Life throws so many challenges at us and at times, we can easily get stressed and overwhelmed by them, which might lead us to depression.
While there isn’t a definite reason as to what gets people into depression, one thing is certain and that is, if the issue is not handled quickly, it can cause even more serious problems to your health and life in general, or worse, be life-threatening.
Among the many solutions that have been said to help with depression, is meditation. And we will be taking a closer look at how it might help with this health problem and what scientific research has found about it.
The Global Issue of Depression
Millions of people across the world are fighting depression silently.
They experience difficulties in their lives and decide to keep to themselves which later on brings serious health problems.
According to research, about 4.4% of the people in the world are affected by depression, and reports show that depression is among the major reasons people become disabled (1).
And this emphasizes the need to look for help once you start noticing symptoms of depression.
It’s okay to feel down sometimes because that’s just a normal part of life.
However, when you are constantly weighed down by emotions and they can’t seem to go away, or you can’t seem to get beyond them, then that could mean that you are depressed.
It greatly affects how you function, feel and think and because of this, you might realize that you are having a hard time working, eating, studying, and generally working on your daily activities.
Depression affects each individual differently and that’s why you find that one person feels a deep sense of sadness, and another one feels angry or empty, which makes it essential to know what happens to you individually when you get depressed.
More often than not, you might know that you are actually depressed as there are common signs and symptoms associated with the condition that include;
~ Sleep changes, you might find yourself losing sleep or even oversleeping
~ Loss of appetite or experiencing weight changes
~ Losing interest in your daily activities or even things you do for fun
~ Having trouble staying focused or concentrating
~ Engaging in reckless behavior
~ Hating or loathing yourself
~ Lacking energy
~ Feeling hopeless or helpless
~ Having a short temper, being agitated, or getting violent
These symptoms vary with each individual based on certain factors such as age and gender, however they present themselves though, they need to be dealt with seriously to avoid things such as suicide, and other life-threatening extremes.
Getting guidance and counseling from a health expert or going for therapy is one of the ways to deal with depression.
However, meditation can significantly reduce your levels of depression if practiced in the long term.
How Meditation Helps With Meditation
1. Helps to deal with the negative thoughts brought about by depression
Being immersed in meditation allows you to not be overwhelmed by negative thoughts that make you feel much weaker and helpless.
Normally, when you are depressed, you tend to overthink.
You dwell in your head too much, focus on the issue that is bringing you down and end up blowing the situation out of proportion.
And this is what leads you to an even deeper level of depression and makes you take extreme actions.
Now meditation helps you avoid overthinking and reduces the negative thoughts you are already having.
Meditation styles like mindfulness meditation help you recognize the string of negative thoughts that are frequenting your mind and get you to create your own mental space which allows you to be aware and observe those thoughts without forming conclusions or opinions.
It gives you the ability to really see what is happening in your life and why you are depressed, without overanalyzing anything.
You recognize what it is exactly that you are feeling for example hopelessness or emptiness, and acknowledge that you are feeling that way.
This way you are able to remain balanced and get the mental energy and clarity to solve the problem you are facing.
If it is something that happened in the past that you can’t change, the practice helps you bear with it and let it go by helping you remain in the present moment and have compassion for yourself.
If say you break up with someone you were in a long term relationship with, meditation will help you realize that you have actually broken up with the person, accept the fact that there is nothing you can do about it, and acknowledge that there is a better person out there for you and thus let go.
2. Strengthens your present moment awareness
Most times when you keep replaying old events in your mind, they have a negative effect on you, something that can lead to depression.
It could be a terrible experience that you had that you can’t quite get over.
Or it could be something you are anxious about that you anticipate will happen in the future may be because something didn’t go as it should and you feel like it is going to affect a part of your near future.
Meditation helps you not dwell in the past or worry about the future and instead remain in the present moment and see what you can do best during that time to make your life better.
In his book “The Power of Now”, Eckhart Tolle, a respected meditation author says, “As soon as you honor the present moment, all unhappiness and struggle dissolve, and life begins to flow with joy and ease. When you act out the present-moment awareness, whatever you do becomes imbued with a sense of quality, care, and love – even the most simple action.”
