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Ruby Wax – How Mindfulness Can Transform Depression & Anxiety

Ruby Wax On How Mindfulness Can Transform Depression, Overcome Performance Anxiety & Create A ‘Sane New World’

In this interview Melli and Ruby explore how the modern world affects our brains and how mindfulness can help. Ruby talks about her incredibly popular show ‘sane new world’ and about the importance of the de-stigmatization of mental illnesses like depression and anxiety.

Listen as she shares her own story of how mindfulness transformed her experience of depression and gives advice for those who are suffering with it now.

Also hear how Ruby uses mindfulness to overcome nerves before going onstage.

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Show Notes

Join The Mindfulness Summit Journey here

Come and join the community discussions at any time on our Facebook page

You can find Ruby’s website here http://www.rubywax.net/ where you can also find out details of her shows and her books.

Here is the website mentioned for depression in Australia https://www.beyondblue.org.au/




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172 Responses

    1. Robert Sendling

      I am perplexed by this interview. I empathize completely with Ruby but cannot see the reason for inclusion of this discussion in this wonderful series. I deeply appreciate this insightful series but am somewhat confused at the placement of this interview.

      Peace and Love,

  1. Susan Spriggs

    Had so been looking forward to Ruby’s interview today & it didn’t disappoint! I actually believe she saved my life! Reading Ruby’s book “sane world”was the first time I acknowledged to myself that the thoughts I had in my head were those of a human being suffering from an illness which has been labelled as a mental illness called depression. Throughout my life & I am now in my fifties I have had periods of low mood which to quote “I always pulled my self out of because I didn’t want to be like my mum on medication for depression” I now realize how stupid I have been. I should have been “kinder to myself many years ago ” but on the other hand I now accept”it has to be the right time in your life to acknowledge your depressive illness & seek the help of those humans around you who want to help” On 29th June 2015 that was my time. I admitted I was in a very dark place & please would someone help me! You be pleased that my family & friends who loved me did & I am still alive today. My sister -in -law said “you should read Ruby Wax’s book it talks about mindfulness & I think that might be for you” So Ruby Wax & my sister -in-law Angela saved my life !!!

  2. Katja Fleck

    Thank you for this wonderful summit, Melli!
    And I would love to see Ruby’s show!

    But I wondered about that what Ruby said about not using mindfulness when you ARE depressed. Isn’t it a great opportunity to check in and e.g. do the SAFE exercises? To find out what you need right now and find some way to provide it to yourself. (Considering you have trained your muscle before or you have someone to guide you). One of the first things you would work on with a depressed person is to help them connect to something good for them to do, even though it might be difficult. And then evaluating how that made them feel, think, what there sensations were… Isn’t that mindfulness? I am looking forward to your comments!
    Also I found it difficult to reduce a mental disorder to either you “have it or not”. There is very well a continuum and we all have depressed elements in us but that does not mean we full fill the diagnostic criteria for depression. Or did I misunderstood what Ruby said?
    Have a great weekend!

    1. liz Caruso

      I remember in the talk yesterday he was saying the safe method was for issues sitting around a 4-6 out of 10 and I would think that this would be close to a 9 or ten Therefore not ideal. That’s what understood from the talk .

      1. Katja Fleck

        Thanks Liz for pointing that out! I think to be more stabilised before getting into that exercise makes absolut sence. But could one not get there mindfully e.g. while starting activities again and observing them mindfully. Just thinking aloud now how mindfulness could help in an acute depressive phase to get out of it.

    2. Jenny

      I wonder if the main issue is STARTING a practice of mindfulness when you are experiencing extremely low mood/suicidal thoughts, particularly if you don’t have anyone there with you (which I think is maybe what you are saying there, in terms of training your muscle). Maybe once you have those skills, mindfulness can be a way of helping you to both deal with the really bad times, but also help you realise when there’s a bad time ahead (I think Ruby said something about it being like a warning bell for her). Sometimes, when things are really unsafe in your head, going in there can be terrible, and it’s just about getting to a place of safety, so that you don’t do anything risky or life-threatening.

