Mindfulness-based therapy for depression?

Photo: Gege Gatt

Yes, mindfulness training and therapy goes hand-in-hand. Over the last few years researchers have shown how mindfulness meditation can help alleviate many forms of psychological distress. Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy is one of these approaches. It was originally developed to help people suffering from recurrent depression and low moods.

Depression is influenced by the way we think about ourselves, others and the world. It is characterized by negative automatic thought patterns. When we are depressed, our minds tend to be occupied by old memories and future events. We evaluate our behaviour and perceived capabilities in a negative light. We become very self-critical, and we feel vulnerable and alone.

Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy helps us understand and relate to our thinking in a new way, to realize that we are not our thoughts. Here’s a metaphor that can help explain how mindfulness-based therapies work:

Sometimes it feels like we’re being carried away downstream, struggling to stay afloat amongst all the mud, filth and debris. That muck and debris are thoughts, sensations, events, feelings, and that river is our distress as we drift helplessly downstream. But we can stand on the riverbank, watching as those thoughts, events, sensations, feelings go by. You might watch individual items as they pass – perhaps a thought floating on a leaf, a sensation as a log, event as on old bicycle. We can stand and watch. 

Mindfulness involves distancing yourself from your own thinking. You learn to recognize your thoughts as just thoughts, as mental events occurring in your mind, as opposed to truths. Instead of identifying yourself with your thoughts you observe them and let them go, making space for new and more positive experiences.