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When depressed, we often try to think ourselves out of it, or we berate ourselves for being down in the first place. We may think that nothing matters or that we do not matter, running on our mental hamster wheel.
Einstein can be of help with this. He wrote, “You cannot solve a problem from the same consciousness that created it.” Although he was not speaking about depression, it applies—with just a bit of tweaking:
"You cannot solve a depressed mood from the depressed consciousness that sustains it."
When we attempt to think our way out of a funk, or we entertain our circular thoughts about pain and meaninglessness, the result is more funk and continued circular thoughts. There are several ways we can distract our mind, such as calling a friend, reading a book, or watching a sitcom. We can also help ourselves by letting the mind go quiet.
Quieting the mind can slow or reduce negative thoughts, ease emotional suffering, and sometimes it alleviates a depressed mood. Even if you are not a practitioner of mindfulness or other type of meditation, quieting your mind even for few seconds can make a noticeable difference.
We reinforce depressed moods with dreadful thoughts that trigger negative feelings. By quieting those thoughts, our current emotional state is no longer held hostage by them. Our feelings are free to shift or change.
Turning off the mental lights requires little effort. Letting thoughts go is a relief, not a chore. You might have to keep reminding yourself to release the thoughts, but you can engage your imagination to make letting go easier:
It is ideal to sit comfortably and to close your eyes while doing this, but you can pull the plug on thoughts in staff meetings, on the bus or train, while walking, driving, cooking, or cleaning the toilet bowl.
Fighting depressed thoughts with a depressed mind is using fire to douse fire, or funk to extinguish funk. Or, as Einstein might say, “We cannot get out of the muck with a consciousness full of muck.”
Quieting the mind changes the state of our consciousness, and that alone can relieve symptoms. It also frees our emotions and creates an opportunity to think on things anew.
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