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Last Updated on January 12, 2021

Why Am I so Depressed Lately? 4 Things That Are Secretly Baffling You

Why Am I so Depressed Lately? 4 Things That Are Secretly Baffling You

You can be feeling depressed without even knowing why. There’re different types of depressions and not all of them have an obvious cause that you can easily identify.

Our hectic life makes things go so fast that we don’t even realize we’re doing things that leave us feeling depressed. Or maybe we’ve gotten so used to our everyday life that we can’t notice what we’re doing doesn’t make us happy.

If you wonder why you’re feeling so depressed but can’t quite put your finger on why, then take a look at the list we’ve made over things that are secretly baffling you.

1. Isolation

Research shows that a lack of social connection can lead to a depression.[1] There are different types of isolation. If you’re not spending much time around people, but never had any problem with being alone before, this can still lead to a depression.

Even if you used to be happy with spending time on your own, this might change over time and could lead to you being depressed without knowing why.

Some people spend a lot of time around people at work or during social gatherings, but they can still feel alone and depressed. It’s possible to be around people, but still lack a social connection with them.

If you’re feeling depressed, then take a look at your social connections and consider how many people you really have around you. If you picked up the phone now and would call to ask for some help or just a normal honest conversation – how many could you call?

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It’s never too late to change things. If you’ve isolated yourself from good friends or family, try to reach out and see if things can be rebuilt. You can also try to engage yourself in a new activity where you’ll be able to meet some new people.

2. You can’t find meaning or purpose

It’s not only philosophers that spend time thinking about life and the meaning of it. When you were younger, you probably spent some time trying to figure out what you wanted out of life and what would give your life meaning. But as you’ve grown older, you’re just too busy with life that you forget all about it.

It can be hard to pin point your depression to a lack of meaning in your life. You can have a good family and a good job, but still walk around feeling depressed every day because deep down you have lost that connection with your original purpose and what you wanted in life.

Everyone finds meaning in different things. Some find it through work, relationships, helping others, learning or through creativity.

Take a step back and look at your life. What makes you happy? Do you remember what you originally felt was your purpose in life and are you living according to that still?

Maybe ten years ago, you thought you would find meaning in having a specific job, but now you realize that it’s not really what you want. Or maybe you went in another direction than you intended to, but you don’t feel fulfilled now.

It’s never too late to change things. Here’s the proof. Take some times to really look at your life and see if you can figure out some things that might look great on the surface, but is secretly suffocation you every day and ultimately making you unhappy and depressed.

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Ask a close friend or your family if they can help you see something you can’t, or just discuss it with a life coach.

3. Suppressed emotions

Everyone has primary and secondary feelings. The primary ones are feelings like sadness, anger or anxiety. The secondary feelings are the self-reflecting feelings we have about the primary feelings.

We may get sad about something, and then our secondary feeling will react to that sadness with a response. Maybe it will tell you that you shouldn’t feel sad, because it’s not a big deal. Or maybe you should feel something else because that emotion isn’t appropriate for that situation.

If we feel like our emotions aren’t right, then we’ll suppress them and that can lead to depression. Humans are the only ones that are able to get upset about being upset. We have another dimension to our brain that allows self-reflection.

Depending on how you grow up, we might be taught different values and were told that you shouldn’t be feeling certain emotions. It could be a teacher who told you only girls cry. It could come from some family values that you shouldn’t show others your anxiety or inner struggles.

These values have a way of sticking to us. If you get some primary feelings that don’t align with what you believe in, your secondary feelings will start to tear you apart from the inside and tell you that you shouldn’t allow yourself those emotions.

It can be hard to deal with suppressed emotions because you’re fighting against yourself; but it can be done.

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Start by figuring out why you’re upset about different stuff. Are you beating yourself up over stuff that aren’t even bad? Are you depressed but then tell yourself that you’re weak and you should just stop feeling so?

These suppressed emotions need to be dealt with out in the open. Try to take a look at yourself and see what you’re feeling and give yourself permission to feel these things. This might be enough for some and you’ll feel a weight lifted off your shoulders. But if you need help with this, seek out a therapist.

4. A critical inner voice

If you’ve ever been bullied or seen anyone be bullied on a daily basis, then you know how much this can take a toll on you and destroy your mood.

