Can Mindfulness Work Just As Well as Medication?May 12th, 2015
When I was six, I fell off my chair during an entrance test into the rigorous college-prep school I attended for 13 years. Whatever, I was bored. I suppose that means I was a bit distracted but give a girl a break—there were live peacocks running around campus!
Before they accepted me, I was required to get tested for ADHD and when the test determined I had it, the learning specialist’s only solution was to medicate me. She also diagnosed me with “Selective Listening.” It might have been because my mom was annoyed that she just paid thousands of dollars for someone to tell her I listen when I want to, but she poo-pooed the ADHD diagnosis and refused to put me on medication. I have never stopped thanking her for that.
Listen, I get it. Medication is a quick fix. Slaying our inner demons of anxiety, fear, self-loathing, and doubt without it is much harder and takes a long time. But what if instead of prescribing people of any age mind-altering drugs, we handed them a yoga mat? Or directed them to a course on meditation?
To be clear: I realize there are chemical imbalances and diseases that simply require western medicine for survival. I know there is a line and I’m not suggesting we stand on only one side of it. I’m just seeking a way to integrate mindful awareness into our healing repertoire.
And it’s not just wishful thinking— The Lancet, a medical journal, recently published a study that suggested that mindfulness-based cognitive therapy may be as good as antidepressants at preventing people from relapsing into bouts of depression.
From the article: “Negative thoughts and feelings will return, but people can disengage from them. Rather than worrying constantly about them, people can become aware of them, understand them and accept them, and avoid being dragged down into a spiral leading back to depression.”
At times medication is absolutely the way. Other times, medication can mask the deeper issues at hand and block us from uncovering the root the problem. If you can’t find the problem, you can’t fix it.
No judgement on whatever path you choose, you do you! But if you’re interested in an organic approach to healing, here are 10 tips I’ve cultivated along the way to quiet the mind, become present, and accept what is. I’ve found that when we apply these mindful practices to our every day life, we start to solve the bigger problems.
1. Figure out what grounds you and do it daily.
I wake up (most) mornings and have the same routine. Hot water with lemon, work out, shower, breakfast. It balances me and then I can respond to the rigors of the day with a calm, secure attitude.
2. Do what you love.
Stop saying yes when you want to say no. Figure out what makes your heart smile. Spend as much time as possible doing that. This makes uncertainty exciting because there’s a faith that every moment has the potential to bring true joy.
3. Release the ego and say goodbye to self-doubt.
Judgement, comparisons, fears, insecurities, and all the guilty feelings that create pain in our lives stem from the ego. Do not them guide you. Take control of your mind; empower it. And then let yourself off the hook when you can’t, you’re working on it, that’s enough.
4. Cultivate unshakeable self-love.
Yes, we’re all crazy. Feel better now that it’s out there? We’re also all awesome; own that, because who cares about the rest? Expand on the ways you rock and forget the rest. When you feel good about yourself, you feel good about everything else.
5. Take nothing personally.
We’re all fighting the good fight and doing it the best way we know how. Everyone handles stuff differently. Choose to let things bounce off you, and they will. It’s so much easier this way!
6. Look whatever feeling comes up straight in the face and be ok with it.
Part of the lesson is learning to be comfortable with discomfort. Just take a deep breath and stop trying to analyze it. It is what it is, move on.
7. Slow down and pay attention.
When we aren’t filling the time with minutiae there’s a lot of empty space. Which is a good thing. That allows us to tune into the detail and pay attention to the signs. This is where we get little winks from the universe that we’re heading in the right direction.
The majority of our society lives from a place of fear. Get out of your adrenals. It always works out the way it’s supposed to, and it’s always alright.
9. Come from a place of unconditional love.
Don’t sweat the small stuff, give and show love every way you can. Happiness is a choice, make that perspective your priority.
10. Practice patience.
Keep your eye on the prize but enjoy the journey. All good things come to those who are still.
Illustration by Karley Koenig