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Meditation is a powerful practice. In fact, it can actually change the level of activity in your brain! While virtually anyone can experience the positive effects of meditation, certain studies show that people dealing with depression are especially likely to reap the benefits of daily meditation practice.
Unfortunately, the mere mention of meditation as a self-care practice is frequently met with skepticism. It is largely misunderstood and often viewed as an unscientific practice with no proven benefits.
Nothing could be further from the truth, however. Countless researchers are finding scientific evidence that meditation can be life-changing for many people, including those facing depression.
Unfortunately, many common treatments for depression, such as antidepressant medications and psychotherapy, don’t work for everyone. Many people don’t try meditation until they are severely depressed and desperate.
Below, you’ll learn just how many people are dealing with depression as well as how meditation affects the brain. You’ll also be introduced to helpful resources for meditation newcomers, many of which are free!
Before we delve into the benefits of meditation for depression, it’s helpful to know that you are not alone, as evidenced by the following findings and statistics:
As mentioned previously, depression is often triggered by stress and anxiety. In an interview with Harvard Health, Dr. John W. Denninger explained that meditation could shift a person’s perspective.
“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 isn’t likely to take place immediately, a regular meditation practice can positively affect a person’s reactions to stress and anxiety, which may lead to a less depressed state.
As a bonus, many people notice a marked decrease in anxiety when meditating regularly, which can result in a domino effect.
You may have heard the brain’s amygdala referred to as the “fear center” or “worry center” because it controls the “fight or flight”response, and is constantly on the lookout for something to worry about or fear.
During a study conducted by Boston University and Harvard Medical School, researchers ordered brain scans for each participant before and after an 8-week mindfulness meditation class. 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.”
If you face depression, you may consider yourself a “worry wart” or an “over-thinker.” Rather than worrying about the future or dwelling on the past, meditation teaches us to focus on the here and now, which can help keep fears and regrets at bay.
Luckily, focusing on the present extends way beyond a meditation session. People who meditate tend to live in the moment throughout the day. They’re often able to better enjoy the little things in life, leave the past behind them, and trust that they’ll be okay no matter what the future holds.
Depression often goes hand in hand with a scarcity mindset—i.e. the belief that something is lacking in our lives, or something is missing or broken within us.
Meditating makes us more aware of our thought patterns and allows us to gradually shift our thoughts to a more positive, abundant mindset. The Chopra Center suggests setting an intention to clear the mind by meditating or setting aside quiet time every day to “allow new abundant possibilities to come to light.”
The hippocampus is an essential part of the brain that allows us to absorb information and transfer that info to memory. This region of the brain also plays a key role in emotional regulation, which is vital for responding to emotional experiences.
Studies show that major depression can even cause the hippocampus to shrink. Luckily, this reduction in size doesn’t have to be permanent. Meditation can add volume to this region of the brain, restoring all the key functions the hippocampus is responsible for.
The brain’s prefrontal cortex greatly impacts our day-to-day lives. This part of the brain is largely responsible for working memory, decision-making, self-expression, complex planning, and how we conduct ourselves in social situations.Individuals who face depression tend to have an underdeveloped prefrontal cortex. However, this region of the brain can thicken through regular meditation.
Perhaps the most encouraging finding of all is the fact that the prefrontal cortex can be strengthened like a muscle. In an interview with The Washington Post, Harvard neuroscientist Sara Lazar explained that the prefrontal cortex shrinks as we age—but it doesn’t have to! Through her research, Lazar found that a 50-year-old who meditates has the equivalent gray matter in the prefrontal cortex as a 25-year-old. Now, that’s good news!
Unfortunately, history tends to repeat itself when it comes to depression. Individuals who have experienced recurrent depression are at an increased risk for future depressive episodes. While antidepressant medications can be effective, they don’t work for everyone, and they can stop working overtime.
Meditation, as part of mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT), can decrease the risk of relapse. This type of therapy is just as effective as antidepressants—without the frustrating side effects.
People with a history of depression tend to think negatively about themselves. MBCT brings awareness to this pattern, allowing individuals to respond differently to these negative thoughts and emotions by instilling a more compassionate mindset.
How To Start A Meditation Practice
Establishing a daily meditation practice doesn’t require fancy clothes or equipment, and it doesn’t need to take much time either. Read the following tips, take a deep breath, and simply begin:
Some questions you can ask your therapist include:
Does meditation actually help depression?
What type of meditation is best for depression?
How long does it take for meditation to help depression?
How do you meditate in bed?
Can you meditate while on antidepressants?
Is crying after meditation normal?
How can I control my mind from unwanted thoughts?
Why does meditation help anxiety?
What are the benefits of meditation?
What is the difference between mindfulness and meditation?
Is meditation good for depression?
Meditation may offer numerous mental health benefits for someone with depression, including:
In turn, those side effects may help people with depression feel better. In fact, meditation offers several physical health benefits as well, including lowered blood pressure, increased pain tolerance, and improved circadian rhythms—all of which contribute to the development or treatment of depression.
What type of meditation is best for depression?
There are many different types of meditation, with each having its own effect on the person doing it. However, research shows that mindfulness-based meditation (or focused cognitive therapy) is most effective at treating the symptoms of depression. The approach combines thoughtful introspection with guided psychotherapy to decrease a person’s depressive state temporarily. Over time, it may also prevent a depression relapse.
Does meditation improve mood?
Studies suggest that multiple forms of meditation can have significantly positive effects on a person’s mood. In fact, mindful meditation reduces depression and anxiety by literally decreasing inflammatory chemicals (cytokines) in the brain and body. Certain meditative states can also erase negative thoughts and emotions while replacing them with encouraging mantras and mottos. At the very least, it provides someone with depression a quiet, still place to process their feelings without judgement.