Now imagine this voice isn’t coming from the outside but is actually coming from yourself every day…

No one intentionally tries to pick on themselves, but a lot of us do it unconsciously. Maybe it started after a few mistakes or failures, or maybe you’re putting too much pressure on yourself.

It probably feels nothing at the very beginning, but if you slowly develop a critical inner voice and verbally attack yourself from the inside every single day, you’ll certainly end up feeling depressed.

It can be hard to recognize and diagnose this kind of depression because you can’t see how hard you are on yourself, and in this particular case – neither can the people around you.

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Start noticing your thoughts and how you view yourself closely. Are you putting a lot of pressure on yourself and feel really bad if you don’t live up to the expectations? Are you being over-critical all the time but have gotten so used to it that you don’t see it?

A critical inner voice can easily lead to depression. If you’re feeling depressed but can’t figure out why – then this might be the reason.

If you’re struggling with this, you can start out by writing down everything that runs in your head for one day, and then take a look at what you’ve written. Would you speak like that to someone else?

But sometimes, you do need another pair of eyes to help you. If your depression goes on and you can’t get rid of yourself, you should consider finding a therapist.

The bottom line

Depression is a mental sickness, so it’s important to take it serious and handle it. If you were really sick with the flu or had some back pain, you wouldn’t just ignore it and hope it went away. The same applies to depression. It won’t just go away unless you decide to deal with it.

Featured photo credit: Zohre Nemati via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Psychology Today: Connect To Thrive

More by this author

Maria Jensen

Specializes in personal and professional development.

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Published on April 9, 2021

What Is Mindfulness And How It Helps Your Mental Wellness

What Is Mindfulness And How It Helps Your Mental Wellness

Mindfulness has become a popular buzzword in the health and wellness industry. However, few people truly understand what it is. My aim here is to teach you what mindfulness is and how it helps your mental wellness. By the end of this article, you will understand the meaning and benefits of mindfulness. Additionally, you will develop the ability to integrate mindfulness into your daily life.

What Is Mindfulness?

Mindfulness is approximately 2500-years-old with deep roots in the Eastern world as a spiritual, ethical, and philosophical practice. These roots are intimately connected to the Buddhist practice of vipassana meditation.[1]

Mindfulness continues to be practiced as a cultural and spiritual tradition in many parts of the world. For Buddhists, it offers an ethical and moral code of conduct. For many, mindfulness is more than a practice—it is a way of life.[2]

However, mindfulness has evolved in the Western world and has become a non-religious practice for wellbeing. The evolution began around 1979 when Jon-Kabat Zinn developed Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR).[3] Since then, mindfulness has emerged in the health and wellness industry and continues to evolve.

It is important to recognize the distinctions between mindfulness as a clinical practice and mindfulness as a cultural practice. The focus of this article is on the clinical model of mindfulness developed in the West.

Many researchers have integrated aspects of Buddhism and mindfulness into clinical psychiatry and psychology. Buddhism has helped to inform many mental health theories and therapies. However, the ethical and moral codes of conduct that drive Buddhist practices are no longer integrated into the mindfulness practices most-often taught in the Western world.[4] Therefore, Western mindfulness is often a non-spiritual practice for mental wellness.

Mindfulness aims to cultivate present moment awareness both within the body and the environment.[5] However, awareness is only the first element. Non-judgmental acceptance of the present moment is essential for true mindfulness to occur. Thoughts and feelings are explored without an emphasis on right, wrong, past, or future.

The only necessary condition for mindfulness to occur is non-judgmental acceptance and awareness of the present moment. Mindfulness can be practiced by anyone, anywhere, and at any time. It does not need to be complex even though structured programs exist.

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How Mindfulness Helps Your Mental Wellness

Along with MBSR, other models have been developed and adapted for use by clinical counselors, psychologists, and therapists. These include Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT), Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), and Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT).[6]

Structured models of mindfulness allow researchers to study its benefits. Research has uncovered an abundance of benefits including mental, physical, cognitive, and spiritual. The following is not a comprehensive list of all its benefits, but it will begin to uncover how mindfulness helps mental wellness.

