The key to stopping the worry cycle is confronting triggers and shifting your mindset. Engaging in mental and physical techniques that increase...
Depression is a common mental disorder affecting approximately 280 million people worldwide. Having depression causes many difficulties in an individual’s everyday life: difficulty functioning at work, maintaining social and personal relationships, maintaining healthy hygiene and lifestyle habits, reduced use of the prefrontal cortex, and overall causing the person to struggle severely.
Meditation For Depression Explained
Depression can be a lifelong struggle for some. Often when it comes to depression treatment, it turns out to be not as effective as promised. Many depression medications cause side effects, forcing individuals to change or stop taking them frequently. By treating depression with a multifaceted approach, the chances of reducing symptoms of depression increase.
Along with the right medication and prescribed treatment, meditation is a great way to relieve depression. Meditation is a practice that involves increasing your awareness of your thoughts, feelings and experiences and brings long-lasting positive results to those who have been diagnosed with depression.
Although suffering from depression involves dark, negative thoughts and bringing awareness to them might be the last thing you want to do, meditation helps the thoughts and feelings to pass through you without holding any negative attachment.
Some may ask themselves, “does it actually work”? The truth is that although meditation is not a cure-all practice, it has significantly improved major depression symptoms.
Benefits Of Meditation For Depression
Studies have shown that meditation can reduce negative thought spirals, anxiety and stress. Benefits include bringing awareness to thoughts and feelings with the ability to not act on them, reducing overall depressive symptoms, improving the overall quality of life, and decrease in stress levels. Meditation can even alleviate back pain, a little-known but widespread symptom of depression.
Meditation practice and mindfulness help to become more aware of the negative thoughts that come up and their origin. Sometimes, there is no justification for negative thinking and feelings that come with depression, so meditation can help let these thoughts and feelings pass through with little significance.
Stimulating The Vagus Nerve
The vagus nerve is connected to the brain and mainly transmits and mediates sensory information from the body to the brain region. It is a main autonomic nervous system component and helps regulate metabolic homeostasis. To put it simply, it keeps your body in a balanced state. Studies have found many links between the vagus nerve and mental health conditions.
By stimulating the vagus nerve, we ensure that our body is not producing too many proinflammatory cytokines; these cytokines may cause depressive illnesses by activating the immune system, which is observed in many depressed individuals.
The goal of stimulating the vagus nerve is to increase ‘vagal tone’; this represents the overall activity of the vagus nerve. We want an increased vagal tone to activate the parasympathetic nervous system and help you relax faster from the stress response. A higher vagal tone means more positive emotions and good physical health.
One way of stimulating the vagus nerve is through meditation and deep, slow breathing. Research has shown regular practice increases vagal tone and positive emotions. It also promotes goodwill towards yourself, reducing your ‘fight or flight’ response. All of this and other treatments can improve the prognosis for those suffering from depression.
Mindfulness meditation is one of the most popular and effective types of meditation.
Many other types that will be discussed further stem from this type of meditation. In a busy world, our minds run through a thousand thoughts simultaneously. This can make it difficult to stay focused on the present moment.
Depression is often rooted in ruminating over past events, negative thoughts and a negative self-perception. Staying mindful of the present is a great way to not focus on past negative thoughts and anxiety but rather let pleasant images pass through you more easily. There are many ways to practice mindfulness meditation, so here are a few tips to get you started.
You can meditate in any environment, but the better, the calmer. Finding a mostly quiet space like your bedroom or living room is ideal. Find a comfortable position, sitting or lying down; whatever makes you feel most relaxed.
When practicing, try not to focus directly on the thoughts and react, but pay attention to your breathing. Close your eyes, notice the air moving in and out of your body, and let the thoughts and feelings pass through without giving an instant reaction.
Consistency is the best way to ensure long-term positive effects and minimal symptoms. To build this habit, practicing mindfulness every day is a good idea. Although challenging at a times, consistent mindfulness practice of five to ten minutes daily leads to great benefits.
Breath Awareness Meditation
Breathing meditation is somewhat similar to mindfulness. They both often have the same goal; to become more aware of the present moment. This type of meditation focuses on the in and out of every breath and uses different breathing techniques.
This one is often easier to accomplish daily because it can be done many times throughout your day. Finding small moments of two to three minutes to focus on mindful breathing can bring you peace and presence, in the long run, help you train your brain to be more present. Breathing meditation is also a great way to get more oxygen into your bloodstream and train diaphragmatic breathing habits.
Other Types Of Meditation For Depression
Many other forms of meditation have been proven to help treat depression. The goal of meditation practice, alongside gaining emotional control, is to find what works best for you.
