Inspired to read on mindfulness

I’ve been really struggling with my latest episode of depression. I’ve been feeling isolated, hopeless, frustrated and apathetic.

But after sleeping way too much for the past four days and calling in sick today, I suddenly felt the need to read one of my many self-help books. So I stopped a movie about twenty minutes in and started to reread The Mindful Way through Depression: Freeing Yourself from Chronic Unhappiness.

I say reread, because I bought this book about three or four years ago on the advice of my last psychiatrist. I have a bad habit of buying self-help books and only reading bits and pieces. I tried to read through this book when I bought it, but I think I was too deep in the depths of depression at the time to absorb it. I did practice some of the meditations in the CD that comes with the book, but that was it. A couple of years later I did a mindfulness-based stress reduction course that is based on many of the same teachings and experts. I took much more readily to the practice when learned this way. My later trainings in yoga helped to solidify these teachings.

But here I am, once again falling into depression and not using any of these helpful practices.

But tonight I was inspired to pick up the book again. I flipped through to see where I had left off and then decided to just start again at the beginning. I’m glad that I did.

Upon reading the introduction, it seems to me that perhaps the place I’m in right now is conducive to taking more from the book.

Already there are a lot of statements that really struck me:

…it is actually okay to stop trying to solve the problem of feeling bad. In fact it is wise because our habitual ways of solving problems almost invariably wind up making things worse. (3)

Depression, once treated, often returns–and becomes more and more likely to recur the more often it is experienced. (4)

…every time a person gets depressed, the connections in the brain between mood, thoughts, the body and behavior get stronger, making it easier for depression to be triggered again. (4)

…break the cycle of depression, in which we tend to go over and over what went wrong or how things are not the way we want them to be. (5)

We get lost in comparisons of where we are versus where we want to be, soon living almost entirely in our heads. (5)

…endless cycles of mental strategizing that increase your risk of getting depressed. (6)

… The mind, body, and emotions work together to compound and sustain depression. (6)

…we are all prey to habit-driven patterns–of thinking, feeling, and doing–that curtail the joy inherent in living and our sense of possibilities. (6-7)

…there is an unsuspected power in inhabiting the moment you’re living in right now with full awareness. (7)

We invite you to let go of the tendency we all have to try to force things to be a certain way and instead work with allowing them to be as they actually already are in each moment. (8)

I think this is a great time to reread this book, because already I’m showing so many of these tendencies and I definitely want to break the habits. It’s time to rediscover the mindfulness approach.

Sorry for my neglect!

Hello all,

Sorry to be so absent lately! I’ve really neglected my blog!

There are many reasons — some good, some bad. Overall, I’ve not been so depressed lately so I haven’t felt the burning need to write. Also, it has been summer, so I think all the sun has helped and I’ve been a little busier.

I have, however, struggled a lot with anxiety. However, it is anxiety that is very much based on my current circumstances, not my brain acting up.

So I’m okay overall, much better this week than two weeks ago. Also, I’ve been really, really social, which is great.

But there are a few things that are really lacking right now, namely, exercise! I’ve been meaning all summer to get back to running, swimming and cycling and I just keep procrastinating. I’ve done some yoga, but nothing else, so this has to change.

So, to give myself the kick in the butt that I need, I’ve issued myself a 40 day challenge. Because 40 days is apparently the length of time it takes to start developing a new habit.

My 40 day exercise challenge:

I will do some form of cardio exercise for 30 minutes every day for 40 days.

I start tomorrow! Wish me luck or, even better, join me and we can support each other! 🙂

A day well spent

I left the house today and really, that is the key to a good day I think. I had no expectations of myself except that I wanted to go to a free outdoor yoga class and I wanted to ride my bike there.

Here’s my day:
-slept in
-showered
-rode my bike to the park
-did outdoor yoga
-rode my bike to a coffee shop for lunch and an iced latte
-rode home
-relaxed and blogged etc
-rode my bike for about 3 km
-settled down on under a shady tree and studied for two hours while enjoying the sounds of the birds and dogs, and the views of grass and trees and water
-returned home
-relaxed on my patio

In all I probably had about 5 hours of productivity but I feel so good, like I accomplished some great things today. Mostly, today was a success in continuing to build new paths in my brain, hoping that I develop this leisurely approach to my free schedule as a habit. Yay!

