If 2016 was the year that I finally admitted to myself, and the world, that I'm struggling with depression then 2017 is going to be the year when I tackle it head on and defeat the monster.
Over the Christmas period I've taken some time to address personal truths, press the reset button and begin to plan a strategy to train my mind to begin to repair itself. If you tear a muscle or break a bone, a physiotherapist will carefully structure a recovery plan for you, helping you to heal the injury over time. When it comes to mental health issues, it's a lot harder to find a structured plan to help heal the injured mind.
In the past, when attempting to deal with my depression, I have used one or two techniques, methods or activities to help. They have worked to various degrees, but nothing has allowed me to build a sustainable, structured program to overcome my illness and lead a full and normal life.
At the heart of my new healing plan is Sati, the Buddhist concept that has been translated into English as 'Mindfulness'. It focuses around being more attentive to the internal experiences of the body and living with more awareness of the present moment, rather than always dreaming of the future or reminiscing over the past. There are 2 key activities that I am going to incorporate into my daily life and with enough rigor and dedication I hope they will become as part of my natural routine as having a shower in the morning.
The first is the ancient art of Meditation. This is something that I have attempted in the past, but with little guidance and only a couple of books on the subject, I found it to be a difficult and frustrating discipline and I can quickly lose interest in things I struggle to engage with. Recently I was introduced to the Headspace app through a friend and I'm hooked. Easy to follow step by step daily sessions make it really easy to make it part of my daily routine. If you've ever wanted to try meditation but have been feeling a bit overwhelmed, confused or even intimidated by it; check out Headspace.
As well as daily meditation, to continue the Mindfulness journey, I plan to get serious about Yoga. A number of ancient civilizations have incorporated spiritual, physical and mental practices as part of daily life for millennia for wellbeing. The Chinese have Tai Chi and the Indians have Yoga and it seems that we can learn a lot from this ancient arts. I spent 3 years living in India and I never took advantage of all the opportunities to practice yoga there so it's time to make up for it and make Yoga a part of my daily life.
Exercise is something I'm far more comfortable with and has been a part of my life since as long as I can remember. I know that I feel better, both mentally and physically, when exercise is a regular part of my life, and I get agitated when I go long periods without being about to work out. Cycling is my first love. I've cycled since my early teens and for the past few years I've set myself annual targets to raise money for charity which gives added purpose to the hours spent out on the road turning the pedals. I've gone back to my roots and started mountain biking again as well as signed myself up for some ultra-endurance events including an ultra-marathon and a 24hr mountain bike race. The training alone should keep my busy enough.
Anyone that knows me, will tell you that food is a hugely important part of my life. When I was originally diagnosed with depression and realised that medication wasn't working for me, one of the strategies I turned to help me was to improve my diet. For the past 18 years I've been fuelled by plants and for the past 3 years I've cut out the dairy and eggs altogether. Plant power is awesome. Having a healthy body is an essential part to having a healthy mind and all the evidence that I've seen points towards a whole food plant based diet as being the healthiest way to eat.
So that's the plan. It might not be perfect, I'll make plenty of mistakes along the way and I've got a lot to learn, but it's a start of my journey towards a healthy future.