If you or a loved-one has experienced depression, you might have noticed that negative thoughts ('I am a failure', 'I am worthless', etc) tend to start a spiral reaction of negative moods and negative sensations like sluggishness and fatigue.
The challenge is that even after this episode has passed, new research is showing that a "connection" has been formed between the negative moods present and the negative thinking patterns that were present at the time. This means that when a negative mood happens again (for any reason) a relatively small amount of such mood can trigger or reactivate the old thinking pattern. When this happens, the old habits of negative thinking will start up again, negative thinking gets into the same rut, and a full-blown episode of depression may be the result.
Can Mindfulness Help Avoid These Downward Mood Spirals?
Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy is a tool designed to help people who suffer repeated bouts of depression and chronic unhappiness. It combines the ideas of cognitive therapy with meditative practices.
It can help you:
How Can Mindfulness Help Reduce Downward Mood Spirals?
Mindfulness can help break the typical patterns of a downward spiral and help "nip it in the bud" so to speak. Here are 5 examples of this in action, according to mbct.com:
- 1More clearly recognize the early signs of depression. Mindfulness practice helps you more clearly see your mind's patterns. You can recognize more quickly when your mood is beginning to go down. Without this awareness, you can develop a sort of tunnel vision where you lose site of what's going on around you.
- 2Get back in touch with yourself and the positive experiences of being alive. Without the awareness that mindfulness can help you achieve, you can tend to lose touch with the small things in life that have given you pleasure in the past.
- 3Halt the escalation of negative thoughts. Low mood can tend to bring back memories and thoughts from the past or make you worry about the future. Rather than reliving the past or pre-living the future, mindfulness can yelp you focus on the present moment.
- 4See yourself and the world from a different perspective. Mindfulness can teach you to shift away from the mode of mind that is dominated by critical thinking (and is likely accelerate downward mood spirals) to another mode of mind in which you experience the world more directly, without as much judgment.
- 5Avoid trying to "suppress" future depressive events. Understandably, when you've been depressed, you dread the thought of it coming back. Therefore, you are likely to try to suppress your symptoms or pretend they don't exist. This rarely works, and often leads to a worsening of what you were trying to suppress. Mindfulness, however, takes a different approach. It helps you develop a willingness to experience your emotions, even painful ones. This skill helps you let distressing thoughts and feeling to come and go instead of battling with them.
More Information On Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy
If you're in the Durham (or Chapel Hill, RTP, Raleigh) area and would like to learn more about Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT), we invite you to setup and appointment by contacting our office.