In a previous post, we looked at the cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) model of the vicious cycle of depression involving thoughts, feelings, behaviours, memories and physical symptoms. One of the first steps in overcoming depression is to put and end to this vicious cycle, and gain some momentum that can help you cycle in a positive direction.
Just as automatic negative thoughts result from and contribute to depression, by engaging in more neutral and balanced ways of thinking, we can begin to stop the vicious cycle involving negative thoughts and depression. Cognitive therapy provides an effective tool to help break out of negative patterns of thinking. As our thoughts become less negative, we begin to feel less depressed, and as we become less depressed, our thoughts about ourselves, our lives and our future become less negative, and so on.
We can experience similar reversal in these vicious cycles in other areas of our lives that are affected by, and affect depression. Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) can help change behaviours that result from and contribute to depression such as reducing level of activity and withdrawing socially. Changes in diet, exercise, sleep habits and self-care can help alleviate the distressing physical symptoms associated with depression and lead to more energy and motivation.
In previous posts we practiced Following Our Breathing By Counting Breaths and Following Your Breathing By Measuring Breaths and a Mindfulness of the Breath Meditation. Now we’re going to learn a great mindful breathing practice to help you calm yourself and relax.
Breathing In I Feel Calm, Breathing Out I Relax: Following your breath by silently repeating to yourself the phrase:
Breathing out I relax.
You can also shorten the phrases to:
The video below explains some of the consequences that arise when we aren’t careful about how we manage our emotions and other negative experiences, and how the way we react to our emotions can cause us to suffer:
You can do this meditation either sitting cross-legged on a cushion the floor, or on a firm chair with a straight back and preferably no armrests. You want to be in a comfortable but alert posture, with your back straight but not stiff, you shoulders relaxed, on your hands resting in your lap or on your knees.
When you’re ready, start the video below to play the guided mindfulness of the breath meditation.
In a previous post we looked at some ways to practice letting go of thoughts, but it can often be difficult to let of thoughts because they have such a powerful pull, especially when the thoughts are related to a strong emotion.
In this post we’re going to look at some things you can do to get some separation from your thoughts when your emotions are particularly strong and you’re having some thoughts you’re finding hard to let go.
Steven Hayes, who developed Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), coined the term “cognitive fusion” to describe times when we are so tightly stuck to our thoughts, we become “fused” to them. When we’re experiencing cognitive fusion, we can’t separate ourselves from our thoughts. Our thoughts become our reality. We feel removed from the world outside of our thoughts, removed from our senses, from what we’re doing, and even from the people around us.
In a recent post we looked at how mindfulness can help us let go of our thoughts when we get caught up in ruminating or worrying or just thinking in circles. Letting go of thoughts is never easy, however, and in this post we’ll look at how simply watching our thoughts can help us let them go.
Thoughts pop into our heads all the time, and usually we don’t pay any special attention to them: they enter and leave our minds all on their own, just like a car that drives into our line of sight, remains in our field of vision for a few moments, and then drives along and passes out of our line of sight again.
It’s easy to get swept away by our thoughts, especially in the face of strong emotions. We get stuck ruminating and dwelling about the past, filled with guilt or regret. Or our minds start racing and we can’t stop worrying about the future and imagining all the things that could go wrong. Or we replay conversations over and over again in our heads, trying to make sense of them or figure out what we could have said differently.
When our minds get going like this, not only is it exhausting; these patterns of thinking tend to make us feel bad, intensifying the emotions we’re already feeling and generating additional negative emotions as well. Because this experience is so unpleasant, it’s natural to want to these thoughts to stop, and to be able to prevent yourself from even having them in the first place. We often wind up trying to make these thoughts go away, and shut them out completely and make sure they don’t come back. But just like we can’t control our emotions or suppress our emotions, neither can we control or suppress our thoughts.
When you’re feeling overwhelmed by stress and anxiety or distressing emotions, it can be diificult to know how to manage these feelings.
Often we allow our stress and anxiety and emotions to build and build all day without doing anything to calm them, trying to just ignore them and hoping they’ll go away. Then, when we finally can’t take it anymore and start feeling overwhelmed and desperate, things have often accumulated too much and begun to spiral downwards and it can be so hard to get any relief.
In a previous post we practiced Following Our Breathing By Counting Breaths. Now we’re going to learn how to follow our breathing by measuring our breaths.
Measuring Your Breaths: Each time you take a breath, silently measure the length by counting to yourself:
Out … two … three … (four)