We all feel a little down, sad or out of sorts sometimes but when those feelings and thoughts become constant, intense and pervasive we say we are depressed. While it’s normal for emotions to come and go when we are seriously depressed other emotions and thinking patterns come into play and are likely to include, irritability, anxiety, hopelessness and despair.
Unhappiness itself is not the real problem-this too is an inherent and unavoidable part of being alive. It’s the harsh and negative self criticisms that can be activated by unhappy mood states that entangle us and bring us down. Moving from transitory sadness to persistent unhappiness i.e. depression depends on accompanying negative views of ourselves as failures, unlovable and somehow damaged. The core beliefs about ourselves then affect not only our mind but also our bodies and emotions and can drain us of our energy and drive for life itself.
If we have been depressed before, a low mood can become easier and easier to trigger over time. This is because the thoughts, feelings, body sensations and behaviors that can go along with being depressed form stronger and stronger connections to each other. In the longer run any one element can trigger depression by itself.
We can’t change our past and the fact that past memories and self critical and judging ways of thinking tend to get activated when we feel unhappy. But we can learn to relate differently to our unhappiness and see how we get trapped into thinking that brings us further down and into depression.
Mindfulness based cognitive therapy is an approach that has at its core the cultivation of a particular type of self awareness. This approach has been proven effective in reducing the rate of relapse among people with major depressive illness. You can learn practical skills for disengaging from the modes of thinking that perpetuate unhappiness and lead to depression. With an increasing ability to sustain mindfulness we are less likely to get stuck in self criticism, judgment and mental suffering. This represents a new way to relate to ourselves and the world, even in the face of external threats and internal stress. By regaining intentional control of our attention we can free ourselves from becoming stuck in unhappiness and depression.
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For immediate help with counselling contact Lifeline Australia on 13 11 14 www.lifeline.org.au/