Friday, March 14, 2008

The Mindful Way Through Depression

I've been reading The Mindful Way through Depression: Freeing Yourself from Chronic Unhappiness by Mark Williams, John Teasdale, Zindel Segal, and Jon Kabat-Zinn. There have been some very positive reviews of this book. Williams, Segal, and Teasdale are all Ph.Ds with impressive credentials in cognitive therapy for the treatment of depression, and Kabat-Zinn, also a Ph.D, is known for mindfulness meditation.

I must admit that I've only read the first 50 pages. I started with great enthusiasm, but as I mentioned in an earlier post, when I tried to find a place to learn the technique, I was so turned off by the hype and the cost of most "healers" that it thrust me in a downward spiral. (There is a CD attached to the book so I'm hoping to try this by myself.)

What I have also found difficult about reading this book is that it presents a viewpoint that is different from almost everything I've read in the past. On the one hand, that should make me feel good because perhaps it works. On the other hand, it makes me feel bad because I've spent so many years trying to attain wellness--and it would seem like my efforts were misdirected.

In a nutshell, the authors say that using critical thinking skills to figure out what is causing our depression and trying to fix it is the wrong approach. They suggest that thinking about the problems and the solutions "merely compounds our misery."

What they recommend is a concept called "mindfulness." They define it the following way: "Mindfulness is the awareness that emerges through paying attention on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgmentally to things as they are."

In essence, it means that if we can learn to focus on the present, and stop thinking about past depressions, the negative thoughts and feelings they evoke, and other patterns of behavior that contribute to our downward spiral, we will be able to let go and move on.

My feeling is that I achieve somewhat of the same result when I play the harmonica. Actually, the word "playing" is a misnomer. But I use it as a breathing exercise and it, too, has a certain Zen quality, and helps me concentrate on the present moment. The problem is that walking around with a harmonica permanently affixed to my lips might be construed as "mentally ill" behavior. Thus, I guess mindfulness meditation could be considered a more "normal" alternative.

The jury is still out. I'll finish the book in the next few days, begin the program, and let you know my results. In the meantime, have a lovely weekend!

P.S. You might want to look at Aimee's comments about meditation from my Mind-Body Connection post. Although it didn't work for her, I'd be interested in hearing from others who have tried it.

10 comments:

Mariposa said...

Hi, just got back...flu is killing me. Nice to read this post and I appreciate your honest assessment on the book. Somebody once told me to be very cautious on which book to pick for reading as it influences our being...and sometimes, if we get to read on a much complicated topics withouth giudance or interactions with others to balance ideas...two things could happen, either we soar high or we falter. ;)

So I'm glad to note that you are open about this book...I haven't read it and will try to ask around about it. :)

Sometimes, we just fall into the cycle of depression unaware...so what I do is when I'm on my high, I start putting my guards up...and manage my way as my mood goes down...how I manage? I try to preoccupy myself with lots of things...it's so hard to get sad when you're busy with things you enjoy to do.

Have a nice Friday!

P.S. I made a Haiku! Hope it inspires some people!

JayPeeFreely said...

It would be tough to know exactly what works for any of us. I think we lack alot of feedback - via measurements of our brain functions and other tangible ways to find improvement or "setbacks" - as a result, it is all going by feel.

I find that if I stay in the moment, I often discover that I am somewhat pleased or at least not so god awfully depressed.

Yet, it is only short term. I don't have enough concerted effort to devote to the idea of wellness. No money to grab up things I'll need.

(I'd like to play in an adult baseball league this summer, but it is $200 to play and the games are 20-30 miles away. Gas will be north of $4.00, and you know I ain't sitting pretty...)

My "mental wellness" has been less than good lately. Triggers have be coming to life - personal, social, famial, you get the idea - and my personality has been less than ideal.

I hope that this book is something you can give a thorough recommendation to. Maybe I'll buy it, and give it a try. Until then, I might wind up doing something that is unhelpful, like drinking.

Later.

my life with bipolar disorder said...

Susan, it's good to see you continuing in your journey for wellness. It is not easy as different things work for different people. Keep pressing on, you may discover some things that are really helpful for you in your particular situations. Have a great weekends! Regards, Nancie

Bipolar Wellness Writer said...

Mariposa,
Sorry to hear you have the flu. Marja from Roller Coaster has been sick as well. Feel better. Actually, what you're doing by preoccupying yourself with lots of things is kind of what they suggest in this book. It's concentrating on the present rather than getting sucked into the depression!

Susan

Bipolar Wellness Writer said...

Nanci,
Thanks. In concept, I believe in this. We'll just have to see if it works! Have a nice weekend as well!

Susan

Bipolar Wellness Writer said...

Jason,
Don't buy the book yet. Can't you find it at the library? Also, is there anyway you could get the money to participate in the baseball league? It would so great for you. And it might be just what you need to feel better.

Also, please try and stay sober. I think you've worked hard to get to this place in life and it would be a shame to go on a downward spiral!

Instead of going to the bar, why not go to the batting box?

I'm be thinking of you and sending good thoughts your way!

Susan

Lizzie said...

I have read the book. I happened upon it while looking for ways to "live well." I found the book okay. The CD was calming and helpful. I found that it was a lot like Yoga. The problem is just like Yoga, I have not been able to discipline myself using its principles.

Bipolar Wellness Writer said...

Dear Lizzie,
Thanks for letting us know! I haven't been disciplined enough to finish reading the book. So, there you have it!

Susan

JayPeeFreely said...

Well I did stay away from the liquor this weekend. (Just 1 at the bar...while I did my Friday post...they have internet.)

I am trying some other things. I actually took a couple of walks when it got above 50 degrees last week. It helped some, but I still had a minor disagreement with my mother. (Finances...)

Bipolar Wellness Writer said...

Dear JaypeeFreely,
I'm glad that you stayed away from drinking. I'm sorry about the problem with finances and your mom. I wish you'd set up a PayPal account on your blog to collect donations for Baseball Camp. That night not solve your current problems but it would enable your friends to contribute to allowing you to play ball this summer!

Susan