Walking is a great way to improve physical and mental health and reduce stress. The good news is that you can increase its benefits by performing walking meditation. Sometimes, finding a calm and quiet area to sit and meditate in can be hard. By combining your physical activity and a mental health practice, you can find time throughout your day to lower stress levels and benefit yourself in the long run.
As you walk through a calm and peaceful space, notice the sights, sounds and scents, physical sensations, and feelings within you. Utilize all the sensors in the body to stay in the present moment.
Meditating directly before or after physical exercise, like walking, has proven beneficial for those suffering from mental issues. These moments of meditation do not have to be long; five to ten minutes is sufficient for depression management.
Body Scan Meditation
Body scan meditation is about reconnection with physical and mental and detachment from the sources of stress. To practice body scan meditation, find a quiet and calm space and focus sequentially on a different body part, how it feels, and what thoughts come up when focusing on individual body parts. Observe the body and pick up the signals it might be sending you, whether it’s tight hips or tingling sensations in the palms.
Research has shown that this type of meditation is very beneficial for those with bipolar disorder. Practicing it even once a week produced less recurrent depression relapses in those suffering from bipolar conditions and symptoms.
Loving-kindness meditation focuses on creating thoughts and feelings of love, kindness and gratitude towards oneself and others. This type of meditation has shown a positive outlook on your self-esteem and self-love. Loving-kindness meditation diminishes self-criticism and helps to bounce back faster when negative thought spiral.
For this type of meditation, sit or lay down in a quiet environment and shift your mindset towards pleasant thoughts: what you are grateful for, the love you feel for others and the parts of yourself that you cherish. Negative thoughts may still pass by from time to time, but it is important to let them exist without judgment or too much attachment.
Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy
This branch of mindfulness meditation combines with cognitive behavioral therapy to produce effective results. It emphasizes the changing of damaging behavior patterns and thoughts.
Visualization meditation is a form of guided meditation in which the individual focuses on visualizing calming and peaceful images in order to induce relaxation. The practice involves using mental images, such as a peaceful landscape or a calming ocean scene, to cultivate a sense of inner peace.
During the practice, the individual imagines the object of their visualization in detail and notices how this brings about feelings of serenity, relaxation and tranquility. This type of meditation can be used to reduce stress, anxiety and physical tension. By regularly practicing visualization meditation, you can increase their overall emotional wellbeing.
Impact of Meditation on Mental Health Issues
Evidence suggests that meditation can have a positive impact on mental health. Studies show that mindfulness-based cognitive therapy can reduce depression and anxiety symptoms by helping to prevent individuals from getting caught in negative feelings.
The positive impacts of meditation include change of thought patterns, increase in mental resilience towards stessful events and possibly traumatic or triggering experiences, protection of learning and memory mechanisms or hippocampus by increasing the grey matter in the brain.
How to Get Started with Meditation for Depression
If you're new to meditation, it can be intimidating. But taking a few simple steps can help you get started quickly and easily:
1. Get comfortable
Most people find it helpful to sit down when learning meditation, but if standing up or lying down is more comfortable for you, go for it. The key is to feel relaxed and at ease. Closing your eyes also helps.
2. Focus on your breath
To begin your relaxation process, take slow and deep breaths through your nose. Allow yourself several seconds to focus solely on your breathing, paying attention to the sensations of inhaling and exhaling, as well as the audible sounds of your breath. Don't be surprised if your thoughts begin to wander away from this focus - this is a common occurrence.
However, it's important to redirect your focus back to your breathing whenever you become aware of these distractions. Remember, practicing these breathing exercises can help to alleviate stress and promote feelings of relaxation within your mind and body.
3. Shift from breath to body
Once you have chosen the starting point for your body scan, slowly and consciously shift your attention to that area. Take a few moments to pay close attention to any sensations present in that part of the body. Notice any feelings of tension or relaxation, tightness or looseness, comfort or discomfort.
Then move on to the next area of your body, noting any changes since the last time you paid attention and breathing deeply as you go. Continue this practice until you've scanned through all parts of your body, ending with your head if desired.
You can find dozens of free guided meditations and articles on websites like Headspace, Calm, and Insight Timer. You can also use YouTube or podcasts to find meditations that suit you. If you're looking for a more formal approach, many religious institutions offer meditation classes. You can also look up meditation centers near you or reach out to a certified meditation coach or teacher who might be able to provide private instruction.
Limitations of Meditation for Depression: When to Seek Help
Depression is serious. Although meditation shows promise in treating depression, it is often not sufficient on its own. If you are experiencing symptoms of a major depressive disorder, seek support from a therapist before trying alternative methods. Many therapists offer mindfulness-based cognitive therapy, so patients can still reap the benefits of meditation.
Anahana Meditation Resources