There are many more questions that envelope the idea behind meditation and spirituality. But one of the major questions that everyone asks is can meditation help fight depression? Depression is one of the most common yet most debilitating forms of mental illnesses a majority of us are suffering from today.
The idea is that with meditation, you can begin your journey towards healing from this demon of depression. But what is the truth behind it? Does meditation really help fight depression? We take a look at the answers now.
What Happens When You Suffer From Depression?
Whether it’s severe chronic depression, short term depression, or even just the occasional waking up and not feeling happy and joyful. We all know what it’s like to be in a depressed mood. From kids to seniors, depression can affect anyone, anytime.
Moreover, Depression doesn’t just afflict the mind either. Depression leads to numerous behaviors that make us less active, eat poorly, and consume harmful drugs and alcohol.
What Causes Depression?
There are many things that can cause depression. These include genetics, trauma, stress, illness, addiction, and a family history of mental health disorders. Sometimes, depression doesn’t even need the background to knock on your door. It can hit any of us, anytime, anywhere.
But while the causes of depression can’t always be controlled, one thing we can do to fight and win in the battle against depression is meditation.
Can Meditation Help Fight Depression?
The Washington Post, Harvard Medical School, the Mayo Clinic, and countless other publications have all written extensively about the benefits of meditation and the ability for meditation to beat depression.
A great deal of research has been done into just how effective meditation is for depression, how and why it works so well. For many people, such as the woman who wrote about her story in the Washington Post, meditation is the only thing that works for their depression.
Here are a few ways meditation may be able to help you fight off depression for good.
You Are Not Your Thoughts
In meditation, we don’t just try to quieten our thoughts. Through practice, we learn to observe our thoughts without judgment. Moreover, we observe and begin to understand the nature of our minds. We notice how thoughts come and go when we don’t hold on to them or fixate on them.
We notice how one thought can lead to other thoughts, and we start becoming conscious of our thought patterns. And each time we become lost in thought, we gently bring our attention back to our breath or the body in the present moment.
What’s The Greatest Illusion?
The greatest illusion perpetrated on human beings is that the thoughts are who we really are. We say things like, “I had a thought.” But you did not have thought. Your mind had thought and you observed it. You are the observer, not the thought.
The mind is the thinking tool of the body, and it will think and think incessantly about anything and everything it can think up. Have you ever been waiting for a subway on a crowded platform and thought to yourself, “I could push this person in and kill them and no one would ever catch me?” Brains think these kinds of things all the time but that doesn’t make you a murderer.
The Vicious Circle Of Thoughts And More Thoughts
Our minds are thinking constantly and often repetitively and in circles. If we said everything we thought, people would think we were insane. Our minds are not insane though, they just do what they were designed to do: think.
According to some studies, humans have up to 60,000 thoughts per day and around 98% of them are the exact same thoughts they had the day before. The only difference between a “crazy” person we see talking to themselves on the street and a “sane” person is that the same person usually has the sense to not say out loud every crazy thought that pops into their brain.
Awareness Over Thoughts
So, since we’ve already proven that our mind thinks crazy thoughts all the time, to identify with our mind would be to become crazy ourselves. A mind is merely a tool that has evolved to help us with our survival in planning for the future by gathering nuts, to learn from the past and avoiding fire and tigers, and to work together and strategize for the survival of our species.
To identify with the mind and think that you are your thoughts is as crazy as thinking you are your hand. When we learn and practice in meditation to disidentify with our mind and to expand our awareness of our thoughts, we are able to observe negative thoughts without giving them any power over us and our emotions.
Activate Your Brain’s Internal Pharmacy
Our bodies and our brains are amazing systems that have the ability to naturally produce all of the chemicals needed to heal and repair itself. When we need healing white blood cells, our body is flooded with them. When we need dopamine, our brain produces dopamine.
Moreover, when we need adrenaline for focus and strength, we get it. The deep, relaxed, healing, and restorative state that meditation puts us in gives our body the signal to start producing those antidepressant chemicals naturally, in much greater quantities than if they came from a prescription antidepressant, and with no harmful side effects!
