Using Deliberate Awareness for Depression
You've stared at the same page of the book for the past 30 minutes. You've prepared a meal and you can't particularly remember doing it. You feel disengaged, disinterested and preoccupied with your thoughts. If you've been their before you know these can be the early signs of depression.
For most people the build up to depression is a rather insidious process. What perhaps starts out as a moment of worry develops into an all-consuming issue. Things begin to look overwhelming and it seems easier to do nothing than to attempt the impossible. What follows is a battle with lethargy but the evidence suggests that a few simple strategies can help.
It may seem counter-intuitive to increase activities when you least feel like it but it can work. For example, evidence consistently points to the beneficial effects of exercise on mood. The reason is that even modest exercise will reduce stress and increase mood-enhancing endorphins.
Big tasks can be broken down into manageable chunks. Some people find that working for a set period of time before taking a break can help. Others break down the task into parts they like and parts they dislike before choosing which to tackle and in what order. These personal strategies take time to develop and what works for one person may be useless to someone else.
Then we come to deliberate awareness. John McManamy has previously written on the benefits of mindfulness; the use of deliberate awareness extends from this. The approach, outlined by psychologist Professor Marsha Linehan, Ph.D., requires the person to become actively aware of any task they are involved in. For example, when you go to make a coffee you check off the steps as if you are trying to make an accurate and detailed record of the event, your surroundings and the senses involved:
‘The kitchen is gloomy so I've put on the light - which has an orange glow; I can smell the toast someone made earlier; I'm going to select this mug - the one with the red and pink roses; the kettle is still warm and is half full.'
The intensity of involvement becomes a distraction from personal judgements and ruminations and it serves to heighten your sense of ‘now' rather than simply functioning in a state of half-life so commonly linked to depression.