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Managing Depression with Mindfulness For Dummies®

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This book is for you if you are interested in exploring how mindfulness can support you in your efforts to regain, as well as maintain, your sense of wellbeing and happiness.

I wrote the book drawing upon my clinical experience as someone who has professionally supported people with depression both as a mental health worker in a psychiatric hospital as well as in private practice. More importantly, though, I wrote this book drawing forth on my personal journey of having not only suffered from depression but also having healed through it now living a life of meaning and happiness.

When you are in the midst of the storm of depression, it is incredibly difficult to see the possibility of happiness. It is my intention in this book to share ideas and practical techniques that are not only scientifically proven to work but that will help you regain your ability to manage your condition more effectively. This in turn will hopefully help you reconnect with your own sense of happiness and wellbeing. Above all, I trust that this book will offer you a beacon of light no matter where in your journey of healing.

I share the following words of inspiration from a client of mine who joined our 8-Week Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction course. She now works with autistic children and uses the mindfulness skills she learned to help others.

I had suffered with depression on and off for years. Anxiety was a feeling I fought daily. I have taken antidepressants and tried different therapies but nothing really worked for me. I attended a mindfulness seminar with a friend and although felt very uncomfortable at first there was something immediately that excited me, and I experienced a connection never felt before. I attended several classes and joined the 8-Week Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction course. The tools and experience have totally changed my life, and now I love sharing this with others. Learning to notice your thoughts and acknowledging them rather than challenging or attaching is such a powerful tool. When faced with uncomfortable feelings, being able to believe and trust in yourself that by breathing into them you can reduce their intensity is very reassuring. It's also comforting to know that by focusing your mind on your physical body you can calm yourself. Three years on and mindfulness is a massive part of my life, and I'm so grateful for it finding me.

I invite you to take this journey with me as we explore what mindfulness is and how you can begin to embody it in your life.

About This Book

This book is for you whether you are suffering from depression yourself, caring for someone who has the condition or are a health professional wanting to know more about how mindfulness can support your clients recover from low mood and chronic unhappiness.

Scientific studies now show that you can use mindfulness to change the way your brain works. Regular mindfulness practice makes you smarter and wiser and so better able to deal with what life throws at you. When you are depressed you can often feel like you have no control and no say in how and what you think and feel. With regular practice you can gain back the control and learn to live your life with more compassion and skill where your mind is your friend rather than your enemy.

Use this book in a way that works for you. You can read it chapter by chapter or dip into in and out of it as you like. It is important to remember that this book is simply an introduction to mindfulness and I hope that you will eventually find the inspiration to seek out a mindfulness teacher or join a mindfulness course to help you explore a daily mindfulness practice. Above all, don’t put any pressure on yourself to remember any of the ideas covered in this book but rather do what comes naturally and easy for you.

Following are just some of the topics I explore in this book to help you understand what mindfulness is and how you can use it to support your own sense of wellbeing:

Foolish Assumptions

I assume, or rather I trust, that you or someone you know or care for has some experience with depression. I also work on the understanding that you have reached out and are exploring ways to help yourself heal through depression mindfully. In other words, I trust that you feel ready to help yourself recover from depression and regain your sense of wellbeing. I understand that it is possible that you know nothing about mindfulness or that you might have some knowledge of the subject. It is also possible that you have already explored other approaches and want to deepen the way you work with your own mind and life using mindfulness.

I also assume that you are not currently clinically depressed, or that if you are, you have other psychological support in place to supplement your healing and recovery.

Note: If you are currently suffering from severe or clinical depression, contact your chosen health professional before trying any of the exercises in this book.

Icons Used in This Book

Like other For Dummies books, this one has icons in the margins to guide you through the information and help you zero in on what you want to know. The following paragraphs describe the icons and what they mean.

remember This information is useful and worth keeping in mind when working with your experience of low mood and depression.

tip The text next to this icon is particularly useful information offering quick and effective ideas to support your learning about mindfulness.

example I include some examples to help demonstrate and clarify different ideas and models that I present in this book.

exercise This is an opportunity for you to try a practical exercise which will help you develop a greater sense of awareness leading to wellbeing.