    3. Simone de+Lima

      I was actually really glad she went in that direction . In my experience– and I acknowledge everyone is unique– during a full blown deep depression crisis it just makes things worse to try to meditate or for example, try yoga nidra I find a meditative practice has helped me not spiral down into depression as often, it has helped me deal very differently with many previously unbeatable triggers, but if it really comes, it’s just more frustrating to “try things”. I learned that the hard way. Yoga nidra had helped me a ton outside of crises but trying it during crises only led me into full blown anxiety attacks– and to this day I can’t listen to what I previously thought was a wonderful guided practice. I do wish more people knew that during major depressive episodes the best thing one can do to help a depressed person is to tell then they believe how terribly you feel, to help them understand they can and should take time off — our guilt has us trying to brave the world when it’s really impossible and that only makes things worse– and just being there for the person–feeding and hydrating them and just sitting with them and bringing them maybe a good movie which will get their minds off the endless despair and saying “this will pass and I’ll still be here”. Major depression is completely different from the blues or a funk you get into. Also , luckily I don’t know about cancer but I totally agree with the “it hurts like hell “thing. I would trade being depressed for ANY pain I’ve ever felt.

  3. Teresa Gray

    Ruby is an amazing person who has come out of the dark! I admire her a lot because of that and the fact that she is helping others who have been “there”. Shame the video was not clear and finished abruptly. Thank you for sharing with us a bit of your life Ruby!

  4. Patricia Dentler

    Thank you Ruby and thanks to the organizers of this summit for bringing such insightful people to our days. The thing that is helpful to me about the insights that Ruby [and Dan Harris] have is that they are so raw and reflect a place much closer to where I currently breath than some of the other wonderful speakers [who are in a calmer place] .

    1. Iris Wieman

      Exactly my feeling Patricia! Ruby and Dan are very motivating teachers for people who’ve just started doing mindfulness and are constantly being hijacked by difficult emotions.

  5. Sue Bolley-Smith

    Listened to this talk twice. In answer to a comment made I think Ruby was trying to say that when you are in a really dark place perhaps to start practicing mindfulness is not a good idea as if you can’t manage to do the practice you might beat yourself up about this. So perhaps start when you come out of the hole. That was how I perceived her comments anyway.
    Many thanks for a great summit.

  6. Iris Wieman

    I keep thinking about the walk-in centers Ruby is opening in her country. Shouldn’t we have these centers all over the world, just like the AA, so that people always have some sort of refuge when it gets too rough?

  7. Great discussion on such a personal and accessible level. I love the idea of mindfulness for the masses and how the ending of the show gives the audience a moment to dip into mindful presence without realising it! Would love to know if Ruby’s show could work in schools too! Also I love the neuro wifi. Booked to see Ruby’s show here in November. Book is fantastic ,

  8. Dolores MacNeil

    I also listened to this twice since I was uplifted by Rubys insights. De stigmatizing mental illnesses needs to happen quickly.
    I never considered depression to be all or none though.
    Thank you Amelia and Ruby

  9. Anne

    Oh my, I am so pleased and relived to have listened to Ruby Wax. I never heard of her before which is sad. I have been suffering with depression since my teens as a result of traumatic event in my teens that I unknowing put out of mind for years. It was revealed to me through the aid of a wonderful therapist. Anyway, I am what she is talking about. Those mental battles between the wackos in my head is a constant ongoing rampage of belittlement and insecurities. I have learned that it will come and when it is coming I have to recognize it, Kind of say hello, how long are here for, why don’t you go back where you came from. Some times it helps and my spot on the couch remains empty, other times I’m sunken into the corner of the couch and will not move! I know there are others out there like me but when your the one in the muck you really don’t see anyone else. None of your friends must suffer this way, I’m the only one and they can’t see it, I hide it from them too. Anyway I’m rambling now. Thank you Melli for introducing me to Ruby, she is wonderful and I hope I get to see her live some day.

  10. Jenny

    <3 <3 <3 Ruby. I love that she has used her own depression in such a wonderful, productive, healing way. The idea of not feeling embarrassed, ashamed, or apologetic for my depression is still pretty radical – I think it's AMAZING and important, but it's hard to get it from my brain into my bones. I really appreciate Ruby for helping both myself and others challenge that internalised stigma about being 'mad-mad'.

  11. Jean Enright

    Thanks for opening this summit to all interested. I was lucky that a friend sent me the website. Like most, I thoroughly enjoyed this interview. Melli, you were able to listen and flow along with the points being presented by Ruby. I felt Ruby more than answered the questions by giving real life stories, and providing related associations. Ruby brought out the point mentioned by Rick Hanson, that meditation is not some state, but a relationship with ourselves. Not all brains are the same, and Ruby has shown that even when we have ” no spare brain” , being aware of that possibility allows one to decide how to ” ride it out”. I am sure this interview will dovetail nicely with the upcoming presentation with Paul Gilbert.
    This was a rich and personal interview, greatly appreciated.

