Meditation and Depression: A Complementary Approach to Dealing with the Symptoms of Depression

Meditation is a process or practice in which a person learns how to train their mental states to create a desired change. This principle of steadying or silencing the mind makes you more aware of your thought processes. With this awareness we recognize that we can to some extent choose how to respond to our circumstances and surroundings. For example, while waiting in a long checkout line, we may realize that we are getting progressively irritated or impatient. Being aware of our state of mind, we can then choose to relax and let go emotionally and physically. Instead of focusing on the unpleasantness of waiting, we can redirect our thoughts to something more pleasant like perhaps conversing with the person behind us, or admiring the shoes of the person in front.

Additionally, research1 has shown that when paired with standard care, mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MCBT), which combines mindfulness meditation and cognitive behavioral therapy, results in a decrease of the symptoms of depression.

Mindfulness meditation and depression

When we do practice mindfulness meditation, two things are happening: First we become more aware of our current mental states, and second, with this awareness we realize that we have the ability to make choices that will shift our mental state from a negative one to a more positive or desired direction.

When we are feeling depressed, often times the mind is filled with negative emotions or negative patterns of thinking. Under these circumstances we are likely to feel de-motivated and lacking the drive to do anything constructive. Meditation teaches you how to stay in the “now”, to monitor your mind, and to get a grip on your thoughts and emotions so that you do not wallow in a state of depression.

How do I do this?

Find a place where you are least likely to be interrupted, then sit quietly and observe whatever goes through your mind. Do not react or become involved with your thoughts, memories, images or worries. To be able to sit and quiet one's mind and just observe is not an easy task but the mind can be trained. So how long should you meditate? The length depends entirely on the individual, even if it is just five minutes. That is good.

By doing this, you are creating an awareness, which opens up your attention to the continuous parade of sensations, thoughts, feelings and images that passes through your mind, without becoming involved in thinking about them. Through mindfulness meditation you learn to develop and nourish the present moment. We become aware of the constantly changing nature of things. Once we learn to observe then we learn how to distinguish our thoughts and emotions.

People who get depressed have a tendency to confuse thoughts and feelings. Meditation can be helpful in helping us distinguish between the two. We can learn to change our thoughts and thereby change how we feel. Sometimes people think that their thoughts are their feelings, for instance “I feel useless” is actually a thought not an emotion. Emotions are feelings such as happy, sad, angry, upset. Therefore when a person say “I feel useless” they usually mean they are “feeling sad because they think they are useless”. These emotions and thoughts govern how we interpret the events in our lives. Meditation can help us distinguish between our thoughts (verbalizations in the mind) and emotions (sensations that take place in the body). By doing so we learn to see more clearly how thoughts and emotions affect one another. We become more aware that when we change our thoughts, we can change our emotions.

Silence meditation and depression

In this type of meditation, the person places their attention on the silent space within them and allows their emotions and thoughts to flow through. By allowing your attention to become free from your noisy stream of thoughts, you are allowing your negative thoughts to lose momentum and subside.

Being conscious of your thoughts also gives you the power to turn confusion into clarity. Silence meditation is theorized to be helpful in alleviating depression because it brings “space” into a noisy mind. This space allows for intelligent thoughts to flow through. Solutions can make themselves evident when we silence our minds. This is similar to when we misplace things; when we are in a frantic mode, we often do not remember where the misplaced object is. Only when we calm down and slowly trace back our steps are we able to perhaps locate the missing item. Meditation is also supposed to increase the vibration of your energy field thus helping you attract positive thoughts and feelings, which is particularly helpful when depression strikes.

Meditation is not a cure

Meditation, although is believed to alleviate depression, should not be viewed as a magic cure. If you suffer from severe depression, or extreme depression, meditation should only be used as a complementary practice. It is not advisable to stop taking prescribed medication without consulting a professional.

NB: The content of this article is for information purposes and is not intended to replace sound medical advice and opinion.

References

  1. 1Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy as a treatment for chronic depression: A preliminary study.https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19249017
  2. How can meditation help with depression https://www.wildmind.org/applied/depression/help
  3. Study finds non-drug meditation treatment beats depression https://www.naturalnews.com/024986_meditation_treatment_depression.html
  4. Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy and the prevention of relapse in depression https://cebmh.warne.ox.ac.uk/csr/mbct.html
  5. Frequently asked questions about mindfulness meditation https://health.ucsd.edu/specialties/psych/mindfulness/what-is/