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Mindful : April 2015
through intentiona l repetition and action, we can change our brains for the better. And one of the most helpful ways to do that is to counteract our tendency to want to believe we are a problem to be fixed. Instead we can be present for what comes up in our lives and make choices in the small space that opens up between a stimulus and our response. That’s where mindfulness comes in. Once we notice the depression loop in action we’ve already stepped outside of it, into a space of perspective and choice. From there, we have more work to do. Take a Self- Compassion Inventory Here are a few questions to help you gauge the strength of your self-compassion muscle. (Note: if you find it’s low, don’t worry, just like a muscle, it can be strengthened.) 1 Where does the inner critic pop up? At work? When you walk past the mirror ? In relationships? In relation to parenting? 2 What are the repercussions of being so hard on yourself? Does it add to the depression loop? 3 When something difficult arises in life and you fall under stress, where do you rank on the priority list of people to take care of? Do you apply caring to your suffering or try to avoid it? 4 When things are tough, do you tend to compare yourself with others, thinking that they have it together? Or do you have a balanced perspective, knowing that all humans struggle? 5 What would the days, weeks, and months ahead be like if your stress and inner struggles were met with more understanding and caring? Being Versus Doing We are hardwired to solve problems. When a problem arises, we want “to do” something about it. That’s how we’ve evolved and have made the wheel, our first tools, the chairs we sit on, the houses we live in, and even how to read a nd understand these words. Problem solving is a n essential part of life. But contrary to the brain’s belief, life itself is not a problem to be solved; it’s a constantly evolving expe- rience to be lived. Here’s how problem solving gets us trapped deeper in the depressive loop: The moment we experience a n uncomfortable emotion, the brain sees it as a threat because of its potential to lead to depression. We’re supposed to feel well, a nd when we don’t, there is a discrepa ncy between where we a re and where we “should be.” This mind thinks, “There is something wrong with me.” It perceives a defect, a deficiency, an unworthi- ness. The brain sees this as something “to fix” and uses self-judgment to tell us that something is wrong with us or maybe conjures up doomsday scenarios to prepare us for possible catastrophes. Then, because of these potential threats, the brain remains on high alert to see if any more signs of relapse arise. The voice inside the mind inquires anxiously, “Is it gone yet? How about now?” This only adds pressure to an already stressful state of being. The more the bra in focuses on this gap, the more it highlights it in our minds and strengthens the belief that “something is wrong with me.” This only sinks us deeper into the depression loop, which spurs the bra in “to do” something more, continuing to add more fuel to the fire. 62 mindful April 2015 happiness