Meditation, Anxiety, and Depression - Part I

I've given a lot of thought to how mindfulness meditation can be helpful in dealing with psychological problems like anxiety and depression. In this and subsequent posts, I'd like to share some of these ideas with you. Let's start with a look at the mental activity that goes into mindfulness meditation.

Meditation, as a psychological process, is pretty interesting. A typical approach is to be mindful of the breath: just let your attention go to the physical experience of breathing. When the attention wanders away from the breath, simply notice that you have been thinking or daydreaming (or whatever) and then, gently and without self criticism, bring your attention back to the breath. Even in the process of guiding your attention back to the breath, maintain an attitude of acceptance toward all of your experiences.

Even though these instructions are pretty simple, they actually involve training ourselves in some very important psychological processes. In mindfulness meditation, we are:
learning to recognize and relinquish the mental states we become absorbed in

treating ourselves with gentleness and compassion

learning to settle and be accepting of ourselves and our experiences

developing our ability to have a negative experience without being overwhelmed or panicked by it
Later, I'll write in detail about how these skills relate to the mental states that generate and sustain depression and anxiety, but for now I invite you to ask yourself this question: Do these qualities sound like risk factors for depression or protective factors against it?

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mermaid said...

I think they are protective. I've found that my dreams are actually haunted by all the states of myself that I have either supressed or disliked for one reason or other. When I began to send metta and even imagine all of those parts of me as women much deserving of love and compassion, I can see how others mirror those states I despise in myself.

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