Being Present is a Gift
Problems do not exist in the present moment. In the present moment, things just happen. Problems exist when we judge things in the past as negative or worry about the future.
It all lies in the stories we tell ourselves about the past and future. This isn’t to say that undesired outcomes never happen. They do. But, how we frame these stories and what we remain fixated on determines our happiness.
What Is It About The Past?
We remember the past so we can learn from it. We imagine a future so we can plan and prepare for it. Everything else is merely habitual thinking that tends to generate misery and unhappiness. Instead of habitual thinking though, we can practice remaining in the present moment where we merely observe the beauty of life unfold without judgment or resistance.
We simply let come what may and we marvel at the dance of light and form. When we are lost in thought, we are not observing what is actually happening in the present moment and we create problems that are not really there. Meditation teaches us to remain present and use our mind, not let it use us.
The Story Of Two Buddhist Monks
Eckhart Tolle once told a beautiful story of two Buddhist monks walking through a forest. When they got to a river that they needed to cross, they found a woman who was struggling to make it across.
The first monk got in and went up to her, picked her up, and helped her out of the water, and put her down on the other said. The monks said goodbye to the woman and they went on their way. After walking a few more miles, angry and upset, the second monk finally said to the first monk, “You know, monks are not supposed to touch women.”
The first monk responded, “Are you still carrying that woman? I put her down miles ago.”
This revealing story shows how hard it can be to let go of the stories from our past and the freedom we can experience when we do let go.
Get Out of Your Head
In mindfulness meditation, we practice focusing on our breath or our body. Over and over again, when we find ourselves lost in thought, we gently return our awareness to our breath or our body. When you observe the breath or the body, you are fully present.
You’re not observing your breath or sensations from a few moments ago. You are observing what you are feeling right here and now. At first, you may only be able to focus for a few seconds before getting distracted by your thoughts, but these brief breaks are nonetheless very powerful moments of freedom from the constant thinking and the beginning of training your mind to become more present as your normal way of being.
The Power of Your Breath
How you breathe is a direct reflection of how you feel. When you breathe long, smooth, calm breaths, you are calm and healthy. When your breath is short and choppy and irregular, you are not calm and your body is not operating at an optimum level.
Luckily for us, the breath is both an automatic process and something we can easily control. While your state of mind may control your breath unconsciously, breathing consciously can also change your state of mind.
The Root of Suffering
Buddhism states that the root of all suffering comes from desire, attachment, and impermanence. Desire creates a mindset of not accepting our present reality, which leads to suffering.
Attachment creates a dependence on temporary circumstances and leads to suffering when things inevitably change. And while we all know that all things are impermanent, we fall for the illusion of permanence, which is why we become attached to things in the first place.
In meditation, no matter what kind of sensations come up, no matter what thoughts or desires arise, we simply observe them. We watch them arise and we watch them fall away, and in so doing, we notice and understand the impermanent nature of all things. Our wisdom and joy grow as we better understand the nature of our suffering.
Science is In…
From Transcendent Meditation to Mindfulness Meditation, study after study has shown that meditation transforms the regions of the brain associated with depression.
When the fear center and the “me” center (the part of the brain responsible for worrying and stress) communicate with each other, we experience depression. Meditation has been shown to break the connection, reduce stress and anxiety, and reduce the size of the brain’s fear center.
There’s also a correlation between depression and poor memory. Depressed people often have a smaller hippocampus which is responsible for memory. Meditation increases the size of the hippocampus and improves memory too!
Medicines Don’t Always Work and Can Be Dangerous
It turns out, antidepressants don’t work as well as we’ve been told. As revealed in the New York Times, while doctors and drug companies claim that nearly all of the peer-reviewed published studies about the efficacy of antidepressants were positive, what they don’t tell you is that there is an equal number of studies that showed negative results.
The negative studies, however, were never published! That means that half of the studies on antidepressants, which were nearly all funded by pharmaceutical companies, showed they work a little bit.
However, there are the other half of the studies. This half was not published or revealed to the public. