When I suffered from depression, sleepless nights were standard operating procedure. My mind never wanted to shut off. I’d lay in bed all night reliving an uncomfortable conversation I had at work, fretting about an upcoming obligation, obsessing about what to pack for a weekend getaway, or even replaying a song I heard on the radio. And no matter how many sheep I counted, how much valerian root I chewed or how much melatonin I swallowed, the talk track in my head kept right on playing. It was awful, to say the least.
My depression has been behind me for a few years now, but I still remember exactly how bad all those sleepless nights felt. That being the case, I want to address racing thoughts with my first blog in the Depression Symptoms and Solutions series in hope of helping all of you out there who are struggling under the weight of depression rest easier… literally!
In order to understand why racing thoughts are common for people who battle with depression, you need a primer on brainwaves. There are three brainwaves you need to be familiar with, specifically. In order from highest to lowest, they are: Hi-Beta, Beta, and Alpha. To be clear, there are other brainwaves above, below and between these three. However, these three are the ones that concern us most when it comes to treating depression.
To steal a page out of Bob Roth’s book (by the way, Bob Roth is the author of a wonderful book called Strength In Stillness, which I’d encourage all of you to check out), I’d like to ask you to think of brainwaves as a cross section of the ocean. Hi-Beta brainwaves are like the roughest, biggest, choppiest waves at the surface of the ocean during a storm. Beta brainwaves are like the usual turbulence of waves at the surface under normal circumstances, and alpha brainwaves are like the smooth rise and fall of the swell just below the surface.
To bring our ocean analogy over to real life, Hi-Beta brainwaves are those you experience when your mind is racing, all choppy and frantic and out of control. Beta brainwaves are those you experience when going about your daily business. Bob Roth calls those the gotta mind, as in I gotta go to the store, I gotta get home, or I gotta call my dad. And finally, Alpha brainwaves are those you experience when you are keenly focused on one thing and one thing only.
Now, what does all this talk about brainwaves have to do with depression? Simple. When you are depressed, you are stuck in Hi-Beta and Beta far more often than people who are healthy. And that is precisely why racing thoughts are so common for those who struggle with depression- because you literally have different brain chemistry than healthy people do. As a side note, that is also why depressed people often need more sleep than healthy people do. Thoughts are energy, so the more you think, the more calories you burn, and the more tired you become. So, as you can hopefully see now, understanding brainwaves is very important when it comes to matters concerning depression!
Here’s the good news. Contrary to popular belief, medication is not the only way to change your brain chemistry. You do not require antidepressants to train your brain how to operate at a different wavelength. One of the most powerful tools available in the toolbox for helping you drop out of Hi-Beta and Beta brainwaves into an Alpha brainwave is a daily practice of Transcendental Meditation, or TM for short.
Clinical studies have shown that those who practice TM consistently are able to maintain an Alpha brainwave pattern longer and longer as time goes on. What does that mean, exactly? It means you get to say goodbye to racing thoughts, because when you are in an Alpha brainwave you are intently focused and in full control. And that, friends, is why those who practice TM on a regular basis report less than half the symptoms of depression and anxiety as others do. So, I’d encourage you to find a certified TM instructor in your area today and get started on learning how to meditate properly right away. Sweet dreams, my friends!