Which yoga is good for depression?
Although more research still needs to be done to determine the effects of yoga on depression, anxiety, and other mental illnesses, the available information suggests there’s already a connection. Calming yoga exercises can significantly impact a person’s exaggerated stress responses, thereby reducing the sad and/or anxious feelings that often accompany emotional or mental disorders.
Yoga functions as a self-soothing method, much like meditation, to promote physical awareness, relaxation, and calming mindfulness. The exercise also provides opportunities for socialization; therefore, it removes the sense of isolation that depression and anxiety can cause. Thus, there is no specific type of yoga that’s recommended. However, here arefive yoga poses that may be helpful for depression:
For more information on how to safely do these depression-fighting yoga poses, ask a holistic expert or join a local yoga class in your area.
What is the primary cause of depression?
Contrary to popular belief, there is no singular cause of anxiety, depression, or any other mental illness for that matter. For example, depression can develop over time as a result of numerous triggers. Others may experience depression right after a traumatic life event such a death, a divorce, an illness, or bankruptcy. It also depends on how the person copes with said events.
Other causes of depression are typically as follows:
Also, genetics and certain medications can trigger a depressed state in patients. So, be sure to talk to your doctor before starting a new treatment regimen.
How long should I meditate for?
Much like exercise, there is no rigid amount of time that someone should meditate. It all depends on that person’s ability to use mindfulness techniques for their intended purposes. However, as with working out, meditators should try to challenge themselves during each session. Meanwhile, Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) methods are most effective when they’re practiced for at least 20-45 minutes per day. Monitor your progress and adjust accordingly.
What are the 3 types of meditation?
There are more than three types of meditation. Plus, there are combination types that mix two or more distinct techniques together to form a hybrid type. However, there are at least nine meditation types that serve as the foundation:
For more information on any of these meditation types, be sure to speak to a licensed holistic practitioner.
How do you truly meditate?
Meditation may not seem difficult but it’s harder than some people realize because it requires a quiet mind and a still body. Therefore, all meditation sessions should take place in a private area that’s free from loud noises and other distractions (for at least 10 minutes). That way, no external stimuli can affect the benefits of the chosen technique. Then, try to clear negative thoughts and depressing emotions from the mental landscape with various exercises.
Meanwhile, here are some easythings to think about while trying to quiet the mind for meaningful meditation:
You may also experience better results by incorporating some calming music (without lyrics) into your meditation routine.
How do you meditate in bed?
Since meditation is mental practice, people can practice is anywhere—even in bed while lying down. Although many people prefer to meditate while sitting up, the body’s position plays only a small role in how effective the practice is. In fact, any comfortable position will do if it’s cozy and free from external distractions.
Thus, the same process is required to meditate in bed as is to meditate sitting up. Simply create a safe, quiet space to reflect and begin using the techniques associated with the chosen meditation type. For example, if the type requires movement and/or stretching, simply perform those tasks while lying on the mattress.
What is the best type of meditation for anxiety?
Meditation is often used in the treatment of depression and anxiety because it relies on mindfulness, personal reflection, and developing healthy coping mechanisms. Thus, the best type of meditation for anxiety will use the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) approach. However, each person is different so their reactions to the techniques will vary widely. Therefore, it’s important to speak with a doctor or mental health professional to plan an effective anxiety-related meditation regimen.
Does meditation cause depression?
According to some studies, there may be a dark side to meditation, especially if it’s practiced too often. In recent research, it was discovered that about 12% of people experienced an unwanted and unexpected side effect after practicing mindful meditation. Symptoms ranged from negative thoughts and worsened anxiety to deep depression and even psychosis or mania. Other possible symptoms of either using the wrong type of meditation or doing so without professional guidance can include the following:
Stay safe while treating depression by seeking professional help to meditate properly.
How can meditation reduce stress?
Meditation can reduce stress in several ways. Plus, the successful reduction of stress can then present numerous physical health benefits as well. Reduced stress is linked to a decreased risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, and even diabetes. Thus, mental exercises that require mindful quietness and thoughtful introspection are naturally beneficial to someone who’s stressed out.
Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) techniques are especially effective at eliminating the stream of consciousness that often develops into depression or anxiety. Even in diverse populations, properly executed meditative states have been found to minimize oxidative stress while building confidence as well. The process, therefore, provides an enhances sense of self and promotes a better emotional well-being.
Is yoga good for anxiety and depression?
Because yoga is a lot like mindful meditation in that it requires metered movements and introspective mental exercises, it can be beneficial to people with anxiety and depression. The techniques used can help limit the impact of hyperbolic stress responses, thereby preventing depressive relapses and/or debilitating panic attacks. It also acts as a self-soothing tool that promotes relaxation, motivation, and socialization. Thus, yoga provides a well-rounded approach to treating mental health disorders such as anxiety and depression (or the symptoms thereof).
Which yoga is best for anxiety?
Typically, the best yoga for treating anxiety is the one that incorporates Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction techniques, or MBSR. That’s because those techniques allow a person to carefully process thoughts and emotions while experiencing a physical surge of relaxation and limberness. As such, here are eight yoga poses that may be beneficial as a form of natural anxiety treatment:
For more information on how these yoga poses are achieved or how they help reduce anxiety, talk to a licensed holistic practitioner or yoga expert.
What kind of exercise is good for depression?
Depression can be treated in many ways, including physical exercise. Doctors often recommend performing short, intense workouts to elevate mood through the body’s natural release of endorphins. Exercises such as crunches, jumping jacks, push-ups, squats, and lunges are typically suggested for a quick mood boost. Meanwhile, here are fivve helpful forms of exercise for combatting depression:
Essentially, anything that involves resistance training can and should be used as a medication-free treatment for anxiety and/or depression.