When you are in the midst of depression — or even when you just feel a bit low — making plans seems pointless, at best. The idea of following through with the plans feels impossible, so you decide it’s best to avoid making plans. However, that’s the worst thing you can do: it is vital to make plans, even if you are certain you can’t stick to them. Here’s why:
• Plans assume you have a future. If you make plans, you are open to the possibility that you have a future — even if this feels like a narrow possibility. It reminds you that there is hope.
• Plans give you something to look forward to. So no matter how awful you feel right now, you know you will be meeting up with friends or buying a bar of chocolate or doing something else pleasurable in the future. It doesn’t matter how “small” your plans are — they still make a difference.
• Plans help you escape your current state of mind. When you are planning, you aren’t caught up in negative thoughts and emotions. It really is that simple!
• Plans give you goals. To change your life, you need goals. You have something to work towards, which is essential. It doesn’t matter how small the steps you take towards your goals are — or if the goals themselves are small — as long as you have an aim.
• Plans are a way of connecting with other people. You can ask friends and family for help or advice. You can read and post in internet forums. Just readi about people with similar plans can help you feel connected to others. Plans remind you that you are part of the world.
So make lots of plans and don’t beat yourself up if you can’t stick to your original plans — they can always be adapted.
Wherever You Go, There You Are: Mindfulness Meditation for Everyday Life by Jon Kabat-Zinn is a comprehensive guide to living more mindfully and making space in your life for meditation. It’s great for beginners, but is also valuable for those who are more experienced in mindfulness meditation. It’s simply written, without being condescending or over-explaining. I don’t use the book every time I meditate, but I return to it time after time for inspiration, clarification or guidance.
Mindfulness meditation is about being in the moment, as opposed to thinking about what you need to do or what has already happened. You might be so caught up in your thoughts that you don’t realise you’re doing it, which is why certain thought patterns are hard to stop and breaking them is an essential strategy for achieving good mental health. Mindfulness teaches you to be aware of your thoughts without getting trapped inside of them.
There are a huge variety of meditations and I am yet to try every single one, but those I have tried are all useful and I have several favourites. Wherever You Go is more of a reference book than your typical self-help guide, despite being easy and enjoyable to read. Because it is centred on practising mindfulness meditation, you will often find yourself impelled to stop reading and start meditating – which is no bad thing!
Since I began making an effort to be more mindful, I find it easier to stop letting negative thoughts run amok and control me. I am, in general, calmer and happier. I have also found that mindfulness helps me to employ other strategies to improve my mental health; I benefit more from using the CBT techniques I learnt in counselling and can use self-care skills more effectively. It’s a pretty powerful weapon to have in your arsenal because mindfulness influences every part of your life.
If you are interested in dabbling in mindfulness meditation, this book is an excellent starting point. It will guide you through your first attempts, when it feels impossible to get past the chatter of your mind, and help you to live more mindfully. Mindfulness is a practice: there is no stopping point where you have reached the pinnacle of mindfulness. Wherever You Go is not the kind of book you grow out of or move past – think of it as a lifelong companion in your endeavours.
About the Reads to Rewrite Your Life series
This series discusses books which have helped to change my perspective on life. Many will be self-help guides, some will be classics and others will be a little different… I aim to provide an eclectic mix to inspire everyone, regardless of whether or not you have mental health issues.
- Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway – Susan Jeffers
- Quiet: the power of introverts in a world that can’t stop talking – Susan Cain
- The How of Happiness – Sonja Lyubomirsky
- The Art of Non Conformity – Chris Guillebeau
- Wherever You Go, There You Are – Jon Kabat-Zinn
- Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience – Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi
- Undoing Depression – Richard O’Connor