Mindfulness And Relaxation Techniques To Help With Depression Symptoms

Medically reviewed by Julie Dodson, MA
Updated February 22, 2024by BetterHelp Editorial Team

The symptoms of depression can feel overwhelming. Individuals experiencing depression may perceive that there is no relief for their physical and mental health symptoms, and they may experience difficulty doing their regular daily tasks. If you’re experiencing symptoms of depression, know that you’re not alone and there are effective treatments available. There are many evidence-based methods rooted in mindfulness and relaxation techniques that may help to reduce your symptoms and provide a higher quality of life.

Experiencing symptoms of depression?

Below, we’ll discuss what depression is, the connection between depression and mindfulness, and the range of related and scientifically supported techniques available that may help you manage the intensity of your symptoms.

What is depression?

Depression is a mental health disorder that can cause a range of symptoms that may vary from one person to another.

The symptoms of depression can include:

  • Persistent feelings of sadness. Sadness tends to be a feeling that everyone experiences, but the sadness found in depression can be more intense and persist past the point and duration of typical sadness.
  • Loss of pleasure or interest in daily activities or excursions. Depression can lead to a loss of motivation to participate in or attend activities that previously provided joy.
  • Appetite and weight changes. People with depression may find themselves with fluctuations in appetite that may or may not have been previously present.
  • Changes in sleeping patterns or energy levels. People experiencing depression may find themselves needing more or less sleep, and they may experience fluctuating energy levels.
  • Cognitive changes. Depression can lead to cognitive changes, such as difficulty focusing on or remembering things.
  • Feelings of worthlessness, guilt or despair. Depression is linked to sadness, but it can also cause intense feelings of worthlessness, guilt, and despair. These feelings may come and go or may be persistent in their expression.

What is mindfulness?

The word mindfulness is often used to describe a state in which an individual is aware of what is going on internally and externally rather than skipping ahead to the future or lingering on the past.

How mindfulness and depression intersect

Researchers have found that mindfulness and depression may intersect primarily where rumination and worry are concerned.

Depression can be marked by significant periods of worry and rumination. Mindfulness may directly and indirectly address these symptoms and offer feelings of peace or relief, which may improve the quality of life in people who are experiencing depression.

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Supportive strategies to help alleviate symptoms of depression

Below are some specific types of mindfulness and relaxation strategies you might consider using to manage symptoms of depression.


Yoga has seen a surge in popularity in the past several decades. You may find that your local community has a yoga studio, community center classes, or 1:1 instruction opportunities. In the absence of a physical class, however, there are numerous teachers online who aim to bring safe yoga classes into homes around the world. This makes yoga one of the more attainable forms of support for many.

Scientific studies have indicated efficacy in using yoga as a supportive strategy for symptoms of depression, focusing heavily on implications shown in the duration of use across test groups.

Generally, duration ranges from 15 minutes to over two hours of a daily yoga practice in most studies, which can provide a measurable difference in depression scores.


Meditation is generally considered to be a multifaceted practice that has been linked to improvements in depression symptoms. Meditation can be done in a number of ways.

Some meditation practices were developed as part of certain spiritual traditions. Others have been developed to assist in checking in with yourself and soothing physical symptoms of depression and anxiety. In either case, the practice of stillness has been shown to be helpful in managing the symptoms of depression in some people.

At its core, meditation is thought to have been designed to help people learn how to quiet their thoughts and focus or relax. Meditation has been defined by many as the process of “clearing one’s mind,” or cutting through all of the thoughts, impressions, and ideas that one may experience on a daily basis—some of which may be rooted in low self-esteem, inaccurate perceptions, or unhealthy processes.

Meditating can be as simple as someone sitting on a cushion on the floor, with eyes closed and face serene. While this is one way to meditate, meditation does not require any special circumstances, tools, or locations. It also doesn’t require the person being in a place of stillness at the time that meditation starts. For example, meditating can be done while someone is sitting in the grass, going on a walk, or lying in bed.

