The ‘pop a pill’ culture
Depression is becoming more and more common in the west. Many people have to battle this mental condition while not many people talk about it which gives the impression it is still something to be ashamed about and gives a feeling of isolation. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, over 14 million people suffer from major depressive disorders, which are the leading cause of disability in the United States for people between the ages of 15 and 44. (1) It is becoming an epidemic.
Especially in this ‘pop a pill’ culture we live in today, it is common to take anti depressants to treat the condition. Although many times medication will make the symptoms disappear it won’t actually solve the underlying problem. As a result the anti depressants make you dependent and they come with a laundry list of horrific side effects. Anti depressants are even described doctors without even testing if it is appropriate, which is when depression is caused by an imbalance in serotonine. In most cases depression develops by negative thinking patterns that goes around in a vicious cycle and is hard to get out of. We have those thinking patterns our entire lives but it can spin out of control when triggered by an event such a relationship that ends or for example losing your job. this particular event will likely make you feel down which is a normal reaction. But because we don’t like these negative feeling and emotions and feel like we should always feel good and happy, we feel bad about feeling bad. Which obviously makes us feel worse. Basically we go around in circles and think ourselves in a depression.
When feeling depressed you are occupied with negative thoughts and worries most of the time that make you feel bad about yourself. To try to escape those feelings and thoughts we go into ‘fight’ or ‘flight’ mode. We are either trying to escape those by distracting ourselves by for example going out, drinking, using drugs, working all the time, scrolling through social media all day, binge watch series or trying to get involved and solve problems of other people. You can try to escape as much as you want, but it is impossible to escape our internal world which makes this very exhausting. You can keep running. When we are tired from escaping we go over into the ‘fight’ mode. We start over analysing why we feel like we are feeling, why this is happening to us, why we are so weak or stupid and when this is finally going to end. We are trying to think and analyse ourselves out of the situation but what we are actually doing is adding more negative thoughts and feelings. until you are at the point that you are unable to think clear, are completely exhausted from the fight and feeling down and see everything through dark lenses.
The natural solution
Scientific research showed that Mindfulness is as effective or even more effective than taking anti depressants. (2) It is completely natural, doesn’t come with any negative side effects and directs to the direct root of the problem.
Mindfulness teaches you to become aware of the thoughts and thought patterns that you are having. Have you ever been completely lost in thought and someone asked you what you were thinking about and you have absolutely no clue? That is very normal, we are usually completely unaware of all the thoughts we are having. We have over 70.000 thoughts a day and most of them are thoughts you are unaware of. And everything you are not aware of you can not change. If you start to become more and more aware of the thought patterns you are having by practicing Mindfulness meditation you can also learn how to relate to them differently. Instead of getting completely caught up by all those dark thoughts you get to see them for what they are, just thoughts. Instead of worrying about those thoughts and feeling worse, Mindfulness teaches you to recognise, understand and accept those thoughts. Without having to judge them or having to change them. When being able to look at your thoughts from a distance instead of being caught up in them, you can see them for what they are: just thoughts and not necessarily the truth. You now actually have a choice whether to let yourself get caught up in this stream of thoughts or disengage from them.
Mindfulness can actually change the way your brain work on a neurological level. According to Dr. Michael Baime, “Meditation practice is associated with changes of specific brain areas that are essential for attention, learning, and the regulation of emotion.” (3)
When stuck in a depression, Mindfulness might be a life saver. It has been for me.