Jumble trains the mind, keeps depression at bay

U-S-V-E-A

I am trying to unscramble these letters. It is supposed to "form an ordinary word," according to the Jumble instructions in the paper. I have been at it for awhile now, an embarrassing while now, considering I am a writer.

This is a new tool to help me stop — or at least divert — the "stinkin' thinkin" that can start when I am in a funk. And I am in a funk.When this happens I obsess over the person, place, thing or situation that triggered the funk. I don't talk about it. I let it wreak havoc in my head. I give it my undivided attention. After a few days it seeps into my subconscious and I start dreaming about it. Then I notice the muscles in my face have gone slack and I am very, very tired.

I am on an emotional luge and I have to stop before I pick up any more speed. Hence, the Jumble. A good friend told me she does the Jumble every morning. She said it is good exercise for her brain. I'm not sure my brain needs any more exercise but it certainly needs direction and self-restraint, like that Weimaraner I used to own.

I learned about the concept of mind training from the Dalai Lama and a friend old enough to remember record players. In Tibetan Buddhism the concept of training, disciplining, and calming the mind is called Lojong. The practice involves focusing your thoughts and actions on dozens of proverbs to correct bad mental habits that cause anxiety, fear, anger and other fuels for depression. Frankly, I suck at it.

I prefer to use my friend's Western thought control technique. Say you are listening to an album on a record player and a song you really dislike — such as anything by Tony Orlando and Dawn — comes on. You pick up the arm, stop the annoying music, and move it to a song that you really like. When my obsessive, negative thoughts take over, visualize picking up the arm and placing it on a thought you really like — such as anything that involves a hammock.

When these techniques do not work, I need a task that demands intense focus. I am blessed to have a career that requires intense focus. But there are days — like today — when I need to have one of those tasks waiting for me as soon as I roll out of bed.

Jumble.

It is noon and I still have not figured out U-S-V-E-A. I also have not spent the entire morning consumed with depression-provoking, obsessive thoughts. The beautiful thing is that when I unscramble U-S-V-E-A there are three more Jumbles!

Christine Stapleton writes for The Palm Beach Post. E-mail: christine(underscore)stapleton(at)pbpost.com. To read previous columns, go to PalmBeachPost.com/depression