Beyond the Book

This book is bursting with content, but you can go online and find even more. Check out the book’s online Cheat Sheet at And you can find a handy bonus article related to managing depression with mindfulness at

Where to Go from Here

Although you can certainly get loads of guidance by reading from Chapter 1 through to the end, I designed this book so that you can dip in and out as you like, reading bits that you find most useful at any given time. If you feel you need some quick and easy-to-implement tips on how to enhance your sense of wellbeing, go directly to Chapters 12 and 13. If you feel you need to gain some motivation to help support you directly on your journey to healing mindfully, Chapter 3 might be a good start. To help you locate relevant material easily elsewhere in the book, I use cross-references as well as a comprehensive index, so feel free to explore these tools too.

The biggest benefit of mindfulness comes when it becomes a daily way of life. It might also be useful to remember that you don’t need to struggle alone learning it. It is best learned with the support of a teacher or coach. I hope that this book will support you to eventually reach out and connect with a person or mindfulness-based group for the purpose of learning, growing and healing.

Above all, see this book as an exploration with nothing to lose but everything to gain.

Part I

Understanding Depression and Befriending Your Life


webextra For Dummies has great info on lots of different topics. Check out to find out how you and learn more and do more with For Dummies.

In this part …

check.png Discover how to befriend the black dog of depression and learn to turn off negative thoughts.

check.png Explore the major types of depression, as well as some possible causes.

Chapter 1

Your Journey to Wellbeing

In This Chapter

arrow Getting to know your big black dog of depression

arrow Knowing that you’re not alone in your depression

arrow Seeing the link between depression and anxiety

arrow Understanding that recovery from depression has ups and downs

arrow Finding inner peace through the practice of mindfulness

If you are reading this book, then it is very likely that either you or someone you know is affected by depression. I know from personal experience having lived with the condition myself that it can be very tough and that often it’s difficult to get out of bed, to say nothing about reading a whole book. In my own experience, I have been where there was no hope and no guiding light at the end of the tunnel with very dark thoughts about my future constantly on my mind barking like hungry dogs that haven’t been fed for days. You might or might not relate to this. I am writing this book both as someone who has first-hand experience living with depression as well as someone who has counseled many people affected with this condition both in private practice as well as within an inpatient psychiatric hospital setting. More importantly, I am writing this book as someone who recovered from the condition.

Above all, I am writing this book as a happy person, a truly happy person. I am not bragging about my happiness, not at all, but I like talking about wellbeing and happiness as this is the other side of the deep and wide river, the other shore, so to speak. This is where you too want to get to, don’t you? The other side of the river where there is more light, more hope, more freedom to live your life as you want and desire. Recovery from chronic unhappiness has many stages and it’s an up-and-down process, but I know that it is possible. This book offers a practical guide which will empower you to navigate the often confusing landscape of your own mind and give you plenty of tools for working with it in a way that can help you enhance your sense of mental and emotional wellbeing and happiness. I hope you will enjoy this journey with me.

Befriending the Black Dog of Depression

Having depression is in many ways like having a black dog. No offence to black dogs as they are lovely animals. However, you can use this as a metaphor for how difficult life can be when you are depressed.

This black dog of depression isn’t just any black dog. It’s a big and scary dog (shown in Figure 1-1), and having this dog around is a pain.


© John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

Figure 1-1: Depression as a huge black dog.

This black dog of depression looks extremely sad. Whenever he shows up he can make you feel completely empty of any happiness. He makes you feel slow, tired and not wanting to do anything except sleep. He can make you feel old, useless and hopeless.

Everyone else seems to be enjoying life, but you are only limited to seeing the world through the black dog’s dark sunglasses. Life looks dark and bleak. Things that you used to enjoy don’t give you any pleasure anymore. This black dog of depression robs you of your concentration, and you seem to not only forget things but you don’t remember what it feels like to be happy either.

Doing normal daily tasks seems impossible as you are dragging this heavy dog behind you. You know that you have this black dog always with you even though others might not see it. The thing is you are really afraid that others might find out. It is likely that you might feel a deep sense of shame, and so you try to hide it from others, afraid that others will judge you if they ever found out.

