spend huge quantities of energy fighting against being depressed, sad, angry, afraid, hopeless, or numb. For two minutes, close your eyes and experience those seemingly negative emotions in full. If you’re sad, be really sad.
2. Mentally Scan Your Body
Where does this feeling affect you the most physically? For me, it’s often a tightening in my throat or pressure on my forehead. Focus your attention on that area’s sensations. You’re not trying to alter anything; just observe.
3. Shift Your Attention
Now, focus on the other physical sensations of your body. Do you feel a breeze? How does your clothing feel as it meets your skin? Can you feel the whisper of your breath on your upper lip as you exhale? Again, the goal is not to adjust anything that seems “wrong,” just to see what’s happening as if you were a scientist objectively writing a report on everything your body is experiencing.
Return to the Present After This Mindfulness Trick
Bring your attention back to the moment. Has anything changed -- maybe or maybe not. Either way is fine. The most important aspect of this mindfulness trick is there’s no incorrect approach; you’ve done the mindfulness exercise. Simply attempting is a success. With depression, sometimes accomplishing only one action, like getting out of bed or spending five minutes trying these three steps, is truly your achievement for the day.
Meredith, M. (2018, February 20). A Mindfulness Trick for When You're Really Depressed, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2020, August 3 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/livingablissfullife/2018/02/how-to-trick-yourself-into-mindfulness
Author: Morgan Meredith
Thank you! Mostly for saying that you couldn’t think of anything to put on that list of happy places or things! The best definition of my major depression is telling people who may ask that it’s a total lack of joy in things you used to love doing or just being somewhere in that moment and being happy. It’s that way for me most times, and I also feel the perky cheery affirmations upset me more than help. I avoid them on these days. I’m harder on myself than the cruelest person has ever been to me but doubt anyone would believe that outside of a mental illness. I spend all of my time alone with just my dog, (thank God for her love)!
Also, thank YOU for this simple approach to feeling our pain and depression while we may be at our toughest times. (Mine are first thing in the morning), which so many people don’t understand. It’s the fact of a new day I should be grateful for, but instead only feel a heavier sense of gloom and doom, most every day waking up with tears in my eyes, then sobbing. My dog puts a smile on my face and I feel guilty for letting her see me upset all the time!
I will try what you’ve explained here that works for you, and if it doesn’t, at least I’ll have my mind on something other than my racing heart and sobbing so loud I worry the neighbors will hear me. Any little thing like this could help and I’m going to give it a try! Thanks for sharing!