Depression and anxiety: it’s not us, it’s our brains – and we can fix it

Okay, this blog might read like an infomercial, but it’s not. I’m just excited, something that doesn’t happen often when you have depression.

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Imagine thinking that your depression or anxiety isn’t your fault. It’s pretty damn hard to do. I know because I’ve dealt with depression since 1982.

Many of us sufferers have become accustomed to thinking that we are to blame for our mental health issues. We believe we suck, that we deserve this nightmare, and that no matter what we do we can’t get out of it.

It took me decades to grasp that I’d been feeding myself untruths.

Depression and anxiety don’t happen because of us personally. They’re caused by what’s going on in our minds.

And we can change how our minds work. Literally. I was beginning to learn that truth when I came across a book that drove it home.

Simply Mindful – A 7-week Course and Personal Handbook for Mindful Living

“A complete guide with skills, concepts and research.”

Published 2020 by Moon Lake Media.

Donald Altman has written over 15 books. He’s a psychotherapist and former Buddhist monk, combining the latest research with ancient practices. He’s also a major teacher to other health care professionals.

This book by Donald Altman demonstrated – learnedly yet easily – that mindfulness can change how our brains function. Never have I felt more encouraged from reading a book about mental wellness. It actually left me feeling uplifted and hopeful about taming depression and anxiety. I even left this review on Amazon about it. (And no, I’m not being paid to promote it. I just want to help as many people as possible.)

A masterpiece of expertise, encouragement and practical help. Never have I felt more encouraged by a book about mental wellness. Donald Altman has provided a toolbox overflowing with truth, knowledge, reassurance, and practical help that really works. After enduring decades of depression and anxiety, I am so heartened to learn how to reshape my brain and take control over what I bring into my life. All the exercises were so easy to do and had immediate beneficial effect. Impeccable research and expertise has been put into refreshingly simple and practical terms. This book will hold a special place in my mental health toolbox for years to come. A triumph!

Through mindfulness we can “rewire” segments of our brains

Maybe you’ve heard that mindfulness can help with depression and anxiety, but were unsure how to go about it, or even shied away from it thinking it’s some hippie shit. While the idea of mindfulness isn’t new, this book lays out what it is and how to learn it.

It shows how mindfulness is the antidote to stress and the pressures of modern life that weigh us down and make us feel resentful or worthless or hopeless. Then it explains how mindfulness helps create new neurons, create new neural pathways, and alter how the brain processes information. This means we can literally rewire our own brains. For those of us with depression and anxiety, this is huge and provides hope. It’s our brains, not us!

Attention increases neuronal activity. In fact, the brain gets wired by what is in the field of focused attention. If someone is listening to music and having their hand stroked at the same time, changes in the brain only occur in those areas where that person is paying attention. This means that—for good or bad—your brain is shaped by what you choose to pay attention to.

The brain’s affective set point is not fixed and can be ‘re-set’ over the long-term. Specific brain states related to feelings of peace, calm, optimism, and happiness are measurable. Meditation and mindfulness increase activity in parts of the brain related to focused attention, wisdom, patience, optimism, and compassion.

I love how the book outlines simply and clearly the science of how stress negatively affects the mind and health, and how mindfulness creates noticeable, measurable improvement.

A skill for life

Just like learning to walk or feed yourself, mindfulness is a skill to develop. (So is depression and so is anxiety. We developed those skills.) Simply Mindful has exercises in each chapter that are simple to do and apply to every aspect of life: personal life, family, work, etc.

If we’re willing to work on our mental health in a meaningful way, mindfulness is an awesome skill. And Altman’s work shows it’s not the domain of gurus, but available freely to everyone.

An easy read

Altman’s book is always encouraging and simple to follow. Everything is explained clearly, simply, and with such a friendly tone. It’s packed with impeccable research that is easy to digest and never weighty. I found the exercises had immediate positive effect and were so easy to do. Even for somebody with crippling anxiety, the exercises are always simple and achievable.

Rediscover your true self

It’s easy to think of learning mindfulness as learning a new way, but that doesn’t do it justice. Each one of us was born able to practice mindfulness, but we’ve forgotten how to as life has unfolded. As Altman shows, it’s more about remembering your true self. It’s about reconnecting to yourself, to others, to life.

With mindfulness, intentionality, and gratitude, we can calm internal chaos and learn to live in the now (which is where life happens) with acceptance and grace. We can learn to let go of negative habits and what we wrongly think is essential and just be.

Life-affirming

If you follow the approaches in Simply Mindful, I believe it will help the quality of your life. After reading it and applying the techniques, I felt refreshed, cleansed and hopeful – things I experienced precious little of over 39 years of depression.

Okay, “infomercial” over. I’ll let you do the rest to discover.

Amazon link

Donald Altman’s website

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