Depression is not a singular thing and has no singular solution. It is a mind bindingly complicated medical condition that is just that- ‘mind bending’, reshaping and scattering your thoughts and emotions like light passing through a shattered prism. As with all our pieces to do with mental health we are not here to offer you a cure, and we will continue to say to always be wary of any unregulated source that claims to offer such. Especially when it comes to depression the most important thing to do is to seek consultation from a trained medical professional. Even then a solution to any mental health issue can be a very long and complicated process, and perhaps be something that people will live with for the rest of their lives.
We are here simply to help continue the dialogue about mental health and offer a few tips on how you and your child can together best deal with the modern world using mindfulness with the aim of preventing the development of mental illness. We say learn together because the maintaining of mental health is something best done together and where connections can be formed.
Children face many of the same challenges that adults do – bullying, disagreeable superiors, the non-stop cacophony of social media gone wild. But children often do not have the tool set necessary to deal with the stress. Add on top of that that children often are in a position where they have no control at all over their fate. Where an adult can at least contemplate or dream about quitting a job and finding a new one with a new boss, a child is usually wholly trapped in their environment and forced to return to the miserable situation.
Depression can be the result.
Mindfulness can be a solution.
What Is Mindfulness?
Mindfulness is the practice of being compassionately, non-judgmentally aware of what one is going through. We all have emotions and reactions. That is fine and natural. What we can do is observe how we feel, be understanding with ourselves, and then consider what our options are. Mindfulness gives us that space to pause and think.
What Is Depression?
Sadness and depression are closely linked. Both are normal parts of the human experience. If we have raised a puppy from its earliest days, and spent many wonderful years with the dog, then it’s natural for us to feel sad when it passes away. If we invested months of efforts into practicing for a part in a play, and then we don’t even get chosen for a bit part in the cast, it makes sense we’ll feel sad.
In comparison, depression is generally defined as symptoms which go on for two weeks or more and include a marked loss of energy, loss of interest in things once loved, feelings of not mattering, and serious changes in appetite and sleeping patterns. It’s important to note here that sometimes these changes can be chemical / biological in nature so it’s good to talk with a doctor to rule out medical problems which could be causing these symptoms.
Approaching Depression with Mindfulness
The key with mindfulness is that there is no judgment involved. A person feels what they feel. Every feeling is valid to that person. It’s important to recognize the feeling, to acknowledge it, and to examine it.
Here’s a mindfulness practice to explore.
Breathe in, slow, deep, and full. Let the breath fill your upper chest, mid chest, and lower abdomen, filling it out. Bring that fresh, healing oxygen into you.
Now breathe out the negativity, the waste products, the things you no longer need. Let them leave you. Breathe slow and long.
Breathe in and consider the depressive feeling. It is like a rain cloud which has floated in over your home. It has visited. It is not you – it is simply a feeling. You can observe it and know it’s here, and then you can move on with your tasks. You acknowledge its presence and then find something to do.
Is this raincloud saying things? That’s what thought-rainclouds do sometimes. It’s just a pattern they fall into. Acknowledge the words and then move on. Let the cloud and words drift away.
Find something that is even mildly distracting. It can be puppy videos on YouTube. It can be re-reading a favorite book. Listening to a favorite song. The key is to remove attention from that cloud. To break the cycle of the repeating words.
Thoughts will flit back. It’s what they do. And again, gently, compassionately, you acknowledge them. You know they are there, and then you turn your attention to the world.
The practice is what matters.
Images copyright of James Balance.