This can make you feel like you are false, like you are a fraud in some way. Having the black dog probably ruins your appetite, and you either don’t feel like eating at all or you overeat to try and shut him up. It’s possible that he wakes you up at night and barks all the negative thoughts viciously into your fragile mind, making you stay up at night.

Above all, the harder you try get rid of the black dog of depression the bigger he becomes. You try to run away, but he follows you. You try to self-medicate, but that doesn’t always help either.

Below are the some of the ways the big black dog can make you feel. In other words, these are some of the symptoms of depression:

Go to Chapter 2 for the complete list of symptoms and possible causes of depression.

remember Things can get better, and you can recover from depression. The fact that you are reading this book means that your journey to healing has already began. Mindfulness can help you not only make sense of this black dog of depression, but also give you ways to get your life back by helping you to manage your thoughts and emotions more effectively.

You Are Not Alone – One in Four Have Depression

When you’re depressed you may feel like you are the only one who has the problem and that everyone else is happy and normal. This kind of feeling, although very normal, can cause you to feel extremely isolated and causes you to suffer in silence. The truth is that many people who look happy are in fact also depressed and chronically unhappy. There are more of us than you might think.

remember Looking at it this way can sometimes help you feel a little bit better about your situation, knowing that you are not alone in with your problem.

The World Health Organization predicts that more people will be affected by depression than any other health problem by the year 2030. It is no surprise then that about one in four people suffers from some kind of mental health difficulty such as depression.

You might find it interesting that many famous people have suffered from depression as well. This just shows that depression is more common than you might think. Below are a few names of famous people who suffered from depression at one point in their lives. You might recognise some of them:

mythbuster You might think that you are less of a person or in some way bad because you are depressed. This is not true! Depression is an ‘equal opportunity condition’ and affects all classes of people. Anyone can develop depression. Practising mindfulness regularly can not only prevent depression, but it can also help to treat it. So there is hope you can recover and, with time, regain your sense of wellbeing and happiness.

The biggest challenge with depression is to reach out for support. Research shows that people who ask for help recover much faster than those who don’t. It can be hard to reach out, but you can do so safely by speaking to your doctor, a trusted friend or a counselor.

Anxiety and Depression – Always on the Same Bus

According to the UK Mental Health Foundation, around half of those people who experience depression will also experience anxiety. This means that to some extent depression and anxiety go together. They are like two best friends always on the same bus.

Anxiety and depression are not the same, but they often occur together. People with depression often experience anxiety, and people with anxiety often become depressed.

For many people having the two conditions can be a temporary situation. For example, you can experience

However, some people suffer with both of these difficulties at the same time for most of the time.

The link between anxiety and depression is so strong that most antidepressants are used to treat both anxiety and depression at the same time. This is partly because research suggests that the same neurotransmitters may also play a role in causing both anxiety and depression.

remember Practicing mindfulness helps with both calming the mind as well as helping you to balance your mood. Research shows that mindfulness practices can significantly reduce anxiety and depression. Not only that but Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) is significantly more effective than antidepressants alone in preventing relapse from depression.

Healing Is Possible – But It Takes Time

With the right support recovery from depression is possible. It is useful to remember that any healing through depression takes time and is often met with an up-and-down process of lows, highs, stable periods, lows again, then more stable times leading to another improvement and feeling better (see Figure 1-2).


© John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

Figure 1-2: Recovery is a bumpy journey.

remember As much as we may want it to, wellbeing often does not happen overnight. It is normal to want to speed things up or to worry that you will never feel better. The thing to remember is that with time and the right support your symptoms will improve, and you will feel better.

Very often we do not notice any improvement, mainly because we can’t see how far up the line of recovery we actually travelled. It’s human nature not to notice positive changes. Also it is possible that each time we feel low on our journey to recovery we mistake it for failure rather than an opportunity to reflect and learn from the experience.

tip As hard as it can be sometimes, try to remind yourself that Rome wasn’t built in one day. It has taken a long time for your condition to materialise, and it might take some time for you to learn mindfulness skills that will help you manage your mood more effectively and feel better. Seeing things this way can help encourage the feeling of hope.

Chapter 3 explores some of the difficulties that you are likely to encounter when recovering from depression and offers ideas how you can begin to enhance your sense of wellbeing.