Treatment Options for Depression and Anxiety
The Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) program created by Jon Kabat-Zinn to teach mindfulness to patients had demonstrated remarkable benefits for reducing chronic pain, as well as anxiety and depression.
I personally have found that meditation for pain has helped reduce my anxiety, improve my quality of life, and manage my pain.
Being mindful means intentionally being present with your breath, thoughts, feelings and sensations. Inevitably, your mind will become distracted by worries, thoughts, memories, or plans. When you notice this has happened, you gently guide your awareness back to the present moment.
You can practice mindfulness through meditation, body scans, mindful eating, or mindful movement like yoga or Tai Chi.
Here are four key takeaways I have learned from participating in an MBSR program and continuing a meditation practice that help me manage the mental and emotional impacts of living with chronic pain:
"Cross that bridge when you get there"
Much of our anxiety comes from worrying about the future or reliving difficult moments from the past, rather than from anything going on directly in front of us at this moment in time. Worrying about it now only makes me suffer more.
It's better for my quality of life if I return my focus to the next best thing I can do for myself in this moment.
"Stop and smell the roses"
Even during pain flares and illness relapses, there are small moments of enjoyment if we stop and notice them — the taste of a good meal, sharing a hug, a sunny day, a favorite hobby. Intentionally taking in the good moments by staying present while I experience them is a powerful way for me to rebalance my mindset towards the positive.
"This too shall pass"
One of the key lessons I learned through mindfulness is that my thoughts, feelings and sensations, no matter how difficult, are changeable, like the weather. When I hold on to the fact that even my darkest moods will eventually lift, I feel calmer and more in control.
"Always, we begin again"
Initially, I was very judgmental of myself when I started meditating because my mind could not stay focused on my breath for very long. Over and over I would notice that my attention had wandered off and I would have to refocus my attention on the present.
Eventually, I realized this was a crucial learning opportunity. As renowned meditation teacher Sharon Salzberg explains, "The invitation to begin again (and again and again) that meditation affords is an invitation to the practice of self-compassion - to heal through letting go rather than harming ourselves with cycles of self-doubt, judgment, and criticism."
Resources to Try for Depression and Anxiety
- Excellent selection of free guided mindfulness meditations.
- Free guided mindfulness practices between 15-20 minutes (breath, body scan, movement, yoga nidra).
- Free Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction online course — a scientifically proven program to reduce pain and stress.
- Free guided imagery practices for relaxation, breathing practices, and meditation practices.
- Four practices using relaxation techniques by Dr. Emmet Miller and Steven Halpern used in CBT programs.
- Book describing a mindfulness program for pain by an expert in the field, Dr. Jackie Gardner-Nix.
- Guided audio program using mindfulness meditation for pain management, by Jon Kabat-Zinn, who first developed programs using mindfulness for health.
- The original landmark book on using mindfulness meditation for stress relief, pain and illness by Jon Kabat-Zinn.
- Using sound to promote sleep, relaxation and meditation by Dr. Jeffrey Thompson.
- Using breathing exercises and meditation to promote self-healing by Dr. Andrew Weil.