Benefits on Your Mental Health

Practicing mindfulness can have positive impacts on mental health. It has been positively associated with desirable traits, such as:

  • Autonomy
  • Agreeableness
  • Conscientiousness
  • Competence
  • Empathy
  • Optimism

Mindfulness helps to improve self-esteem, increase life satisfaction and enhance self-compassion. It is associated with pleasant emotions and mood. Overall, people who practice this appear to be happier and experience more joy in life. Not only does it increase happiness but it may also ward off negativity.

Mindfulness helps individuals to let go of negative thoughts and regulate emotions. For example, it may decrease fear, stress, worry, anger, and anxiety. It also helps to reduce rumination, which is a repetition of negative thoughts in the mind.

MBSR was originally designed to treat chronic pain. It has since evolved to include the treatment of anxiety and depression. Clinical studies have shown that MBSR is linked with:

  • Reduced chronic pain and improved quality of life
  • Decreased risk of relapse in depression
  • Reduced negative thinking in anxiety disorders
  • Prevention of major depressive disorders
  • Reducing substance-use frequency and cravings

However, more research is needed before these clinical studies can be generalized to the public. Nevertheless, there is promising evidence to suggest MBSR may be beneficial for mental health.[7]

Benefits on Your Cognitive Health

Mindfulness has many important benefits for cognitive health as well. In a study of college students, mindfulness increased performance in attention and persistence. Another study found that individuals who practice it have increased cognitive flexibility. A brain scan found increased thickness in areas of the brain related to attention, interception, and sensory processing.[8]

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To explain this another way, practicing mindfulness can improve the ability to shift from one task to the next, increase attention span and increase awareness of bodily sensations and the environment. Therefore, it has the potential to literally change your brain for the better.

Harvard researchers are also interested in studies of the brain and mindfulness. One researcher studied how brain changes are sustained even when individuals are not engaged in mindfulness. Their research suggests that its benefits extend beyond the moments of mindfulness.[9]

Another study found that the benefits of mindfulness training lasted up to five years. In this particular case, individuals participating in mindfulness activities showed increased attention-span. Mindfulness has also been shown to increase problem-solving and decrease mind wandering.[10]

What Is Mindfulness Meditation?

Mindfulness can be practiced in many different ways. However, most practices include these elements:

  • An object to focus awareness on (breath, body, thoughts, sounds)
  • Awareness of the present moment
  • Openness to experience whatever comes up
  • Acceptance that the mind will wander
  • The intention to return awareness to the object of focus whenever the mind wanders

A practice that encompasses these elements is typically called mindfulness meditation. Most mindfulness meditations will be practiced between 5 to 50 minutes, per day.[11]

There is truly no right or wrong way to practice mindfulness. Most mindfulness meditations are done seated with an object of focus related to the breath, body, thoughts, emotions, or sounds. However, daily activities such as walking or eating can be practiced as a form of mindfulness meditation, as long as the aforementioned elements are in place.

Four Mindfulness Meditations and Their Benefits

Not all forms of mindfulness are created equal. Each practice has unique goals, structure, and benefits. The following four mindfulness meditations are linked with improved mental wellness related to vitality, happiness, and attention.

The results come from a study designed to explore the benefits of these four practices. All of these stem from traditional Buddhist practices.[12]

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1. Loving-Kindness Meditation

Loving-kindness is a form of meditation that focuses on sending love and compassion to others. It may begin with kindness for the self and extend outward towards close family and friends, communities, nations, and the world. Loving-kindness may even involve sending love and compassion towards enemies.

The study found that eight-weeks of loving-kindness meditation increased feelings of closeness to others. However, it did not reduce negative feelings towards enemies. Additionally, one week of loving-kindness mixed with compassion training increased the amount of positive feelings participants experienced.[13]

2. Breathing Meditation

Breathing meditation is a practice where the focus remains on the breath. Whenever the mind begins to wander, the attention is brought back to the breath.

In many different mindfulness and yoga practices, specific breathing (pranayama) practices are taught. However, for beginners, simple diaphragmatic breathing that focuses on each inhale and exhale is sufficient.

The effects of breathing meditation relate to attention. Breathing meditation is linked to changes in the way information is processed. Buddhist monks who practiced breathing meditation were able to process a greater amount of information than monks who practiced compassion meditation.

