Does Mindfulness Meditation Protect Us From Depression?

Source:    Meditation for the Masses

Mindfulness is just paying attention in a very particular way. In concentrative meditation you direct your attention to an object like the breath as it passes over the edge of the nostrils. A repeated mantra. Or an external object, such as a statue of the Buddha. But during mindfulness meditation you become aware of whatever arises in the mind. This might be bodily sensations, such as tingling in your feet, an ache in your back, sounds around you, or various thoughts and emotions.

You accept and not judge whatever comes up. Watch without getting too involved. For example if you think ” this meditation is a waste of time”, or ” I just can’t do this” then you just observe these thoughts, and any linked emotions such as fear and anxiety. Just keep watching.

How mindfulness meditation can protect us from Depression

Depression is triggered by identification with the negative thoughts, which endlessly cycle in the mind. This is known as rumination. Mindfulness can help to loosen identification with these thoughts. To help you realise that you are not your thoughts.That they are transient, and will fade if you don’t become involved with them. In fact practising mindfulness, can make you a sort of expert on you own mind, so that you can spot negative thoughts before they take over

Can mindfulness make us happy?

Can practice mindfulness go further than just preventing depression, bringing us to a neutral state. Can it actually help us to be happy?

The Buddhist monk Matthieu Ricard argues that happiness is a skill to be learnt. It is, he says, a process of eliminating negative emotions like anger and envy using specific methods. Probably the most powerful and simple is observation or mindfulness of thoughts and emotions as they arise, coupled with an attitude of acceptance.When attention is focused on an emotion such as anger, says Ricard, without looking at the cause of the anger, the transient, insubstantial nature of the emotion becomes evident. It cannot persist. However if attention slips to the reason for the anger then the emotion is fed.

How to Practice Mindfulness of Thoughts and Emotions

Mindfulness can be practiced anywhere, while brushing your teeth or mowing the lawn but the most useful place to start is probably during sitting meditation. When you meditate its best to begin by establishing some stability in your mind by spending a few minutes watching your breath. You can then move on to observe the ebb and flow of your thoughts and emotions. Its best to spend just a few minutes on this before returning to the breath again.
Jon Kabat Zinn, author of Full Catastrophe Living, explains how to practice mindfulness meditation of thoughts and emotions as follows:

  1. When your attention is relatively stable on the breath, shift your awareness to the process of thinking itself. And just watch thoughts come into your field of attention. Try to perceive them as events in your mind.
  2. Note their content and charge while if possible not being drawn into thinking about them.
  3. Note that an individual thought does not last long it is impermanent. If it comes it will go. Be aware of this.
  4. Note how some thoughts keep coming back.
  5. Note those thoughts that are “I”, “me”, or “mine” thoughts, observing carefully how ” you” the non judging observer feel about them.
  6. Note when the mind creates a “self” to be preoccupied with how well or badly your life is going.
  7. Note thoughts about the past and thoughts about future.
  8. Note thoughts about greed, wanting, grasping, clinging.
  9. Note thoughts about anger, disliking, hatred, aversion, rejection.
  10. Note feelings and moods as they come and go.
  11. Note feelings associated with different thought contents.
  12. If you get lost in all of this just get back to your breathing.

Source: Meditation for the Masses

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