Dr. Emmons discusses how mindfulness can help reduce depression and anxiety symptoms.
Mindfulness itself is a centuries-old Buddhist practice, or comes out of a Buddhist practice but the practice of mindfulness is very straightforward, which isn’t the same thing as saying it’s easy to do. It’s very straightforward.
It really just means paying attention. It means being more present from moment-to-moment and enhancing that ability to be with and see things as they are as they are unfolding.
And so it’s just a practice. It’s something that we can good at if we do it intentionally.
If we wait for it to happen, you know and just hope that we’ll become more conscious or more aware as we age, a lot of us will be disappointed partly because there are so many things pulling us in the other direction.
There’s so many distractions, stresses, all the electronic stuff that we love so well and that has made life great in many ways, in a sense it very often pulls us out of the present moment.
So having a practice to counter that and then when it comes to depression and anxiety, what mindfulness can do is so profound because it can really help get at the very roots, the very underlying causes of those conditions and the things that happen outside of our conscious awareness that are constantly reinforcing or bringing us back into depression and anxiety.
Mindfulness gives us an opportunity to get in there and see that process as it unfolds.
So to see how the thoughts, the certain patterns or repetitive networks of neurons firing that create these thoughts, we reinforce those without intending to over the course of years and they become very deeply embedded.
When we begin paying attention to those, without judging ourselves, without being harsh or critical to ourselves and we see what the mind is doing, it gives you a little freedom, a chance to disconnect from that automatic reaction and then also with emotions.
Emotions are sometimes frightening to people who have been in depression or anxiety and to have some skill at dealing with those unpleasant, negative emotions which we all have, it gives people such a better chance of staying out of the cycle, the downward spiral of what we call depression and anxiety.
So I think of a mindfulness practice as really being core to being able to learn to do less harm to ourselves.
We don’t intend to do it but we are always, you know if we are not conscious of what we are doing with our mind and our emotions, very often what we are doing is in some way harmful.
It affects us in a negative way, especially those who have been in depression or anxiety.
And so to be able to step out of that and learn not to harm ourselves, simply learning to disrupt that cycle, it can be life-changing.
Mindfulness practice also gives us the opportunity not just to do less harm but to create a greater sense of self, to create positive emotions, to open, again to open the heart and to create a much greater sense of connectedness which is possibly the most protective factor of all for depression.
About Dr. Henry Emmons, M.D.:
Dr. Henry Emmons, M.D., is a psychiatrist who integrates mind-body and natural therapies, mindfulness and allied Buddhist therapeutics, and psychotherapeutic caring and insight in his clinical work. Dr. Emmons obtained his medical degree from the University of Iowa College of Medicine and did his residency in psychiatry at the University of Rochester Medical Center, where he was Chief Resident. He practices general and holistic psychiatry and consults with several colleges and organizations nationally. Dr. Emmons is the author of “The Chemistry of Joy: A Three Step Program for Overcoming Depression Through Western Science and Eastern Wisdom.”