We all feel negative emotions from time to time. Some of us are emotionally resilient. But for others, those negative emotions tend to grow stronger in light of unfavorable life events often leading to depression. And, the road to healing from depression isn’t just about getting well, it’s also about staying well.
When I was recovering, professional help and finding emotional support played an important role in helping me. But a significant amount of work had to be done by me to make sure I stayed well. It was about adding small things to daily activities to help navigate through those negative emotions. Moreover, recognizing that negative emotions are an eternal part of the human experience, and they’ll always find a way back.
Something’s worked, others not so much. Through it all I learned two elements that helped me the most and have become the defining pillars, becoming more mindful which also helped me develop a sense of self-compassion.
Mindfulness can be defined as, bringing oneself to the internal and external realities of the present moment without judgment. On most days, I found myself being troubled by thoughts of the future which didn’t really instill any confidence but made me more worrisome and anxious. Those coupled with thoughts of past experiences. Mindfulness doesn’t free you from those anxious thoughts or negative feelings, it helps in allowing you to accept that they do exist and understand what causes them.
Mindfulness is a meditation technique. Unfortunately, there is a misguided conception of meditation. That meditation is to have an “empty mind” or having no thoughts. Until you realize having no thoughts will be a thought (I am not joking, try it!)
What mindful meditation means in simple terms is taking a step back, letting your thoughts flow, and accepting the negative thoughts that exist. It’s often tempting to hold onto those negative thoughts and shift your focus on them, but it’s important to treat those thoughts just as you would interpret external noise and let them flow. What you’ll experience is your thoughts are unexpected, random, occur whenever they please, and the vast range of your thoughts.
Once you can experience all your thoughts from a distance is when you have a chance to identify the negative thoughts that are ineffective and have no relevance to the present moment. But the harder part is accepting that those thoughts exist, and are the reason for your negative feelings, and shift your focus to the present moment.
Which brings me to the second pillar, developing a sense of self-compassion.
So often when we come across someone who’s had it rough, we approach them with compassion with empathy yet, we fail to do so to ourselves.
We’ll always be over critical of our thoughts, our doings, where we are at this point in our lives yet, we’ll be the first ones to speak the words of optimism and hope when people close to us confess them.
Self-compassion is approaching yourself with the same level of empathy as you approach someone else. It is realizing at days the best you can do is just carrying out your regular chores and calling it a day. When you start understanding your feelings better, self-compassion plays a huge role in making sure you keep going.
Because, your greatest support, help, and weapon is YOU! Know that it’s okay if you don’t move mountains every day.
With everything said, it’s critical to understand it doesn’t happen on day one. There is no switch to mindfulness or self-compassion that you can switch on. Just like every other skill, they have to be worked upon and patiently developed overtime. Strangely when you start meditating the initial experience can be confusing, and even overwhelming, but it’s necessary to be patient, start off slow and meditate longer overtime.
Furthermore, depending on the severity of depression and where you are in recovery could vary the effectiveness of mindfulness. But can prove highly effective for people who struggle with managing negative emotions at times. And of course, people wanting to take care of their mental health.
This is how I’ve managed to navigate through my negative thoughts and maintain balance. Do share what’s worked for you in the comments section below. I would love to know how you navigate through the negative phases of your life.
Disclaimer: The author isn’t a licensed mental health professional. Views expressed in the article are purely an opinion and perception of the author. The views expressed above shouldn’t be taken as medical and/or professional advice.