Meditation can be done with a guide, such as using an app on your phone to be led through meditative exercises, or it can be done alone. The main focus of meditation for many is to intentionally check in with themselves and take note of what they are thinking and feeling, actively practicing letting those thoughts and feelings go in order to allow their mind to fully relax.


Grounding (also called “earthing”) is another type of mindfulness practice that has gained traction in recent years. Grounding is the term generally used to describe the practice of physically meeting the earth.

This can be practiced by taking a barefoot walk along the beach or on the grass. Grounding has been scientifically suggested to elevate a depressed mood in many people, increasing general feelings of happiness and well-being.

Mindful walking

Part of mindful living, for many, is engaging in mindfulness exercises in daily life. They don’t necessarily have to be long or elaborate techniques to make a difference in your mental health.

One of the most common mindfulness exercises for many is mindful walking. Doing this while experiencing symptoms of depression can be challenging because it can be physically difficult to get out of bed or outdoors. However, once you’re moving, you may experience some form of relief or lessened severity of your depressive symptoms.

Experiencing symptoms of depression?

To begin walking mindfully, you may choose to take a walk wherever you are— whether you’re in a busy urban area or in a rural setting. These are just two places (among many) where you can practice this mindfulness exercise.

As you walk, you might consider observing your surroundings. If you find yourself overwhelmed or experiencing symptoms of depression, you might try to simplify your focus, bringing your attention to putting one foot in front of the other. It may also help to simply observe thoughts without judgment as they arise.

Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT)

Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT) is a type of therapy that combines cognitive therapy, meditation, and non-judgmental thinking into a single, digestible therapeutic format.

In cognitive behavior therapy (CBT), people generally learn to reframe their negative thoughts into productive ones. MBCT takes this concept from CBT, integrates the concept of mindfulness, and focuses on removing judgement from the patient about their daily lived experiences.

Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy may be helpful to those who experience repetitive negative thought patterns as a manifestation of their depressive symptoms.

Internet-based CBT has been a topic of discussion for several years across special interest and research communities. A recent literature review has shown that ICBT can be effective for those experiencing depression, as well as possible comorbidities of depression. Authors of the review cited other positive benefits, such as the potential for affordability and less of a cost burden on the healthcare system.

When a person is experiencing depression, the thought of leaving home (or the bed) can seem overwhelming. Additionally, those living with depression may be concurrently experiencing a range of physical and mental health symptoms that can make travel over any distance difficult, such as gastrointestinal discomfort and feelings of nervousness. While this can limit the benefit sought from in-person therapeutic environments, online therapy can bridge this gap and offer support to individuals from the comfort of their own home.

Breath work

Breath work is sometimes a component of meditation and yoga but can stand alone as a mindfulness practice.

Breath work can look different for everyone. For some, breath work may mean utilizing specific pranayama practices, such as alternate nostril breathing. For others, breath work may involve paying close attention to the breath, remaining mindful, and slowing down to bring awareness to the body and calm feelings of anxiety.

Breath work has been scientifically linked to improvements in mental and physical health in some and has been described as a beneficial practice for depression-related symptoms. Breath work can also be used in clinical settings and may be utilized by professionals as part of a holistic intervention strategy.


Mindfulness and relaxation-based practices have been increasingly studied in recent years and have demonstrated promise as supplementary treatment options for people who have been diagnosed with depression. Whether used as a supplement or as a form of treatment itself, mindfulness practices can provide those living with depression a higher overall quality of life. Mindfulness can also be used as part of depression treatment with a mental health professional, in an intervention called mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT).

Therapists who utilize this type of therapy generally recognize the value of mindfulness and its role in improving depression symptoms and may combine standard cognitive therapy techniques with mindfulness techniques. With BetterHelp, you can be matched with a therapist who understands the role of mindfulness in treating depression. Take the first step and reach out to BetterHelp today.

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