Meditation has shown to be helpful for treating depression in clinical studies. Mindfulness meditation in particular has been shown to have a strong effect on lessening symptoms of depression, such as negative thinking, rumination, and lack of focus.
While meditation can be effective in treating depression, even in those with treatment-resistant depression, be aware that it is only one part of what should be a multi-pronged approach to treat depression. Meditation should be used in conjunction with therapy and possibly other traditional methods to fully treat depression.
Method 1. Using Mindfulness Meditation
1. Sit upright. Some studies have shown mindful meditation is effective in combatting depression, and is particularly effective in preventing relapse for those who have experienced episodes of major depression. To practice mindfulness meditation, you’ll first need to sit upright on a chair or on the floor.
- Choose a room without distractions. It might be best to choose a particular corner of the room. Do not face anything stimulating, like a television set or window. Try to face a blank wall if possible.
- Sit in a manner that feels comfortable. You want to be able to focus on your breath and self rather than feelings of physical discomfort. You can sit on the floor, a cushion, or a chair with a straight back. Make sure you choose a chair that does not wiggle around. Try to sit up straight when you’re meditating in order to make breathing easier.
- Place your hands on your thighs, facing downward. Keep your eyes somewhat opened, with your gaze focusing on the wall or floor. Make sure your hips are higher than your knees.
2. Sit for a few moments, keeping your mind focused on the present moment. Once you’re seated, spend a few moments taking in the present moment. Be aware of your posture, your body, and your environment. Your mind will probably wander at some point. When this happens, gently bring your thoughts back to your body and your surroundings.
3. Feel your breath. After spending a few moments focusing on the present, turn your attention to your breath. Breathing is a natural, rhythmic process. Pay attention to how air comes in and out of your lungs.
- Channel all your attention on your breath. There is no need to manipulate your breath or breathe in a particular way. Just pay attention to its natural rhythm.
- Keep your attention on your body and environment in addition to your breathing. Try to spend a few minutes breathing and focusing on the present. Once again, if your mind wanders, try to bring things back to the present.
- Try practicing diaphragm breathing either sitting up or lying down. If you plan to sit up, make sure you sit up straight so you can breathe more easily. Place one hand on your chest and another on your lower stomach. Breathe in such a way that the hand on your stomach rises while the one on your chest remains still. Breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth. Repeat for as many breaths as it takes for you to begin to feel calmed and emotionally slowed down.
4. Let thoughts flow through you. After a few minutes of breathing, allow your mind to wander. Do not judge or analyze your thoughts. Just let them come in and out naturally.
- Thoughts will begin to arise if you meditate long enough. They might be memories, worries, concerns, or snippets from TV shows. Try not to control your thoughts. Just let them come and go on their own.
- Avoid judging your thoughts or trying to work through or analyze anything. Simply let the thoughts occur. It can be helpful to name your thoughts in your head as they come. Think something like, “Here is a memory from childhood,” or, “Here is some worry about my job.”
5. Aim for two-and-a-half hours of mindful meditation per week. Strive to meditate a bit each day. Studies show two-and-a-half hours of mindfulness meditation improves symptoms of depression in some patients. Try to work meditation into your regular schedule. For example, plan to meditate after brushing your teeth each night before bed. This way, it’ll become routine.
Method 2. Trying Body Scan Meditation
1. Lie down in a comfortable place. Body scan meditation can also help you remain in the present moment. Focusing on the present can help aid in depression. Many people report feeling more relaxed after a few weeks of practicing body scan meditation. The first step in body scan meditation is lying down. Choose a comfortable space, like a mat or your bed.
2. Notice your body and set your intention. Spend some time focusing on your body. Then, set your intentions for the exercise. Your intention is an aim or purpose that embodies how you want to live your life. It could be something like, “Open my heart,” or “Have compassion for myself.” Your intention should always be positive.
- How does your body feel against the mat, bed, or floor? What body parts seem tense? Is there anything pressing into your hips or back? Imagine softening those areas, making them feel more relaxed and comfortable. Relax any body parts, like the jaw or shoulders, that seem tense.
- The point of body scan meditation is to clear your mind. Spend a moment stating your intentions in your head. Agree to let go of the past and future and allow everything but your body to fade into the background.
3. Begin the scan. Once you’re comfortable and relaxed, begin the scan. Body scan meditation is the practice of placing hyper focus on one area of the body at a time.
- A body scan is sort of like taking a tour of your body. Do not picture your body parts or move them. Simply notice how they feel.
- Start with your feet. Are your toes colder than the rest of your body? Are you wearing socks? If so, take stock of how the fabric feels against your skin. Move up to the foot and then the leg.
- As you scan your body parts, allow them to disappear. Let your toes fade from awareness as you explore the rest of your foot. Let your foot slip from your mind as you move up your leg.
- Travel up the body until you reach your head, allowing your body to gradually fade away as you go.
4. Connect it all together. Once you’ve reached your head, it’s time to connect your body back together. Start with the head. Feel the head connect to the neck, the torso, the arms, and so on. Then, feel your skin all around your body. Allow yourself to feel a physical sense of wholeness.
Method 3. Additional Practices
1. Try loving kindness meditation. Loving-kindness meditation is a form of meditation, often used on children, that has shown to be effective at combating depression. Try incorporating loving-kindness meditation into your daily routine.
- The idea behind loving-kindness meditation is to sit down comfortably and imagine what you want in life. Find a comfortable place on the floor and begin a mantra. Say something like, “May I be happy, may I be strong and healthy, may I feel relaxed.” Keep going, listing wishes for yourself.
- From there, list good wishes for those around you. Direct the same thoughts towards someone you’re thankful for. For example, “May my mother be happy, may my mother be strong and healthy, may my mother feel relaxed…”
- Visualize someone you feel neutral about, that is someone you neither like nor dislike. Send those same thoughts their way. It can even be helpful to direct such thoughts to people you have active animosity towards. Sending love to those who make you miserable can actually be empowering.
- Last, direct your mantra out into the universe. End with something like, “May all living things everywhere be happy.”
2. Look up guided meditation routines. You can find guided meditation techniques online. You might also be able to order meditation routines as CD’s or mp3 files. These routines can help you visualize calming scenes, focus on your body and breath, and keep you in the present moment. This might help with depression.
3. Contact a meditation instructor or take a class at meditation center. If you want to try a particular types of meditation, such as Buddhist meditation, it might be a good idea to look into classes. See if there are meditation instructors or meditation classes in your area. In addition to helping with effective meditation, this is a great way to meet new people. Fostering healthy social relations can also help with depression.
4. See a therapist while practicing meditation. Studies about the efficacy of meditation to treat depression are ongoing, and it’s important you do not rely solely on meditation to treat depression. Depression is a serious mental health issue and should not be taken lightly. You can find a therapist by asking your regular doctor for a referral. You can also find a list of therapists online through your insurance provider. If you are a college student, you may be entitled to free counseling through your university. Symptoms of depression include:
- Feelings of emptiness, hopelessness, despair, or sadness
- Irritability or mood swings
- Loss of interest in things you used to enjoy
- Unusual sleep patterns (sleeping too much or too little)
- Unusual appetite (wanting to eat less, wanting to eat more)
- Changes in weight (weight loss or weight gain)
- Fatigue, exhaustion, lack of energy
- Agitation or anxiety
- Slowed thinking or movement, feeling weighed down
- Feelings of worthlessness or guilt
- Difficulty concentrating, thinking, or making decisions
- Unexplained physical ailments, likes aches or pains
- Thoughts or attempts of suicide
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