Mindfulness & Depression—How Meditation Keeps Me Happy (Almost) Everyday.

Via on Aug 10, 2011

The first article in a series of four from Everyday Mindfulness.

A friend of mine is one of the 20 million Americans struggling with a long stretch of depression today.

I know what she’s going through.

I still go through these myself, but they’re not nearly as bad as they used to be.

I remember the years I was debilitated by my depression. Months would go by when I couldn’t seem to remember one happy moment in my life.

It was if I had always been and always would be trapped in that terrible darkness.

Coming out of the closet, getting help with my addictions, going to therapy, working on my health and pursuing life-affirming goals are all things that I believe have helped me to heal from depression. But, one of the most useful tools in my toolbox has been meditation.

Through daily meditation practice, a practice that I continue whether things are good, bad or even if the sky is falling, I’ve been able to see, at least a little bit, how everything is so impermanent. Even depression. Depression comes and goes. When I’m caught up in it now, I’m able to recognize that impermanence while it’s happening. I don’t see this all the time, but usually I can say to myself:

This state of mind will pass…

Then, through mindfulness, I can look at the truth of my life at that moment. What is really occurring? Where is the depression? What does it look like? Where does it come from? What color, shape and size is it? Pretty soon, the depression becomes just another transitory phenomena, vaporous and intangible.

This is a realization that has come over time. At first, if I tried to look at depression this way, it would almost always backfire on me.

Well, if your depression isn’t even there, then why do you feel so bad in the first place?

That would just send me spiraling further into a state of despair, like I was even more pathetic for letting some delusion get the best of me.

Now, all this doesn’t mean we should be dismissive of depression. It’s not something we can snap our fingers at and hope goes away. We should listen carefully to our depression. Sometimes it is a message from a deep part of ourselves that needs to be heard. Maybe there are good reasons for being depressed, and if we pay attention we can find a skillful way of dealing with them.

Not everyone has experienced chronic, clinical depression, but we’ve all gone through times of darkness. That’s just part of being human. How do you deal with depression? What techniques have been successful for you? What things have you tried that don’t work at all?

 

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About Chris Lemig

Chris Lemig isn't afraid of the dark. He dreams in full color and lives out loud. Sometimes, when he sees that your heart is broken, his heart breaks, too. But then he puts all the pieces back together and lets out a great, guffawing laugh that shakes the world to its bones. He loves you even though he's never met you and he wants you to know that you are brighter than the brightest guiding star. He is the author of The Narrow Way: A Memoir of Coming Out, Getting Clean and Finding Buddha.

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9 Responses to “Mindfulness & Depression—How Meditation Keeps Me Happy (Almost) Everyday.”

  1. Thank you for your honesty, Chris. Hope to see more posts!

  2. Alix Davis says:

    This post is incredibly inspirational, in part because you are living, breathing, succeeding proof of a human who has forced himself to break through the walls that bind and come out on top. You are not just some unbiased, faceless writer who comments on things irrelevant to his life, and I truly admire and respect this. You write about what you know, and you know what you know because you've lived it.
    It is only when we became entirely open with ourselves that we are able to find true happiness. Comfort zones limit and restrict, and I think it is important as inhabitants of this earth that we constantly challenge ourselves to be better, and stronger, and to take steps forward. I know many people who preach openness and acceptance without truly being honest with themselves. It's hypocritical and extremely hard to watch, and I plan to re-post this article in the hope that others might find it just as moving as I have.

    • Chris Lemig Chris Lemig says:

      Thank you so much Alix for your kind words. It's inspiring for me to know that you are out there working on your own happiness as well. When we are happy and fulfilled I think we can be of even more help to others.

  3. Elle says:

    Thank you for your post. I have recently realised that I have slipped back in to my depression (also a recurring illness) and this time thanks to meditation, diet and exercise I feel empowered to deal with it. I also realise that for me, my form of depression is seated in an urge to escape my reality. That realisation would never have come without meditation and I would not be feeling as positive about getting through this. Being open about suffering from depression is one of the biggest challenges, although society is less judgemental now, there can still be great shame around this illness. Therefore I admire and salute you for such an honest and exposing blog, you are an inspiration!

  4. [...] The second article in the series, Everyday Mindfulness. Check out the first article here. [...]

  5. R Bottoms is a socialist c*&t.

  6. Chris Lemig Chris Lemig says:

    Thank you Laura. I think the hardest thing in the world is to keep a meditation practice going every day so I applaud you for sticking with it. In my little experience, I know that it is worth the effort. Even if I sit for five minutes, despite feeling tired or a little bit down, it makes me feel so much better to know that I did it. Keep up your practice: you are not alone!

  7. Ian says:

    Hi Melly. I know exactly how you feel. I have suffered from depression for years now. I sometimes feel so scared and lonely that I wish I never existed. I sometimes think I am in hell. I am in a bout of depression now and can't seem to drag myself out of bed. But things will get better for both of us – in that I have total faith. We will find inner peace. I was watching a tv show the other day and this quote stuck with me – "life can be like long, dark tunnel. We might not see the light now but if we just keep moving – putting one foot in front of the other – a day will come when we reach the end and come out into the light." You are courageous to keep "chugging along" and know that I'm chunging right with you in spirit.

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