MINDFULNESS, ANXIETY AND DEPRESSION: AN EFFECTIVE THERAPY
Mindfulness anxiety and depression: Getting rid of worries about the future and the wounds of the past is possible thanks to the practice of mindfulness that allows you to become master of your emotions by learning to direct your attention. In this article I will explain how to manage anxiety and depression thanks to the constant practice of Mindfulness.
MINDFULNESS AND ANXIETY: WHAT IS ANXIETY?
Anxiety is defined as an instinctive defense reaction, an alarm of the self-preservation instinct, but also as a state of emotional tension which is often accompanied by physical symptoms.
People who live in a constant state of anxiety are immersed in disproportionate and incongruous worries in different areas of life. In fact, those suffering from anxiety disorder tend to be constantly alert, to worry excessively about anything, showing a significant reduction in the quality of life over time. Compared to other psychiatric conditions such as social phobia or panic attacks, which are often attributable to specific and circumscribed concerns, in generalized anxiety the concerns do not concern a specific theme, but are extended to different areas of the person’s life.
Typical symptoms are:
- restlessness or constant psychic tension
- feeling of emptying and chronic fatigue
- fatigue in concentration with consequent reduction of memory
- easy nervousness and irritability
- chronic muscle tension which can concentrate in the limbs, neck and back muscles and generate pain
- difficulty falling asleep and maintaining sleep, or restless and unrefreshing sleep.
Many people ask me: when does anxiety hurt the heart? The trivial answer is when over a long period of time one constantly poisons oneself with one’s negative thoughts which generate a downward spiral of negative effects in the body.
MINDFULNESS AND RUMINATION: WHAT IS DEPRESSION?
Depression can manifest itself in different forms (such as bipolar or dysthymia, a mild chronic depressive form), in which biological, psychological and social factors intervene in different ways.
In general, depressive disorder is not a consequence of a specific event, but derives from its interaction with an individual vulnerability. Depression should not be confused with the sadness or demoralization that we all experience in occasional and short-term situations, as can happen with other moods such as anxiety, happiness or fear. Depression is a real disease in which the way we perceive ourselves and the surrounding world changes. Depressed subjects lose the pleasure of existence, lose interest and vital drive, have a mood on the ground all day, every day, do not know how to go on and have thoughts of death. The general malaise is accompanied by many other ailments: ranging from loss of appetite and therefore weight, without having been on a diet, to its significant increase; from insomnia to hypersomnia; from agitation to physical and mental slowdown.
When anxiety and depression overlap and coexist we speak of depressive anxiety which is characterized, in fact, by a combination of anxious and depressive symptoms. The main ones are difficulty concentrating, a feeling of “light-headedness”, feeling of fatigue or low energy, hypervigilance, worry, ease of tears, a tendency to negative forecasts for the future, despair, low self-esteem or feelings of self-loathing.
These symptoms are also accompanied by more or less significant physical disorders, including gastrointestinal disorders, musculoskeletal pain, dry mouth, tachycardia, tremors, dizziness and sleep disturbances.
This symptomatology causes considerable discomfort, with the risk of compromising social, family, working life, etc. in a more or less significant way. The lack of desire to carry out any activity, sadness and low self-esteem, in fact, not only make professional activities difficult, but can also put a strain on relationships with others and in the younger ones the performance at school. It can also cause further consequences, such as substance abuse.
MINDFULNESS THERAPY: WHAT IT IS AND HOW IT HELPS THOSE SUFFERING FROM ANXIETY AND DEPRESSION
The term Mindfulness is a translation of an ancient Pali term “sati” which means precisely awareness, attention, prompt attention. This term is characterized by a nuance relating to recollection, to remembering, to memory, to remembering to constantly return to direct observation of the experience when you realize you have lost it.
Mindfulness derives directly from oriental meditative practices and is usually opposed to conceptual reflection of a philosophical nature as it is not focused on the elaboration of new and important ideas. In fact, it is central to Mindfulness to recognize and become familiar with one’s psychological processes underlying the construction and processing of ideas. Find out more in the article on Mindfulness and Meditation: what differences and how they are practiced.
The human mind tends to never live in the present and to be a slave to the so-called ‘psychological time’, that is, to continually worry about what has yet to happen or to continually ruminate on the past. This obsessive tendency often leads to wasting the life you live, to losing information, experiences and important opportunities and above all to communicating in a superficial way, risking greater misunderstandings in relationships with others. The suffering that is generated exposes the person to stress much more than one realizes, with the various physical and mental consequences that can derive from it.
The underlying factor of all suffering is always the identification with the mind which makes thinking compulsive and hinders the direct experience of reality, often preventing you from finding that dimension of inner stillness. Identification with that constant voice in the mind generates a false self that we could define as ‘ego’, that is an opaque screen made of concepts, labels, images, judgments and interpretations that stands between the person and his interiority and blocks all truth. interpersonal relationship.
With this definition we do not want to demonize the mind, which is an exceptional tool if used in the right way, as for example in the cognitive, practical or working functions of daily life. I refer to when a person is completely identified with his ego, which is equivalent to making the mind no longer a useful tool but it is it that takes total control over our life, dragging us into a dangerous and uncontrollable vortex of rumination. You can read more in my article on how to find inner peace.
MINDFULNESS AND STRESS: MINDFULNESS BASED STRESS REDUCTION
The Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction protocol usually labeled as part of behavioral medicine or mind / body medicine was developed by Prof. Jon Kabat Zinn in the late 1970s at the University of Worcester (Boston) Massachusetts. By the late 1990s, there were already more than 400 hospitals and medical centers in the United States where MBSR was being applied. Over the years, due to its preventive and rehabilitative clinical potential, it has found space in intervention programs in prisons and schools, and in various organizations in order to address many of the physical and psychological problems related to stress.
The mindfulness perspective introduces a profoundly different way of relating to one’s experience, internally and externally, especially for those who live constantly in a state of anxiety and depression. It is a way to get in touch with what happens inside and outside of us; a way to take care of the body and mind, developing the ability to stay in the present; a systematic method to manage stress, pain and illness, but also to effectively face the challenges of daily life; undoubtedly a capacity that has always been intrinsic to us human beings, which simply needs to be rediscovered.
The constant practice of Mindfulness following the MBSR protocol allows the person suffering from anxiety and depression to understand both the underlying emotions and to observe mental beliefs without getting trapped in the spiral of negative thoughts.
Both in the case of anxiety and depression, the underlying emotion is existential fear, which is due both to constant identification with one’s ego (flow of unconscious thoughts, see above) and with all the experiences of fear experienced since children who have not been processed and who therefore continue to be present in us and are inevitably recalled by the events of life.
Through practice we can recognize and get in touch with these fears, allowing them to be there without repressing them but welcoming them with mindfulness and kindness. Just like babies, emotions heal when they are felt and recognized with loving attention.
The fundamental energy opposite to fear is love. To better understand how these two apparently opposite poles are instead connected through the metaphor of darkness and light.
Darkness is a state of affairs that is not inherently negative, it exists when light is absent. The darkness should not be analyzed or contrasted, just open the window or turn on the light and it vanishes. The same goes for our emotional suffering and the light in this case is love. If through the light of our mindfulness we recognize and lovingly accept the emotion instead of opposing it, it vanishes and a real transformation takes place in us.
There are several mindfulness-based exercises that you can do daily to train yourself to recognize and let go of thoughts and emotions, changing your life experience, discover them in this article. (Mindfulness exercises to reduce anxiety).