The word meditation is often associated with some type of religious practice, but meditation is so much more than this and everyone is able to experience the benefits. To put it simply, meditation practice is defined by the Medical dictionary, is a practice of concentration focus upon a sound, object, visualization, the breath, movement, or attention itself in order to increase awareness of the present moment, reduce stress, promote relaxation, and enhance personal growth. I thought this was important to point out because of the significant benefits meditation can have for people with depression and I would hate to think that someone wouldn’t try meditation because of the religious association with meditation. If you don’t like the word meditation there are other words to use like contemplation, reflection, consideration, and deliberation, but for the purpose of this article I will use the word “meditation” to describe these practices.
Reasons to practice meditation if have depression or anxiety.
Science is now backing up the benefits of meditation, and the reasons below suggest if you haven’t tried meditating to help your mental wellbeing, then maybe you should give it a go…
- Stimulates the brain waves doctors use to treat depression – The brain is constantly firing electrical signals or brain waves which can be used to measure emotions, thoughts and moods. A study of a group of alcoholics were given alpha and theta brainwave therapy over 20 sessions and an outstanding 80% of the participants reported a reduction in their depression. Meditation is a natural way of putting brainwaves into alpha and theta states.
- Boosts Serotonin – Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that contributes to feelings of well-being and happiness. Meditation naturally boosts serotonin and when this occurs depression and anxiety are unable to survive.
- Reduces the amygdala – This region of the brain is where emotions are regulated. Studies have found that people with depression have larger amygdala and when meditation is practiced this actually reduces this area and was less activated.
- Reduces negative thinking – Negative thoughts like I’m no good, everyone hates me, what’s the point of anything, fuel depression in our mind. Although it’s normal to have some negative thoughts, people with depression or anxiety are flooded with negative thoughts which can be why some people describe it as feeling like you are ‘drowning’. There are meditative practices specifically designed to transform these negative thoughts by teaching you to simply watch negative thoughts, let them go and not hang onto them.
- Helps us focus on and appreciate the present moment – It’s common for people with anxiety or depression to do a lot of overthinking on the regrets about the past and fears of the future. There is a really nice saying, the past is a ‘lesson’, the present is a ‘gift’ and the past is our ‘motivation’. Meditation helps to bring our focus on the present moment and when we do this we can’t get lost in the depressive thoughts about the past or future.
- Gives us mental strength – Studies have shown that people with depression have an underdeveloped ‘hippocampus’, which is a part of the brain that regulates motivation, emotion, learning and memory. Meditation actually strengthens this area of the brain and studies have shown that people who regularly meditate have a highly developed hippocampus.
- Strengthens the prefrontal cortex – This part of the brain is responsible for complex cognitive behaviour, personality expression, decision making and moderating social behaviour and for people with depression studies has found it is underdeveloped. Regular meditators have stronger and better prefrontal cortex, which explains why studies have found them to be the smarter and happier people.
So now you can see why meditating, reflecting, contemplation and focusing your thoughts is so important. If you would like to try a meditation practice specifically designed for depression, then try this one…….
Kimberley Aguet – Virtual Psychologist, Counsellor