3. Helps with overcoming suffering
Compassion meditation is a form of meditation that is deeply involved in being aware of the pain and suffering in your life and working towards overcoming it.
It recognizes the fact that we, as human beings, go through suffering at some point in our lives and we should accept it.
However, we shouldn’t allow ourselves to be overtaken by the effects of these painful occurrences. Instead, we should approach life with acceptance and with the desire to get through these challenges with love.
Compassion meditation helps you create a life where you have compassion for yourself and then for others, which in the long run helps you remain balanced and peaceful.
Now that does not mean you will overcome all the suffering in your life, no.
It means that you are ready for the suffering and through the personal effort of avoiding the challenge or overcoming it, depending on the kind of challenge, you are able to keep your head up and come out of it strong.
What Research Studies Show About Meditation and Depression
There are a few research studies that have been carried out aiming at understanding exactly how meditation influences depression and its symptoms.
And since the study on this area is in its early stages, there have been mixed results.
Most of the studies show that meditation may have a positive impact on depression that is significant although there are some studies that have shown mild improvements on people with depression who went through meditation training.
A research study exploring the effects of mindfulness on anxiety and depression amongst 1151 adults concluded that meditation focused on lessening worry may especially be helpful in reducing the risk of having clinical depression (2).
Another study looking at the usefulness of meditation for the treatment of depressive disorders discovered that participants experienced reduced symptoms of depression when mindfulness-based cognitive therapy was used (3).
A 2014 study involving 3,515 participants concluded that mindfulness meditation programs show mild evidence of improving both depression and anxiety (4).
Looking at all these studies, one thing is clear and that is, the topic is a growing area of study and hence more studies need to be conducted to help us understand better how meditation exactly affects depression.
However, it is worth working with meditation as an alternative if all the other interventions you have tried are not working for you.
You can even combine therapy with meditation to help you better understand your situation and make the therapy work for you.
Also, more than just meditating for the sake of dealing with depression, you should consider meditating for your overall well-being.
It really goes a long way in helping you become more peaceful and happy. We encourage you to read the full benefits of meditation to see how much the practice will help in your life.
Tips To For More Success With Meditation For Depression
* Create a routine that works for you – Based on your lifestyle and schedule, try to create time when you can be doing meditation frequently. Choose a specific time and place that you are most comfortable with and which you know will work well for you so that you are meditating often, and then get started with the practice. You can also choose to work with a meditation expert on how to create your schedule or you can get ideas by searching online.
* Experiment with the various forms of meditation and find what works for you – Different styles of meditation work differently on people and you should aim at getting the style that best resonates with you and which gives you maximum benefits.
Some of the forms of meditation found to be great for depression include;
– Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT), which is a form of therapy that uses mindfulness to fight depression, anxiety, and bipolar disorder.
– Loving-kindness meditation, which will help you regain the attitude of love towards yourself, something often lost in depression.
– Compassion meditation, which helps you acknowledge the pain and suffering within yourself and in others and use love as your weapon and stronghold.
– Mindfulness meditation, which will help you focus and learn how to stay in the present moment to avoid the recurrence of past thoughts that bring about negativity.
* Be patient with yourself – Firstly, you should recognize that we all have times when things are not going as we hope them to. And this can be disappointing at times, but don’t let it bring your whole world down.
Remember that this too shall pass. Also, when working with meditation, keep in mind that meditation won’t dissolve your problems immediately. It will be a gradual process so you have to be patient and keep going no matter what you feel. You will soon see the results.
In summary, there isn’t a one size fit all meditation style when it comes to dealing with depression but you can find what works for you and stick to that for better results.
Also, as earlier mentioned, while meditation helps to work through depression, it might not work well alone and as such you need to incorporate other things, for example, making major lifestyle changes, battling negative thoughts as well as seeking therapy.
More importantly, you don’t want to disregard medicine. If your doctor deems it crucial for you, take your prescription as advised because failure to do so may further escalate your depression as there may be underlying symptoms of other health issues.
Most of all, remember to be kind to yourself and embrace the situation because then you will find dealing with depression more manageable.