Mindfulness Tips for Depression ~ How I Overcame Depression and Found Joy ~ Mindful Wellness
"Your thoughts really, truly shape everything in your life that you feel and experience."
- Tony Robbins
Hi friends, our thoughts can run away with us sometimes. Negative thoughts can leave us feeling anxious, stressed, and sad. I’m sharing the mindfulness tips I use for myself and my clients to change negative thoughts and feel more at peace.
Many of us have had times of anxiety and depression.
The worst depression I’ve ever experienced was after I sustained a traumatic brain injury following a near-fatal car accident. I woke up in the hospital with a brain damage and a new personality. The life I had known was gone. The months of recovery following my car accident were dark. I grieved the loss of my old life and feared my unknown future.
My husband was consoling me one day as I cried and said, “I hate who I’ve become. I’m so sad, afraid, jealous of others’ health, angry that this happened to me.”
At this moment, I realized I was the only one who could make myself happy again. My neurologist could not give me my old brain back. I couldn’t rewind time and never get in the car that day. My husband could not love me enough to make my depression disappear.
Living mindfully for over 20 years, I knew the only way I could find peace, health, and happiness again was to dig deep into my mindful practice.
Over several months, I practiced all the mindful skills I knew to find my happiness again. I still have occasional bad days, but I’m grateful for life and cherish every moment. My health increases every day.
I began teaching these mindfulness techniques to other brain injury survivors and clients to help them find peace and happiness.
I hope these mindfulness methods can help you find your happiness as they have allowed so many others to find theirs.
Awareness of Thoughts
Our thoughts shape our beliefs, our beliefs dictate our actions, and our actions create our reality.
The more I thought about how unfair my accident was, the angrier I became. As I grieved my lost personality and life, the sadder I was. My repeating negative thoughts were like fuel on a raging fire. The more negative ideas I had, the bigger the flames were until soon they consumed me.
We think over 60,000 thoughts a day. 95% of those are repeated thoughts from the day before. If I could change my thoughts into positive, better feeling thoughts, it would snowball, increasing feeling good thoughts day after day.
Before I could change my thoughts,
I needed to become aware of them.
I would lay in bed and imagine my thoughts were clouds in the sky. I become the observer of my thoughts as they drift through my mind. I didn’t try to control them. I only noticed what thoughts were on a repeating loop.
I realized that I was thinking of a negative loop. The same thoughts of fear, grief, anger, and sadness ran over and over in my mind.
Thoughts Shape Feelings
I then brought my awareness to how each thought made me feel. I noticed I would get a pit in my gut when I grieved my past. My neck and shoulders tightened when I feared my uncertain future. I cried as I realized I was no longer independent.
Whatever thought I would have, my body and emotions would react accordingly.
Light bulb moment!
If I wanted to be happy and at peace with my injury, I would have to change my thoughts.
Happier thoughts would make me feel happier.
Change the thought = Change the Feeling.
Seems easy enough to do, right? But, if you have ever felt hopeless, the fire of negative thoughts is so overwhelming it hard to find a happy thought.
I had to start very small. I would say anything that brought me joy or made me smile. I love this cup of coffee. The song of the bird is lovely. My husband’s hug makes me feel loved.
I was slowly creating a catalog of better feeling thoughts that I could draw upon for happier feelings.
Because of my brain injury, my thoughts would run away with me very quickly. If I didn’t catch negative thoughts immediately, they would snowball and take me off the cliff of despair in minutes.
I used these steps to change my thoughts to feel better.
1. Catch the thought
I become the gatekeeper of my mind. When a negative thought came into my mind, I would catch it and change it into a better feeling thought. My negative thinking became my mental health enemy. I could not afford to let these invaders into my mind and destroy my well-being.
2. How does this thought make me feel?
When I caught the thought, I would inquire. How does this thought make me feel? If the answer is bad, angry, upset, lonely, defeated, or any other negative feeling, I change it to a better feeling thought.
3. Better feeling thought
When we are in a dark place, switching our negative thoughts to happy ones can be too big of a reach. When I would reach for an over-the-top joyful idea, my brain would argue against it, “that is a bunch of crap.”
My brain would not argue against a better feeling thought. My goal was to feel better, no matter how small. Feeling better was a drastic improvement from where I was.
Example: Catch the thought = “I can’t do anything right anymore.”
Feeling = defeated, discouraged, upset, victim.
Better Feeling Thought = “I am making improvements every day, doing my best today.”
New Feeling = encouraged, happier, lighter, feel good.
4. Encourage a lighter feeling Forming a new habit of thinking positively. It is not a quick fix. However,
by repeating these steps, I would train my brain to catch, feel, and change the thought faster and faster.
The more I changed my thoughts to better feeling thoughts, the happier I became. I am no longer angry. I have found peace with my new brain and the new me. I’m less discouraged and far more joyful. My health continues to improve.
I continue to work these steps whenever I feel the dark cloud of fear, anxiety, sadness and grief hovers over me. Coming out of depression and finding joy is a skill, one that I will always work on.
Happiness is a choice, one that I continue to choose.