The Mindful Way Through Depression: Freeing Yourself from Chronic Unhappiness by Mark Williams, John Teasdale, Zindel Segal, and Jon Kabat-Zinn

This book is written by the originators of modern mindfulness practice, and I highly recommend it to help with managing depression and any other unpleasant feelings. I have always felt like depression is sort of a mystery: depression descends and it seems impossible to make the feeling lift. The inertia of depression is frustrating in that it seems unattainable to get out of it when you are still in it- you don't even have enough energy to do something that would make yourself feel better. The Mindful Way describes how depression comes from negative thought patterns that build up to crush a person. This book demystifies depression, and provides a different perspective of managing depression by accepting and experiencing unpleasant feelings instead of trying to fix them or push them away. 

No one enjoys unpleasant feelings like anger, guilt, or sadness. Many people do as much as they can to avoid them. Aversion and avoidance are how the body and brain deals with threats and we tense up physically and mentally. We have ways to distract ourselves to avoid unpleasant feelings, some healthy, some not: eating, shopping, watching tv, painting, running, talking. The Mindful Way discusses how avoidance in the brain causes more problems than its worth. "The effect of numbing or tuning out negative feelings is not only to disconnect us from uncomfortable feelings and body sensations, but possibly to mute our ability to feel anything, positive or negative. Although we may not be aware of them, the unpleasant feelings are still with us, and they will directly and indirectly influence our attitudes and judgments in ways that only perpetuate our unhappiness." I have seen this situation occur in people I work with: by tuning out consistently, they have eventually numbed all their feelings and lost sense of self. 

The authors help readers to retrain themselves to approach unpleasantness instead of pushing it away. They encourage you to step out of a "doing mode", where you may be working to get rid of your emotion and be happier, into a "being mode", where you just experience what its like to have the emotion.  This book guides you on various meditation practices that can increase awareness and help ease you into a new way of managing feelings, where you can practice noticing sensations and being comfortable in your body. 

This mode of embracing feelings instead of avoidance is making me rethink some of my emotions. I have worked on in the past being more comfortable with sadness and just inhabit the feeling. I can now do this without numbing myself, which is actually really interesting to experience. However, anger is something that I judge myself for, and I realize that when I am angry I am definitely in the doing mode. I feel like I need to soothe myself right now! and stop being angry right now! and I end up doing things I regret. I am wondering what it would be like to inhabit the anger, not judge myself, feel it in my body for the interesting sensations, and let it pass when it is ready. For the past few days, bringing myself back into my body and breath when I am angry has helped keep me from lashing out as often. I hope to continue practicing this, by feeling legitimately angry at the moment, but not need it as an excuse to act out.