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Meditation can be a powerful practice. It may even positively change the level of activity in your brain and lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol. Although many different people can experience the positive impact of meditation, certain studies show that people with depression, in particular, may benefit from daily meditation practice.
You may have heard that meditation lacks scientific backing or isn't helpful. Although not every coping mechanism works the same for every person, researchers are finding scientific evidence that meditation can improve symptoms of several mental health conditions.
Some treatments for depression, such as antidepressant medications and psychotherapy, may not work for everyone. The regular practice of meditation has been shown to help lower stress levels, which are often elevated in people with depression. The calming effect of meditation may be due to its effects on the levels of cortisol, a stress hormone produced by the adrenal glands.
There are several benefits to meditation for depression, including the following seven.
1. Meditation May Change Your Reactions To Negative Feelings
Depression may be triggered by stress and anxiety. In an interview with Harvard Health, Dr. John W. Denninger explained that meditation could shift a person's perspective, helping them manage their thoughts and feelings more effectively.
"Meditation trains the brain to achieve sustained focus and to return to that focus when negative thinking, emotions, and physical sensations intrude – which happens a lot when you feel stressed and anxious," Dr. Denninger told the publication.
Although this shift in focus may not occur immediately, regular meditation practice may positively affect a person's reactions to stress and anxiety, leading to a less depressed state.
2. Meditation May Silence The Brain's "Fear Center"
You may have heard the brain's amygdala referred to as the "fear center" or "worry center". This part of the brain is involved with activating the "fight or flight" response, which is a stress response that prepares the body to react to perceived threats. Although feeling threatened causes a stress response, anxiety and trauma may also activate this pathway in our brains, increasing the risk of depression over time.
In a study conducted by Boston University and Harvard Medical School, researchers ordered brain scans for each participant with depression before and after eight weeks of mindfulness meditation classes. They report that, in the group that meditated, they "found a trend increase in right amygdala response to negative images, which was significantly correlated with a decrease in depression score".
3. Meditation May Help You Be More Present
Rather than focusing on the future or dwelling on the past, meditation teaches you to concentrate on the present moment and the sensations you feel. By cultivating awareness and acceptance of the present moment, meditation helps promote a sense of calm in the face of stressful situations.
Focusing on the present can extend beyond a meditation session. People who meditate may begin to live in the moment throughout their days. They may find an ability to enjoy minor achievements, heal the past, and trust their ability to cope with stressful events or feelings.
Recent research shows that somatic-based therapies and practices (focused on body sensations) are highly effective for treating trauma. Trauma may be a cause of depression in some individuals. Meditation allows you to simultaneously observe your body, the world around you, and your mind, which may mimic some aspects of somatic therapy.
Other Forms Of Treatment For Depression
Meditation may not be an effective option to treat depression in everyone. If you are experiencing symptoms of depression and want to reach out for professional help, help is available. Depression can be chronic and persistent, and many find that the only treatment that helps is therapy or medication.
If you are interested in trying mindfulness and meditation-based therapy with an expert, studies show that mindfulness-based treatment online is highly effective in treating depression and anxiety. Through online therapy platforms like BetterHelp, you may be able to gain insight into your symptoms and further your understanding of meditation.
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Symptoms of depression may feel overwhelming. Meditation effectively improves mental and emotional well-being for people of all ages, including children and older adults. A daily meditation practice may be helpful in improving memory, relieving stress, and feeling happier. However, meditation is just one of many potential treatments for depression and may not be effective for everyone. If you're unsure or want to get an expert perspective, consider contacting a mental health professional.
Frequently Asked Questions
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