This article contains opinion.
The semester is winding down with us barely hanging on to what little motivation we have left, and better yet, seasonal depression is knocking at our door, too.
My therapist once told me that life is like an ocean, and we’re on our own boat. Nothing is going to stop the waves from crashing down on us. That is out of our control. If we don’t work on ourselves, we’re going to keep sinking. What we can do, though, is build a big enough boat by focusing on bettering ourselves.
It sounds cliche, but when you think about it, she isn’t wrong.
The fall semester has sucked our souls dry, and the sunshine is disappearing. Our morale is low, and we’re bitter at everything life just threw at us. If you’re battling depression and anxiety, I want to introduce to you what my therapist taught me: mindfulness.
Mindfulness is a form of meditative practice that has been used for thousands of years in the Eastern world and is commonly part of spiritual practices such as Zen Buddhism, said Dr. Zindel V. Segal, a psychotherapist that specializes in mindfulness practice.
Don’t worry, you don’t need to be a religious or spiritual person in order to practice mindfulness, nor will you be sitting on the floor meditating. Scientists have been discovering all sorts of benefits, and all you need is an open mind and a willingness to try something different.
The definition of mindfulness is purposely paying attention in the present moment without judgement.
A lot of the time when we’re feeling depressed or anxious, it is because we’re too busy focusing on negative events that have happened in the past or ones that might happen in the future. We let those thoughts manifest into a pit of despair, and we’re stuck in a dark place.
Truth is, neither of those are in our control, and you’re going to keep sinking if you let them affect how you feel in the moment.
It’s easier said than done, but in order to remain centered, we need to focus on the exact moment we’re in and train our minds not to wander.
Have you ever noticed when you’re binge watching your favorite show, movie or video game that you think about only what’s going on in front of you? You’re so into what’s going on that your brain doesn’t have time to think about anything else. You might not have realized it, but you were practicing mindfulness.
By tuning in to what is happening right now, we create self-awareness. We know when our mind begins to wander, and we can turn our attention to something else that is happening in the present. It’s difficult, but the more you practice, the easier it becomes.
The more we focus on the here and the now, the more in control we become with our emotions.
The first step to take is to choose something to focus on. It can be anything. Listen to music, watch something, play video games, go for a walk, etc. The list is endless, but something that will hold your attention for extended periods of time will do.
Then, you want to focus your attention on what it is you’re doing. Try not to think about whatever it is you’re battling in your head. Remember, the more you hold onto those dark thoughts, the worse you’re going to feel and the further you’re going to keep sinking.
If your attention wonders, it’s OK. That’s to be expected. The key is to, at some point, come to the realization it has happened. The more you’re consciously aware, the more you’re going to be able to control it eventually.
Once you notice that your mind has wandered, redirect your attention back to whatever it is you’re trying to focus on. Your mind is naturally going to try and wander, so you will have to try over and over to stay centered.
Don’t let yourself get trapped in the dark hole of depression because you’re going to sink until you decide you’ve had enough. Stop feeding the negative energy with self-loathing.
Instead, put your foot down. It’s time to start taking care of you and your mind.