Cultivating a life of happiness is much the same as cultivating a garden. They both come with pests, and we can choose how we want to treat the pests. Using the example of a vegetable garden, we treat the vegetables and the soil to protect from pests that may interfere with growth and cause damage.
One choice is to spray pesticides. But pesticides also get into the soil, destroying needed nutrients and minerals, and ultimately affect the vegetables’ taste and quality.
We can also choose an organic garden by working the soil, fertilizing it, and taking other measures to protect the vegetables. This leads to healthier, tastier veggies, not to mention the inner pride and satisfaction from the effort put forth.
In our emotional life, mindfulness is a choice to treat the pest of depression. Organic happiness can lead to a healthier lifestyle, a taste for life, and inner pride and satisfaction, much like an actual garden. Here are five tools to work your emotional soil, fertilize it, and protect it from depression:
- Mindful writing. We tend not to see certain discomforts in our life. It can be important sometimes to dig up your emotional garden and see everything in order to treat it with the proper nutrients. Mindful writing can help increase awareness. Simply get a piece of paper and write: “I am aware of ….” Pause to see what surfaces and write it down. Keep writing the phrase “I am aware of,” and see what comes up. This can get dirty at times, so don’t be judgmental and show yourself compassion.
- Curiosity. Depression can take over like weeds, not allowing us to see what is good and pleasurable in our life. Right now, look around where you are, pause, take a breath and look around. Now with childlike curiosity, notice something you find enjoyable. A color? A book? An object, a sound, a smell, a texture? Take as much time as you need. Don’t let anything go unnoticed until you find something.When you do find something, get curious. Look at it, and ask what it is you find enjoyable about it. Does it bring back a memory or remind you of something good? Curiosity can help be a tool to find the unexpected or unnoticed pleasure in your everyday life.
- Gratitude. Have you experienced gratitude today? Pause for a moment and reflect on three things that were good today. Gratitude cultivates openness to receiving appreciation and kindness.Depression can hijack our attention, forcing us to see all that is wrong in our lives. However, with gratitude practice, you can cultivate the inner strength and attention to also see what is good, real, and right in your life. Gratitude becomes the means to practice mindfulness by shifting your attention and awareness on purpose. Research has shown that gratitude is an evidence-based practice to increase emotional well-being .
- Reality. Some good old-fashioned reality is useful. There is evidence to prove that certain mineral and nutrient deficiencies can cause depression . If you were to take a pharmaceutical drug, it would affect your brain chemicals. The same is true if you were to take a pharmaceutical-grade nutritional. Consider getting tested for any deficiencies (especially vitamin D and B vitamins) and treat your soil (your cells) with good nutrients.
- Mountain meditation. We can’t control the weather, but we can be watchful and protect as needed. Close your eyes for a few moments and imagine being inside a mountain. Watch the seasons change, watch the sun come up and go down, and watch storms all with the presence of simply watching and allowing.Now, notice any weather patterns in your life right now. Is it raining, a hurricane, or a tornado? Are you in the aftermath of a storm, or is a storm predicted to come? Now, name a few things that might help to support you or offer some protection. We can’t always change the weather patterns of our lives, but we can learn to protect ourselves as much as possible just as we would a beautiful outdoor garden.
Emmons, R. A., & McCullough, M. E. (2003). Counting blessings versus burdens: An experimental investigation of gratitude and subjective well-being in daily life. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 84, No. 2, 377–389.
Walsh, R. (2011, January 17). Lifestyle and mental health. American Psychologist. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1037/a0021769.