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This is the twelfth in a series of posts about depression and more importantly, how we can take steps to hopefully keep it under control.
After I was diagnosed with depression, I was convinced I could limit both the frequency of my ‘bad’ days, and also the severity of those days. I researched everything I could about how other sufferers deal with their condition, and listed all the advice I thought could work for me. This resulted in fifteen steps, which I’m covering over fifteen weeks, and this is number twelve.
Step 12 – Full Fat or Semi-Skimmed?
AKA – Meditation
Coincidence can be persistent, can’t it? I always find it amazing that I go through life oblivious to something, then it crops up three times in one week.
For example, has a friend ever recommended watching a movie you’ve never heard of? Two days later the same film appears in a newspaper article. Then, it actually comes on the TV and turns out to be fantastic. You wonder how it passed you by all this time.
That was me and meditation. Up until my mid-thirties it evaded me. No magazine articles, friends hadn’t mentioned it, and it never cropped up on the TV. Somehow, I completely missed it.
Even when I did stumble across it, I dismissed it as mumbo-jumbo – and I have a very open mind. What a big mistake.
Ask ten people who practise meditation why they do it, and we’d get ten different answers. The common advantages include stress reduction, increased feelings of happiness and well-being, and improved concentration. It aids restful sleep and benefits cardiovascular and immune health.
For me, the main benefit is that it reduces my head noise.
What’s head noise? Ever tried to sleep, and your mind won’t shut up, spinning pointless stuff around that doesn’t even need contemplating?
All you want is eight hours’ kip, while it’s demanding to know how much milk to buy in the morning. Semi-skimmed or full fat? One pint or two? From the supermarket or the little shop?
Irrelevant isn’t it? But our minds will over-analyse until we eventually pound the pillow several times, scream “Argh!” and give up on any hope of sleeping.
It takes practice, and commitment, but the noise can be stopped. My approach is to breathe in and count one, then breathe out. Inhale again, count two, exhale and repeat to ten, then begin again. I concentrate on my breath, and focus on my chest rising and falling.
This exercise focuses the mind away from distractions. Ideas still enter my head and demand attention, but I simply acknowledge them, let them go, and return to counting.
Semi-skimmed or full fat? I don’t care, three, four, five…
What’s for dinner tonight? Doesn’t matter, six, seven…
My favourite time is when I’m outdoors exercising and want to soak up the countryside without distractions. After a few weeks’ practise, I found I could walk for an hour and meditate simultaneously.
It’s a head workout. I’ve explored physical exercise and how it benefits the body – well, it’s the same for the mind. Give it a workout, it’ll love you for it.
And, wait for it, meditation is closely connected to improving mental health!
Step 13 – Animals aren’t Stupid
AKA – Seek Sunlight
You can read about my hike across Scotland, while coming to terms with the fact I had depression, in my latest book – High and Low. Just click on the image for details.