Depression affects approximately 280 million individuals worldwide. This medical disorder is characterized by persistent feelings that negatively affects how one feels, thinks, and acts. Symptoms of depression vary from person to person and can either be chronic or episodic. There are a variety of treatment options that can help reduce these symptoms or help individuals learn ways to manage them. You may already have had a reduction of your individual symptoms through therapy, medication, or even made permanent lifestyle changes. Do those thoughts and feelings still linger? Is the treatment you’re receiving not enough to fully battle your depression? If the answer to either of those questions was yes, you may want to consider adding meditation techniques alongside your current medical treatment.
Meditation is a practice where an individual is able to focus the mind on a particular object, thought or activity to train internal awareness and attention in order to achieve a mentally clear and stable state. Depression can cause you to be surrounded by feeling of worthlessness, hopelessness, or anger. So how would meditation be helpful in trying to minimize the thoughts and feelings of a depressive disorder?
You would think that since meditation enhances awareness around thoughts and experiences that it would be contradictory in the aspect of helping minimize depressive symptoms. However, meditation actually involves accepting these thoughts and feelings, then letting them go. This process helps provide some distance from negative thoughts or stressful feelings, allowing you to recognize that, although they affect you, they are not you, reports experts at the Harvard-affiliated Massachusetts General Hospital.
Meditation can make it easier for you to stay present in the moment and learn how to notice warning signs of a depressive episode coming on.
The brain is one of the largest and most complex organs in the human body, made up of over 100 billion nerves controlling everyday functions, feelings, and movement. Did you know that meditation has a direct impact on certain areas of the brain?
The practice of meditation has been found to alter specific brain regions that are specifically related to depression. Research has shown that the medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC) becomes hyperactive in individuals that have depression. This region of the brain is where you process information about yourself, which could include thoughts about your past or stresses of the future sending the mPFC synapses into overdrive.
In addition, another brain region associated with depression is the amygdala. You may have heard of this region being referred to as the “emotion center” or “fear center” since the amygdala’s main function is processing fearful and threatening stimuli. Most depressive thoughts are negative and dark, which can send your amygdala into a flight or fight response as it attempts to battle these feelings.
The mPFC and the amygdala feed off each other to cause depression. This is where meditation comes into play. Research has shown a significant relationship between meditation and lowering stress levels, which can put these brain regions at rest.
Now that we have defined what meditation is and how this practice can improve specific brain function relating to depression, you may wonder how to get started. Although meditation alone isn’t going to cure your depression, by adding it alongside seeing a specialist list a psychiatrist, you will be able to significantly reduce and let go of depressive thoughts and feelings. We can break down meditation into three simple words: Comfort, Breath, and Body.
While meditating you may experience unpleasant thoughts creeping in. Allow yourself to recognize them for a moment and then move back to your body scan. Once you have completed the body scan continue breathing as long as you need until you feel that your mental state has reached a stable and calm place.
In conclusion, meditation can help you gain control over the symptoms of depression by accepting these thoughts and feelings and then be able to let go. This holistic approach provides an opportunity to improve your mental health and create a clear and stable psychological state. Incorporating meditation into your daily routine is a great first step; however, the first line of defense for a medical condition, such as depression, is to consult a physician. If after trying meditation and you still don’t feel as though you are living your best life, call us for a consultation with Dr. Sambunaris to explore changes to your medication regiment
How meditation helps with depression. Harvard Health. (2021, February 12). Retrieved September 24, 2021, from https://www.health.harvard.edu/mind-and-mood/how-meditation-helps-with-depression
Raypole, C. (2020, January 30). Meditation for depression: Why it works and how to start. Healthline. Retrieved September 24, 2021, from https://www.healthline.com/health/meditation-for-depression#how-to-try-it.