One of the things we do when we’re feeling a yucky emotion – whether it’s sadness, depression, guilt or anger, is to run from it. We resist it. We fight it. We pretend it’s not there.
And, as I often hear from meditation students, the last thing we want to do when we’re feeling down is to meditate. Who on earth would want to sit quietly and go into silence, when their mind is reminding them of all the reasons they should feel bad?
Yet, often, that’s the best thing we could do. So how could you best handle meditating, when you’re not in the mood?
As Carl Jung remind us, ” What you resist persists.”
Resisting the emotion, ironically, produces the opposite of our intended outcome. We end up giving it all of our attention and power. We end up wasting our time with distractions that don’t really make us feel any better. We end up looking over our shoulder, to see if that emotion is chasing us, as we run away from it.
And it will. Because we’re giving it all of our attention. Our thoughts are constantly reminding us that it’s there. Our actions are influenced by trying to avoid it. Our tone of voice and even the words we choose will all give away the secret inside.
So why on earth would we want to sit still and meditate?!
Yes, why would we want to sit quietly and put ourselves at risk of actually feeling that emotion, when we could be distracting ourselves on the internet, with housework, by chatting, by going shopping, by doing anything else, rather than actually being present to our thoughts and feelings?
Because meditation can really help at those times. In fact, it’s one of the best tools around for helping you release painful emotions and lift your mood.
Now, before I go any further, it’s important to make a distinction between ‘feeling down’ and clinical depression. ‘Feeling down’ is (even if it doesn’t feel it at the time) a transient emotion. Clinical depression is a chronic dis-ease, which often needs professional help. If you’re suffering from clinical depression, you will benefit more from active forms of meditation, such as mindfulness, rather than silent sitting and contemplation. Yoga can also be highly effective.
But every time we’re feeling down, we tend to give ourselves the label “I am depressed.”
What’s the problem with that?
It gives our unconscious mind the message that this emotional state is no longer a passing experience, but must be sustained. The chemical reactions in the body that created the sensation of feeling depressed are miraculously transformed into an identity-level state of being. We create the belief that we are depressed and, at some level, want or feel we have to stay stuck there. And we unconsciously adapt our behaviours to support that state. We change the stories we tell ourselves in our heads. We change the stories we tell to others. We change our posture to that of someone who is feeling depressed. We even start to eat and drink like someone suffering from depression – and these foods can often make the matter worse – we end up eating comfort foods & caffeine-based drinks that can wreck our mood and make us feel more miserable!
Is that what we really want?
So what’s the answer?
Millions of meditators from all traditions have shown that sitting silently with a strong emotion and being fully present to it, without resisting or telling our story, is an incredibly powerful way of letting it go.
It doesn’t have to hurt. It doesn’t have to feel bad. What makes us feel bad is telling ourselves stories and choosing thoughts and behaviours that keep us stuck in that yucky place.
It’s also not about pretending it’s not there.
It’s about spotting our auto-pilot responses and choosing to respond differently.
Meditation is about accepting our life, just as it is. Then we can consciously choose what to change – be it a habit, our environment or our response.
How about trying a really light-hearted idea, if you don’t want to do silent sitting by yourself.
Grab a cuddly toy!
Don’t sit by yourself. Grab the nearest cuddly toy / pot plant / fluffy cat and sit with it, instead. If your mind needs company, let it chat to your companion, while your body enjoys the benefits of meditation 🙂 It might sound (or feel) ridiculous, but that’s the idea! It’s hard to feel miserable when you’re behaving with childlike silliness!
It’s about breaking the cycle and doing something to shake your chattering mind up a bit. It’s an amazingly powerful way of changing the behaviour that had been keeping you stuck.
Jump around to music
Or you could jump around a bit to some of your favourite music, before you meditate. That will release endorphins (the body’s natural ‘feel-good’ hormones), especially if you smile while you’re doing it. It’s as though you’re ‘shaking off’ the bad mood.
Perhaps silent sitting isn’t what you need at that moment – maybe mindfulness meditation would help instead?
In fact, mindfulness has been proven so effective in helping even with clinical depression that many mainstream doctors are recommending it to their patients now, in conjunction with Cognitive Behavioural Therapy.
Whatever your mood and however you are feeling, regular meditation can help you ‘ride the waves’ more easily. It helps you see through the games your unconscious mind plays and puts you in the position to be able to choose to how respond – to choose how to feel – when life throws you the occasional curve ball.
If you’d like to find out more about how even 10 minutes a day of meditation could change your life, you might like to join our 28 Day Meditation Challenge.
We’d love to hear your views on how to meditate when you’re feeling down – and how meditation has helped you when you’ve been feeling glum, via the comments box, below!