    Jean Enright

  12. Layal Chemaitelly

    This was really powerful. So happy to see genuine people of all walks of life and careers who’ve been there, done that and do their best to communicate it to “their people”. Ruby, you’re awesome.

  13. Mahshid Poursartip

    I am utterly thankful to be able to have access to the talk, since I missed it yesterday. Thank God I went back and checked. It was so close to Earth, natural,grounded and connected to the reality of everyone’s state of mind, that I can not believe it. The way she described a situation, or the way she pictured her feelings with simple words, it’s beyond my belief. She somehow animated her experience with words in front of my eyes. Out of the talk, although it was about depression and mental illnesses, she said something that unveiled a mystery for me: addiction to people. How many of us have found ourselves doing things in order to get other’s attention, approval, love, pity, recognition, ……? I guess many of us. We often recognize ourselves by the title people have given us: generous, happy, kind, …. and we live a lifetime clinging to that title, doing things to keep the title alive. We do act of kindness, not for the sake of love and kindness, only for other people’s attention, since we are addicted to their opinion, and recognition.
    Melli, you are the master behind it.

  14. Wendy Holladay

    Thoroughly enjoyed listening to Ruby. I totally get that when I’m midst my beast (the depression/mania) then that’s the time for medication and medical intervention. Now that I have found mindfulness, through DBT, I have the ability to step outside of the voices and reconnect with me. I LOVE mindfulness and thank you for this summit it really is providing me with lots of food for thought.

  15. Maria Anagnostellis

    What a breath of fresh air .. thank you. What I got out of this is a clear example of making mindfulness work for you in your world – and how it is different for each person. think this is a good case in point …

  16. KDVazira

    Thank you Melli and Ruby! First of all, big thanks to Melli for organizing this AMAZING summit! What a gift and I am so happy that I am able to participate. And to Ruby – huge thanks also! I LOVED your talk…. it’s the first that’s compelled me to write. The others have been incredible, but your talk was extraordinary! I loved the “mad mad” and “normal mad”. I think it’s so true about all of us. I also appreciate the discussion on small talk and insincerity….. which is also true. I had a friend ask me once why people don’t ever really say what they are really feeling… and what a different place the world would be if everyone spoke the truth, compassionately of course, but all the time… just speak the truth. I know I try, but it doesn’t always happen. Thanks to both of you for your work and for sharing such great information.

  17. Eva

    Talk openly about mental illness is a big deal. If a popular person does it, the impact is even bigger. We need to free mental illness from stygma, take it out if the closet, open our practices to the world to show what happens in it. I like what she said about looking how the world is reflects what is happening in our individual minds.
    Thank you for sharing. I would love to go to your show here in Atlanta!

  18. Fiona McVicar

    Yes yes yes I identified with much of what you said Ruby. But I took a sharp intake of breath and my hand went to my mouth when you spoke of “the towels”. You call them families I call them sets. Is that too a part of the human condition????

  19. Billy Joe+Uy

    Thank you. You can see how Ruby Wax is as real as a person can get. There are no hiding or faking anything, just to be more accepted. I love how she expresses and understands depression so well. I know that just having more people like her would save numerous lives and maybe even turn our “silent desperation” into something more positive and really know how to live our lives more fully.

  20. femke

    Love the way Ruby uses her talents as a comedian to de stigmatise mental illness but also agree with her about the medication remark. I teach yoga and I’ve noticed that some teachers and trainers in the yoga and mindfulnesss world try to fix depression while students are in the midst of a major episode. In that case it only reinforcing the feeling of ‘they’re is really something wrong with me if this doesn’t work either’. So really happy Ruby brought that up.
    Thank you! Xx

  21. Maureen Kinyanjui

    Thank you for this. I have began to notice the alarm bells telling me that something is not right through being mindful. I had taken time out from the summit because I was so low and out of it , just staying in bed feeling awful but then this time I knew from listening to this interview before I went into the depression that I needed to be gentle with myself. So I have been gentle with myself, I didn’t try to force myself back through yoga and meditation and social events that make me feel like crawling under a rock. I just waited, telling myself it will pass. And I am here to say thank you for doing this for us. The light bulb has come back on again faster than it ever did before and all I did was learn to be nice to myself. Now I continue learning. Thanks again.

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