I know that making your bed seems like a small, insignificant thing to do in the midst of a pandemic. And it is. But making your bed is so much more than making your bed. This mundane task is a way to stay mindful, focusing on the here and now. In fact, if you don’t do it (and start to let go of other daily living tasks), it can be like the canary in the coal mine. The theme of the canary’s singing would be, “Alert: Possible Depression Spotted.”
We have so many grave things happening now, with daily reminders that life is anything but normal. All of this change and uncertainty is wearing and eventually, can lead you to what I call “Why bother?” Thinking.
“Why bother?” Thinking goes like this:
I should get out of bed but it’s a pandemic so why bother?
I could go on a walk but it’s not really going to matter or make me significantly happier. Why bother?
Sure, I could make my bed, but I’m not going anywhere or doing anything so why bother?
This kind of thinking — characterized by thoughts that everything is insignificant — is one of the warning signs for depression.
The truth is that once you think about a lot of the things we do, many of them can seem small and unimportant. Using your favorite coffee cup for your morning coffee, wearing your favorite soft pants, buying the brand of cereal you like — none of these are profound but they are important. Part of the reason they matter is that they reflect that you are being mindful. Mindfulness is simply being present with where you are right now, and noticing — with your senses — your immediate surroundings. These small choices that give us pleasure or the comfort of familiarity are a simple way of being present with our lives.
Depression often borrows from the past or the future, rather than staying in the present. People who are depressed often go over and over events of the past and typically with a distorted lens. They were “always” unhappy and “never” good enough, They think of what is to come in the future and pre-write an incredibly negative outcome as if it is their destiny. These kinds of negative thoughts are a hallmark of depression.
When you are depressed or on the path to depression, you may have trouble staying in the present. In fact, you may be actively avoiding it. But instead of continuing down this path, try hard to focus on the small choices and small rituals. Making your bed is a good start, though there are many other little life tasks you could choose.
Do an experiment for a day and pay attention to every time your thoughts go to the past or the future. Are these thoughts neutral or are they filled with negative judgement and discomfort? Take notice of what it’s like when you tear your thoughts back to the present. Close your eyes and try to name five things in the room you’re in.
If you find your mind constantly wandering away from the present, practice. Mindfulness apps are like a therapist in your pocket, coaching you on the go. Some great options are Insight Timer and UCLA Mindful.
These small ways of being present can be helpful but sometimes people need more support than an app can offer. In that case, please feel free to reach out to the therapists at Nova Terra Therapy at 571-386-0168.
Other services offered by Nova Terra Therapy:
In addition to providing mindfulness support and depression treatment, Our Burke, VA therapy office and online therapy practice offers a variety of comprehensive mental health services to adults in Northern Virginia area. Our therapists specialize in providing individual therapy, CBT, anxiety treatment, relationship counseling, trauma treatment and PTSD treatment, and EMDR.