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“Being brave doesn’t mean you aren’t scared. Being brave means you are scared, really scared, badly scared, and you do the right thing anyway.” — Neil Gaiman
We’ve all had those moments in life when it feels like our entire world is crashing down around us. Some experiences pack an extremely powerful punch that is often a struggle to bounce back from.
Perhaps you’ve lost a loved one, been fired from your dream job, gotten yourself into a mountain of debt, contracted a deadly illness, or have been abused in some way. Whatever you’re going through right now, the first step to breaking free from your depression is to accept that suffering is a part of life.
But if you’re constantly moving through life holding onto the pain of your past, feeling like everything is your fault and there’s nothing you can do to change things, you are inflicting suffering upon yourself.
The unpleasant experience only happens at a single point in time. But most people have a hard time letting it go and continue to suffer as they keep cycling the thoughts and emotions from the past in their mind and body. So, why does this happen and how do we overcome it?
How to See the Truth
Over the last few years, I’ve attended two 10-day silent meditation courses following a technique called Vipassana. This is an ancient practice pioneered by Siddhattha Gotama, more commonly known as The Buddha.
There are Four Noble Truths at the heart of his teachings, The First Truth is that suffering, pain, and misery exist in life. The Second Truth is that this suffering is caused by selfish craving and personal desire. The Third Truth is that this selfish craving can be overcome. The Fourth Truth is that the way to overcome this misery is by following the Eightfold Path.
Although these ideas form the foundations of Buddhism, they have nothing to do with dogma, religion, or belief in god. This is practical advice to help you understand the nature of life and how to overcome your depression.
You Have the Power to Choose
Every day while you’re awake, thoughts arise and pass away. Along with these thoughts come sensations in the body, some pleasant and some unpleasant. For example, when you imagine your boss shouting at you for being late to work, you might experience burning in your chest that you characterize as feelings of anger. This is how your emotions work. Emotion is short for energy-in-motion and it’s this movement of energy that you feel in your body as emotion. Some sensations are subtle, others are intense.
Here’s another example. You have just ended the relationship with your partner of three years. Your heart is broken and all you can think about are the good times you had together and how much you miss him or her. The breakup happened once, but you continue to feel the pain of not being together over and over again as you indulge in these thoughts.
You must realize that you are attached to thoughts and experiences that are in the past. You must also understand that the past is the
Of course, this is easier said than done, but with enough patience, practice and awareness, you will be able to bring yourself back to the present moment and snap out of the unconscious habits of your mind.
Why Your Depression Is a Gift
The negative thoughts and feelings you experience bring your attention to the deeply unconscious aspects of yourself. As a result of some trauma from the past, whether big or small, your subconscious has stored an automatic reaction to certain events in your life. Often, these reactions do more harm than good.
So, instead of seeing the challenges in your life as something to avoid or run away from, reframe them as opportunities for growth, understanding, and compassion. The person you become by following this path will be almost unrecognisable.
I promise you that when you are able to find peace and calm in a world of chaos and suffering, you will be grateful for all the shit that was thrown your way, because it has made you strong and resilient. It may seem hard to believe, but your depression can actually help lead you to happiness.
How to Be Happy
As I mentioned above, the Four Noble Truths state that the way to overcome misery caused by selfish craving is by following the Eightfold Path. So what is that?
- Right View — To constantly reflect on how you view yourself, others, and the world around you, so your perception is as rational and accurate as possible.
RightIntention — This refers to the right kind of mental energy controlling your actions. A commitment to self-improvement and good willtoward others are good places to start.
- Right Speech — To use your words wisely by telling the truth, speaking kindly to others, and avoiding hateful or derogatory conversation.
- Right Action — Engage in positive, respectful, and wholesome actions that do not harm others.
- Right Livelihood — The way you earn your living should be noble, honest, and ethical.
- Right Effort — Without this, nothing can be achieved. You must focus your efforts on things like self-discipline, kindness, honesty, and doing what is right.
- Right Mindfulness — To see things as they really are, without attachment or desire. Observation and contemplation of your thoughts without reaction are essential.
- Right Concentration — To be able to focus on one thing without distraction. This can be developed through meditation.
A Simple Daily Practice
Meditation has now been proved by science to have a measurable effect on the brain. It takes us from the faster beta brain wave states, commonly associated with the “thinking brain”, to slower, more peaceful states, such as those associated with alpha and theta brain waves.
It’s in these slower brain wave states that we can move from the analytical, planning mind to a deeper state of awareness with a strong intuition, a capacity for wholeness, and improved problem solving and memory abilities.
To shift into this peaceful, restorative state of mind, commit to a daily practice of mindfulness meditation by following the steps below:
- Find a comfortable place to sit down and relax — somewhere free from noise and distractions. You can use a chair or cushion on the floor.
- Close your eyes and bring your attention to your breath as it comes in and out of your nostrils.
- Notice your breath begin to slow down. Can you sense where the air is hitting inside of your nostrils? How about the hot and cold feeling when you inhale and exhale?
- At some point, your mind will start to wander. Don’t judge yourself. Just bring your attention back to your breath. It’s this process of refocusing that will allow you to focus for longer without wandering.
I hope you can now see the gift that your depression has given you. It has come into your life to teach you more about yourself and bring you back to who you truly are. This is your opportunity to practice love and compassion for yourself so you can commit to letting go of the baggage that is holding you down.
With consistent practice over time, you will start to see your life in a completely different light. Meditation plays an absolutely crucial part in developing and maintaining a balanced mind. All the unconscious programming that has been working against you for decades is not going to completely unravel after a few short meditation sessions. This is the work of a lifetime: to deepen your awareness of your “self” and let go of the thoughts and emotions that cause you unnecessary suffering.