Stuck thoughts. Painful ruminations. Unrelenting obsessions. They are the curse of depression — among the most excruciating symptoms, in my opinion. “When a child gets lost, he may feel sheer terror,” explains Byron Katie in her bestseller Loving What Is. “It can be just as frightening when you’re lost inside the mind’s chaos.”
I can usually gauge the severity of my depression based on the intensity and frequency of my stuck thoughts. Sometimes they can outright debilitate me. One seemingly benign thought — often a rumination about a decision I have made in the past, a regret of one form or another, or sometimes something that makes no sense at all — is packed with panic and plays over and over in my mind, keeping me awake at night and besieging me with anxiety during the day.
More than any other symptom of my depression — more so even than unrestrained tears and bawling my eyes out in public — the stuck thoughts make me feel truly insane, scared to be living inside my body and mind.
In my post 9 Ways to Let Go of Stuck Thoughts, I offer some tools to deal with obsessions. But since I’ve been imprisoned by this insanity as of late, I thought I’d share more of the ways that have helped me escape, if only for a few minutes, to a place of peace.
Excerpt from PsychCentral, read the full article here
Mindfulness is the practice of purposely focusing your attention on the present moment and accepting it without judgment. Mindfulness is now being examined scientifically and has been found to be a key element in happiness. Scientific studies are showing many benefits from mindfulness in all aspects of our lives which appear to affect people of any age in an extremely positive way. These include in relationships, performance at school or at work, in sports performance, our physical and mental well-being and positively affect levels of empathy and compassion towards others. Being mindful is something which is actually quite easy to do but in today’s busy world it is easy forgotten and very few people do this naturally. Through practice and patience anyone can learn and benefit from this technique.
Make it happen
- Relaxation – Sit quietly and focus on your natural breathing or on a word or “mantra” that you repeat silently. Allow thoughts to come and go without judgment and return to your focus on breath or mantra.
- Body sensations– Notice subtle body sensations such as an itch or tingling without judgment and let them pass. Notice each part of your body in succession from head to toe.
- Sensory– Notice sights, sounds, smells, tastes, and touches.
- Emotions– Allow emotions to be present without judgment.
- Cope with cravingssuch as chocolate and allow them to pass. .
- Pay attention. Notice external sensations such as sounds, sights, and touch that make up your moment-to-moment experience. The challenge is not to latch onto a particular idea, emotion, or sensation, or to get caught in thinking about the past or the future. Instead you watch what comes and goes in your mind, and discover which mental habits produce a feeling of well-being or suffering. Learning to take notice and be more aware of the present or being ‘mindful’ can have a great effect on your personal health and wellbeing.
Some suggestions to increase mindfulness and taking notice:
- Resolve to walk more often and notice your surroundings paying particular attention to anything you notice which is new e.g. a house you never noticed, a particularly beautiful tree or plant, the sounds, birdsong etc
- Pay attention to the food you eat and how the foods you eat make you feel
- Try something, new anything that you are interested in
- Join a club
- Join a meditation class
- Look for the good in those around you
- Help out a friend in need
- Do something kind things for others
- Begin to say “Thank you” more often
Finally, take time to notice things around you:
- Say thank you to a colleague who has pulled out all the stops to help you
- Say thank you to the next person who treats you kindly
- Spend time with a loved and notice all the special things about them