Overcoming depression often involves a multi-pronged approach. One treatment component you may want to try is meditation.
Meditation and mindfulness have gained quite a lot of attention in recent years. It seems like everyone is doing it. If you haven’t jumped on the bandwagon yet, it may be time to give it a try, especially if you’re feeling depressed.
What is meditation?
Meditation is a way to calm the brain, which then helps to combat feelings of depression and anxiety.
Meditation can take many forms.
- It can be simply breathing deeply and noticing your breathing.
- It can include sitting quietly and noticing how your body feels.
- It might consist of repeating a mantra (a single word or phrase) or listening to relaxing music.
The great thing about meditation is that there are so many ways to do it, and you can do it for as short as one minute and as long as three hours! (Honestly, I don’t know how long you can do it. I’m sure some people have probably done it for longer then three hours).
I’m not going to tell you how to do it here, because there are TONS of resources online, as well as meditation apps like:
How does meditation help combat depression?
One of the hallmarks of depression is persistent negative thinking.
One of the hallmarks of meditation is not judging our thoughts.
Have you ever found yourself in a downward spiral of negative thoughts? Each thought gets more tragic, more dire, and more hopeless.
Have you ever felt even worse about yourself when you notice you’re stuck in negativity? You ask yourself, “Why can’t I get out of this? Why can’t I just think positive thoughts?”
When you meditate, you don’t have to think positive thoughts. You can just let your negative thoughts flow by, notice them, and let them go without feeling bad about them. No judgment. No criticism.
Instead of trying to push down your negative thoughts or pretend they don’t exist, you can break the cycle of negative thinking by becoming aware of your thoughts, then letting them flow by, as though they were a current in a river.
What type of meditation is best for treating depression?
According a 2016 study, Mindfulness-based Cognitive Therapy (which is a type of psychotherapy that incorporates mindfulness practices) can help lower chances of relapse into depression. It has also been found to reduce symptoms of depression like changes in sleep, appetite, and mood.
Other types of meditation can also be effective, such as the following:
- Loving-kindness meditation–creating an attitude of love toward yourself and others
- Breath awareness meditation–focusing on inhaling and exhaling
- Yoga–combining physical positions with breathing techniques
- Transcendental meditation–using sound or a personal mantra
- Visualization–focusing on pleasant images or using guided imagery
- Body scan meditation–focusing on different parts of your body sequentially and noticing sensations
- Chanting–chanting or hearing periodic chimes of a gong
- Walking meditation–meditating before or after walking
You can get more information on each of these types of meditation by reading this article: 11 Types of Meditation that Can Help Treat Depression.
Which is more effective in overcoming depression? Exercise or meditation?
Exercise is often suggested as a way to combat depression. The natural endorphins released during exercise are great mood-boosters.
But for many people, mustering up the energy to exercise when they’re depressed is a big problem.
This means that if you’re depressed and just sitting in bed or on the couch, meditation is the perfect thing to do. All it requires is sitting (or even laying down), which you’re already doing. All it requires is breathing, which you’re already doing.
Can meditation replace anti-depressants?
A study from the University of Oxford found that Mindfulness-based Cognitive Therapy is just as effective as anti-depressants in preventing relapse into depression.
Researchers at Johns Hopkins, looking back over many studies on meditation and depression, concluded that Mindfunelss-based Cognitive Therapy may also be just as effective as anti-depressants in actually treating depression.
This is good news for those who don’t like the side effects of medication, or don’t want to take medication in general.
(If you are currently taking meditation for depression, please consult with your doctor before stopping).
The bottom line is, meditation is one of the easiest things you can do to help yourself feel better when you’re depressed. It’s free. You can do it anywhere, any time. And you can do it for as long (or short) as you want.
As with most things, it takes repeated effort and some time to start noticing the effects.
This Healthline article gives great information on meditation, as well as simple instructions for how to try it yourself.
I like to do a guided meditation with music by Brendon Burchard. In his meditation, you just say the word “release” over and over again. It’s such a powerful word to help you let go of what is weighing you down.
Sometimes I also do a “loving-kindness” meditation where I repeat, “I love and accept you, Melissa.” If there is a person I’m having negative feelings toward, I change it to say, “I love and accept you, (person’s name).”
What are the benefits of meditation?
Meditation has been studied rigorously and has been shown to have so many positive effects beyond helping with depression, including:
- Stress reduction
- Anxiety control
- Improved attention span
- Reduction of age-related memory loss
- Fighting addictions
- Better sleep
- Pain management
- Decrease of blood pressure
Whether you’re currently feeling depressed or not, meditation can enhance your well-being. I recommend you try it today!
If you missed any of the other articles in this series, you can find them here:
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