3. Body Scan Meditation

A body scan is as simple as it sounds. Attention is brought to each part of the body. Participants can choose to start from the top of the head or the bottom of the feet. It can be helpful to imagine a warmth or a color spreading from one body part to the next as each part begins to relax.

When body scan and breathing are combined, there are many benefits. Interoceptive sensitivity is the mind’s ability to focus on bodily cues. It is strengthened by body scanning. Body scanning also helps with attention and focus.[14]

4. Observing Thoughts Meditation

In observing thoughts meditation, the focus is on the thoughts. This is an opportunity to practice non-judgmental observation. It is also a practice of non-attachment.

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Within the study, participants practiced structured observation of thoughts. First, they brought their attention to their thoughts and labeled them within several categories: past, present, future, self, or others. Then, they practiced observing their thoughts without an emotional reaction.[15]

The benefits of this practice were robust. First, participants showed great improvement in the ability to observe their thoughts without judgment. Second, the practice greatly reduced rumination. As a result, participants had fewer emotional reactions to their thoughts and developed greater self-awareness around their thinking patterns.

In summary, there are many different ways to practice mindfulness meditation. The choice may be determined by the benefits each practice offers. For example, body scanning can increase bodily awareness. Thought-observation can increase self-awareness and decrease rumination. Regardless, every practice may increase positivity, energy, and focus.[16]

Considerations Before You Begin Practicing Mindfulness

Mindfulness is still a relatively new concept in clinical research. Critics worry that its benefits have been overstated. There is also concern that the Western world has changed it into something most Buddhists would not recognize.[17]

Mindfulness is a state of mind that builds self-awareness. As a result, it may force individuals to face difficult emotions, memories, and thoughts. In a study of long-term, intense mindfulness practices, 60% of participants reported at least one negative outcome. Some cases are related to depression, anxiety, and psychosis.[18]

There is no one-size-fits-all approach to mental wellness. Mindfulness offering promising results but there are also risks involved. Working with a therapist may be a great way to start a mindfulness practice while monitoring for risk.

Final Thoughts

Mindfulness is a powerful practice that has deep roots in Buddhism. It is a practice of present-moment awareness, acceptance of the present moment, and non-judgment of thoughts, emotions, or circumstances.

It has many benefits that may increase mental wellness. However, there are also some risks to consider. Overall, you should consider your unique profile before beginning a practice or consider working with a therapist at the start.

More About Practicing Mindfulness

Featured photo credit: Simon Migaj via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] NCBI: A Perspective on the Similarities and Differences Between Mindfulness and Relaxation
[2] Sage Journals: Mindfulness in Cultural Context
[3] Greater Good Magazine: What is Mindfulness?
[4] Sage Journals: Mindfulness in Cultural Context
[5] Greater Good Magazine: The State of Mindfulness Science
[6] NCBI: Effects of Mindfulness on Psychological Health: A Review of Empirical Studies
[7] NCBI: Mindfulness Meditation and Psychopathology
[8] NCBI: Effects of Mindfulness on Psychological Health: A Review of Empirical Studies
[9] The Harvard Gazette: When Science Meets Mindfulness
[10] Greater Good Magazine: The State of Mindfulness Science
[11] NCBI: A Perspective on the Similarities and Differences Between Mindfulness and Relaxation
[12] ResearchGate: Phenomenological Fingerprints of Four Meditations: Differential State Changes in Affect, Mind-Wandering, Meta-Cognition, and Interoception Before and After Daily Practice Across Nine Months of Training
[13] ResearchGate: Phenomenological Fingerprints of Four Meditations: Differential State Changes in Affect, Mind-Wandering, Meta-Cognition, and Interoception Before and After Daily Practice Across Nine Months of Training
[14] ResearchGate: Phenomenological Fingerprints of Four Meditations: Differential State Changes in Affect, Mind-Wandering, Meta-Cognition, and Interoception Before and After Daily Practice Across Nine Months of Training
[15] ResearchGate: Phenomenological Fingerprints of Four Meditations: Differential State Changes in Affect, Mind-Wandering, Meta-Cognition, and Interoception Before and After Daily Practice Across Nine Months of Training
[16] Greater Good Magazine: How to Choose a Type of Mindfulness Meditation
[17] NCBI: Has the Science of Mindfulness Lost Its Mind?
[18] NCBI: Has the Science of Mindfulness Lost Its Mind?

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