How Meditation can help with Depression

Meditation-depression

When we feel depressed, meditation can help.

 

When we feel sad or depressed, we don’t feel alive, and life becomes mechanical.  We find ourselves going through the motions.  We can easily loose ourselves, and our light goes out, or feels dim. 

There are many forms of depression that can result from difficult and painful situations such as loss of a loved one, trauma, illness, biological circumstances, to name a few, or it can be like cloud cover, that generally brings us down seemingly for no apparent reason. 

Depression can be short or long term, and even chronic.

Some of the symptoms of depression include:         

o  Difficulty concentrating, remembering details, and making decisions

o  Fatigue and decreased energy

o  Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, and/or helplessness

o  Feelings of hopelessness and/or pessimism

o  Insomnia, early-morning wakefulness, or excessive sleeping

o  Irritability, restlessness

o  Loss of interest in activities or hobbies once pleasurable,

o  Overeating or appetite loss

o  Persistent aches or pains

o  Persistent sad, anxious, or "empty" feelings

What can we do to help ourselves when we’re feeling down?

There are tools that can help us, even when we don’t feel like we have the energy.  One of them is meditation, which has proven to be very effective for treating depression.   NPR wrote an article about Depression and Mindfulness based on 47 studies that all conclude meditation helps with depression.  

Meditation helps us to develop our observational skills and recognize our thought patterns.  This is essential for change to happen and healing to occur.  We need to see how our hurtful and harmful thoughts keep us feeling stuck or trapped.  Negative thoughts and emotions equate to feeling badly about ourselves.  We may have a tendency to blame ourselves, or feel guilty.  Low self-esteem is common when we are depressed. Often, we might not be aware of being depressed.  It can happen over time and we get used to feeling this way.

How can we navigate this difficult territory?  Meditation is one tool that can help with depression and here are some techniques that can be useful:

Take a pause:

Take a three-minute pause. Sit in a comfortable position. Close your eyes or leave them partially open.  Bring your focus to the breath as it flows in and out of your body.  As you take a step back, observe the negative thoughts that are cycling in your mind. Depression is filled with critical and judgmental thoughts that play out in our heads constantly hearing statements like “I’m worthless”, “No one cares about me”, “I can’t do anything right”.  Sound familiar? We tend to focus on the negative and ignore the positive thoughts.  Recognizing this thought pattern can help us to know what happens to us when we experience this cycle,  how we talk to ourselves and what we feel emotionally.  This is a first step to being aware of what’s happening inside your world that greatly impacts your internal and external experience.  It is the path of healing.  

 

 Develop gratitude:

As you continue to sit comfortably cross-legged or on a chair.  Take another couple minutes and reflect upon what is meaningful in your life, what it’s like to be alive and what you can be grateful for in the present moment.  Ask yourself what it feels like in the body as you reflect upon these questions.  Allow the thinking self to be in the background and notice what emerges in the foreground as you reflect on these questions.   Notice what happens in your body, and if there are any changes as you observe.  Connecting with our body helps us to track what’s happening with our energy in the moment.  Notice if there are any changes emotionally, or in your thought process.  Maybe you find yourself slowing down, or feeling calmer.  Meditation tends to re-focus our energy towards more positive states that can elevate our mood and change our biochemistry helping us to feel more peaceful.  We see our internal and external world from a different lens that allows us to experience our lives, and our relationships differently.

 

Recognize life is temporary:

Meditate a few more minutes on how our lives and relationships are temporary.  All experiences are impermanent.  You may have been emotional or upset in the past, and this moment you may feel different.  In reflecting on the temporal quality of life, it can help us to cultivate and appreciate our human experience and be present in the moment.

 

Develop openness and receptivity:

As you sit comfortably, take another couple minutes to imagine a safe place.  It can be the sky, the ocean or the mountains, etc. Notice what it feels like in your body when you’re in this place.  Does it feel more spacious, lighter or expansive?  Try to identify sensations.  As thoughts arise, gently bring yourself back to the image of your safe place or the sky.  Notice if you start to feel yourself settling and softening, feeling more open and relaxed. 

 

If you allow yourself to cultivate a meditation practice, it can decrease depression, stress and anxiety levels. Meditation is skill and this tool helps us to harvest and experience more peace, and happiness in our lives.