In this programme, you will get to familiarise yourself with your own depression sensitivity and strengthen your ability to be consciously present in the moment.
The goal of this self-care programme is for you to learn to examine the functioning of your own mind, familiarise yourself with mindfulness and, as a result, begin to notice how automatic thoughts occurring in your mind can affect your mood. The goal is not to eliminate difficult emotions or make your mood permanently positive. Below are instructions for proceeding in this particular self-care programme. Be sure to read our general instructions for self-care programmes as well.
Depression sensitivity refers to a person’s proneness to become depressed. A prior depressive episode significantly increases depression sensitivity: after even a slightly serious depressive episode, the probability of the person becoming depressed again is roughly 50%. This means that every other person who has been depressed will become depressed again. If the person has had more than two depressive episodes, the probability of their depression recurring is even higher: 80%. Depression also often involves long-lasting residual symptoms or aftereffects, which contribute to the person’s proneness to become depressed again.
Depression sensitivity is affected by various biological, psychological and social factors.
Temperament, i.e. the biological foundation of a person’s personality, has an effect on how prone the person is to depression. Temperament refers to various innate tendencies to act and react in certain ways. In adults, depression sensitivity is contributed to particularly by a high level of harm avoidance. This temperament characteristic typically involves heightened worrying, pessimism, aloofness, frightfulness, suspiciousness and fatigue.
Negative thought patterns, a fragile self-esteem, social timidity and social submissiveness are psychological factors that increase a person’s proneness to depression. These characteristics related to the person’s internal way of experiencing increase the person’s proneness to become stressed and see the world and other people in a negative light. Depression can sometimes also be a way to flee frightening or “forbidden” emotions, such as the person’s own or someone else’s anger or sadness.
Depression often stems from the loss of a close relationship, a conflict related to a relationship or work, loneliness, a life change that threatens wellbeing or prolonged stress. Depression often prompts the person to isolate, which can prolong the illness further or increase the person’s proneness to become depressed again.
Practising mindfulness involves the same principles as practising any other skill. You should practise often and only a little at a time, starting from easy exercises. Some exercises may even feel a little silly. However, every exercise can contribute to you learning the skill to refocus, shift and maintain your attention, and these skills are also key in terms of living with your depression sensitivity.
It may feel like mindfulness has nothing to do with depression, or it may even feel a little invalidating to suggest mindfulness exercises as a way to treat depression. However, more and more research information is being accumulated on the benefits of mindfulness, and mindfulness-based treatment has been found to be particularly useful in preventing the recurrence of depression.
Mindfulness is associated with a variety of views and beliefs. The next video goes through some of the most common misconceptions regarding mindfulness.
What mindfulness is not?
Take a moment to think about what kinds of preconceived notions you have regarding mindfulness or meditation. Think also about where these notions are coming from. Do you have certain impressions of people who practise mindfulness? Or have you perhaps read articles or watched videos that have caused you to feel irritation or frustration or otherwise made you sceptical?
This programme is designed to be undertaken one week at a time. Each week features a different theme, information and perspectives related to the theme and mindfulness exercise recordings. You should reserve a peaceful place and roughly 15–60 minutes at the start of the week so that you will have enough time to read the materials for the week and do the week’s exercise.
You should do the week’s mindfulness exercise several times per week, preferably every day. You should think about what time slot in your everyday life is best suited for practising, reserve time for doing the exercise and utilise different reminders. If you do your exercises in a place with other people present, you should also make sure that you have headphones.
You should also have supplies for taking notes so that you can write down what thoughts and feelings the exercise arouses in you and do the contemplative assignments of the programme.
Going through this self-care programme requires an adequate ability to function, as well as motivation to commit to practising on a regular basis. So, if you are currently feeling so down that you are unable to do mindfulness exercises, now is not the right time for you to undertake this programme. However, bear in mind that losing concentration during exercises does not prevent you from doing them – everyone is bound to lose focus at some point.
This programme is primarily meant for people who have suffered from repeated depression episodes or prolonged symptoms of depression. Practicing mindfulness may also be useful for people who have received a diagnosis for the first time. We do not recommend this programme for anyone suffering from a severe or a psychotic depression.
This self-care programme can also be combined with other treatment programmes. In such an arrangement, you should think about the things you have learned together with your treatment professional. If you go through the programme independently, you may find it helpful in your practice to talk about things with someone close to you.
- 1st week: mindfulness and depression
In week 1, you will get to know what mindfulness means and what is it like to practice mindfulness. During the week you will try and get a sense of what does it feel like to do different exercises.
- 2nd week: are you living on autopilot?
In week 2, you will learn about the minds autopilot and how the autopilot affects mood.
- 3rd week: being and doing
In week 3, you will have a look at the different modes of mind and practice switching modes by mindfulness.
- 4th week: body connection
In week 4, you will strengthen your body connection with various exercises.
- 5th week: motion as an anchor to the present moment
In week 5, you will try mindfulness exercises that use movement. Movement is one of the best ways to bring your mind back to this moment.
- 6th week: openness to the moment
In week 6, you will have a look at how your thoughts and interpretations can affect your mood. You will also practice observing your thoughts from a small distance.
- 7th week: functioning
In week 7, you will learn about how the connection of depression and functional ability and how mindful activity can increase well-being.
- 8th week: practice begins now
In the last week of the programme, you will reflect on what you have learned, what was most important for you, and what kind of a role could mindfulness have in your life from now on.