How Does Meditation For Depression Work?

Reviewed by Rashonda Douthit, LCSW

Published 01/07/2021

Some may not think about meditation when dealing with depression symptoms, but studies have shown that meditation may help reduce symptoms. Depression affects millions of people each year. Many living with depression seek ways to manage their symptoms through self-help techniques such as meditation.  When practiced regularly, it helps individuals achieve mental calmness while encouraging them to focus on the present.  It may encourage depressed people to engage in positive, healthy actions.

What To Know About Depression

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Depression is a mental health condition that affects emotional and physical health. People with depression may feel persistent sadness and experience changes in their mood. Their symptoms may disrupt their lifestyle. It is not a condition that lets a person easily snap out of it. When symptoms affect how they conduct daily tasks and their relationships with others, treatment by a professional mental health specialist is necessary. Symptoms and signs of depression include:

  • Feeling tired or fatigued often
  • Changes in eating and sleeping
  • Reduced interest in fun activities or hobbies
  • Feeling guilty, worthless, or hopeless
  • Lack of ability to focus, concentrate or make decisions
  • Persistent feelings of tension, irritability, or sadness
  • Thoughts of self-harm or death

When a person is diagnosed with depression, a treatment plan is developed based on their symptoms. It may include a combination of therapy, medication, and self-care techniques. Meditation is another recommended method for people coping with depression. Meditation is also used to help people achieve balance, life, meaning, happiness, and hope. Studies show if you practice meditation, it may help suppress worries and negative thoughts to encourage positive mental and physical energy.

Why Is Meditation Helpful For Depression?

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Practicing meditation provides benefits crucial to your mental health. It helps you gain awareness of the present and be in tune with what is happening in your mind, body, and soul. Some may think a person with depression couldn’t benefit if they have issues with their mood and energy. Proper practicing techniques help you improve your mood and energy over time. Meditation is used to manage thoughts and feelings related to anger, anxiety, cravings, and stress.

Learning to pay attention to your body when experiencing symptoms is a game-changer. It reduces the risk of suppressing your feelings while leading to healthier options to help you cope. Meditation enables you to keep in touch with your feelings and emotions. It leads to gaining a sense of control because you understand more about your feelings, and you can take proactive measures to do something about it instead of letting them negatively impact you. It helps you change how to respond to negative thoughts.

How Can It Help With Symptoms?

Meditation can make managing symptoms better. It may not get rid of your symptoms, but you will feel more empowered to take essential steps to control them.  Meditation helps with different areas, including emotional, mental, and spiritual health. You can deal with issues as they arise, and you’re less likely to let your problems pile up on each other.

For example, someone who has practiced meditation may be better able to separate themselves from emotions considered negative.   This plays a crucial role in understanding how to live with depression, focusing on your well-being. As you learn different ways to practice meditation, you’ll learn how thoughts affect your mental and emotional health. Many forms of meditation help calm anxiety and negative perceptions about oneself.

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The research behind meditation shows you can increase its effectiveness when combined with other forms of depression treatment. For some people, it may help them overcome or prevent depression. Meditation helps take attention away from negative energy, and you learn to focus on yourself without judgment. You know how to notice your thoughts and accept them. Consider this as a way of disrupting negative thought cycles. As you practice, you’ll learn how to replace negative thoughts with things that help you feel better.

Meditation helps you learn how to manage your symptoms, such as fatigue and irritability. As your thought behaviors change due to depression, meditation makes it easier to identify the change so you can do something about it sooner, preventing things from worsening. People have learned how to improve their symptoms by giving more attention to practicing methods that lead to faster relief.

There is evidence meditation can reduce the risk of depression when mixed with therapy, such as mindfulness-based cognitive therapy. People have also experienced long-lasting results through meditation.

What To Know When You Practice

There are different ways to practice meditation, and learning about them is the first step toward finding methods to practice. It may seem challenging in the beginning if you’re new, but it is easy to get started as long as you have an open mind. An essential meditation exercise may include the following steps:

  1. Learn ways to get comfortable to encourage yourself to complete the activity. Some people like sitting while others want to stand. Choose a position to help you relax. You can also meditate with your eyes closed.
  2. Take slow, deep breaths in and out through your nose. Some like to inhale through their nose and exhale through their mouth. Pay attention to the sound of your breathing and inhale-exhale motion. Stay focused on your breathing and redirect your thoughts when you catch your thoughts wandering to something else.
  3. As you focus on your breathing, begin to focus on other parts of your body. You can start with your feet, hands, head, or whatever is most comfortable. Focus on how that body part feels and keep breathing while inhaling and exhaling deeply.

Some people may experience discomfort or recognize any aches or pains. You can practice visualization exercises along with meditation to help calm your mood and redirect your focus. As you breathe, picture your muscles relaxing and tightening. The idea is to help yourself get more comfortable with your bodily sensations and experience. When unwanted thoughts appear while breathing, acknowledge it, and refocus on deep breathing. Don’t be hard on yourself if your mind wanders. Be compassionate with yourself as you redirect your focus to breathing. It takes time but gets easier with practice.

Tips For Making It A Routine

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It is a good idea to learn some tips and tricks on making mediation work for you. Keep in mind, when you’re new, it takes time to get used to the process. There is no specific way to do it, but it helps learn how to be comfortable to keep yourself encouraged and motivated. When you practice, do so at the same time each day. Think about the best time to meditate where you can do so without disruption from others. Some practice in the morning during their shower; others practice before bedtime. You can try different times to see what works best.

Time your sessions in small increments to get started. Some start by spending as little as five minutes a day and build up from there. Learn about different approaches to meditation. Some include breathing exercises and other ways to tune into your body. Find one approach to practice and then consider adding on as you get comfortable with the first. Use an affirmation or mantra to help maintain your focus when you lose it. It may include repeating a phrase or making a consistent noise to keep your mind focused on your breathing and body.

Be creative with how you meditate. It keeps things interesting, and you may develop strengths to help you keep the habit. Meditate in the park to get a change in scenery. Be patient and give yourself time to adjust. Improvements may take time to notice. It could be a couple of weeks or so before you see a difference. When you notice a positive change about yourself, use that as motivation and focus. A change you may notice first is a lift in your mood.

Help For Depression Symptoms

While doing things such as meditation may help manage depression symptoms, it is crucial to know when to seek help. If your symptoms seem to worsen or you have concerns about your mental health, contact your doctor or a mental health specialist as soon as possible.   In the case of severe symptoms, it is important to contact a doctor or therapist right away, before using self-help methods such as meditation.

While there may not be a cure for depression, meditation may help manage symptoms and learn how to cope. It may get more comfortable to face unwanted feelings and challenge your thoughts while preventing negativity associated with them from going out of control. You can learn how to cope by asking for help. Don’t be afraid to reach out so you can start feeling better.