Struggling to create a new path

I’ve read that when you repeat the same responses to certain situations, your brain forges pathways that make it more and more likely that you will keep repeating this action. It’s like you’ve created a path through the jungle and it’s easiest to follow it. You can choose to make a different path, but that involves hacking your way through the thick vegetation, so it is hard to resist taking the well established path.

Today, I’ve been struggling to create a new path. I have a first date tonight, my first date in a couple years and I’ve been feeling sick with anxiety. I have almost cancelled several times. I’m scratching my psoriasis like crazy and tempted to forget it all and hide under my covers, trying to sleep my stress away.

That would be the established path. I’m trying to resist the lure and to start making my way into the woods. But I keep getting scratched and hit in the face by the branches.

I was at the precipice – do I nap and hope I feel better and make the call later? Or do I try something different. Have a nice bath, get ready early and try to meditate or relax somewhere outside until it’s time for my date?

Two things prompted me towards the bath. My desire to stop sabotaging myself. And something my neighbour said to me in passing last week:

Life begins outside of your comfort zone.

This may be a well established quote, but it was new to me and just what I needed to hear. I stay so often within my comfort zone, but that means that I am missing out on life.

Do I want to miss out on this chance for a relationship with a great guy? Because of my fear of discomfort? Do I want to keep repeating the same mistakes that leave me all alone at the end of the day?

No.

So I’m trying to leave the path behind and step into the wilderness. It’s taking a while for me to get somewhere, but I’m trying. Fingers crossed, I’ll make it out to my date and have a lovely time.

De-dustifying

I slept in late today (i.e. past lunch) and worried I’d be in for another depressive weekend. I’m supposed to get some work done this weekend, so that was hardly the best start.

The good news is that I’m starting to get over my nasty summer cold. But it’s still lingering a bit and today I was struck by a major urge to clean. No need to succumb to allergies right after the cold!

So after showering and going out for coffee, I really went at it. Removed all the clutter I’d piled in my apartment as I was moving things around between my two storage units. Took down the recycling that had piled up. Found that something is wrong with the attachment on my vacuum so I actually went around my bedroom on my hands and knees with just the hose, vacuuming up every speck of dust, cat hair and dust bunnies. I did so much cleaning I actually worked up a sweat, so I’m feeling more energized. Might finally be ready to work soon.

This seems to be quite a routine for me, established in university. I have something I need to study or work on and first thing I have to do? Clean, rearrange furniture, make everything just so. I’m glad to have gotten the urge today, as I really tackled some of the cleaning I’d left half-finished for a awhile. It feels nice to clear those burdens.

Now I’m pausing for a break and some lemonade, but I think this has turned the tide for the weekend and I should be able to stay productive.

Have a great weekend!

Sleepiness Strikes Again

Today I woke up around 7:30 am but I was still super tired. It was insanely cold (crazy cold? Hmm, are these adjectives I should use?) this morning, -30C, but extremely sunny. The sun was so bright that it called me out of bed for a morning yoga class. I could have used my sunglasses on the way!

But despite starting the day out with exercise, I was just so tired. By noon I needed a nap. At least it was shorter than yesterday’s nap. Less than two hours. I guess I’ll have to progressively shorten them… Tonight I’m skipping the melatonin. That may be contributing to the drowsiness.

Good things today:

  • I was very productive
  • I finished 11/12 tasks
  • I seem to be developing the study habits I needed in university

Bad things:

  • I didn’t do the most important thing – submit more job applications.

Tasks:
1 – Get out of bed: check. Out by 9 am.

2 – Go outside: check. Went out to yoga in the morning and in the afternoon I went out again to run errands.

3 – Exercise: check. 90 minute yoga class.

4 – Job: no. As far as I got was sorting all my papers. Felt too tired to concentrate. Which, come to think of it, was the destructive pattern I followed throughout university….

5 – Clean: check. Laundry, dusting, tidying.

6 – Finance: check. Banking and paid bill.

7 – Veggies: check. I’m just about to have a salad.

8 – Meditate: check. Portion of my yoga class.

9 – Yoga homework: check. Read for an hour and also watched some videos. My study habits are so much better for this than throughout my years in school.

10 – Socialize: A bit light here, but I read all the replies to emails I sent out earlier this week and chatted online with a fellow yoga student.

11 – Avoidance list: check. Finalized my cable changes. Filed the many papers I had scattered about the living room. Dusted. Bought groceries.

12 – Something nice: watched TV. Listened to music while sorting papers.

Here’s to hoping tomorrow brings alertness!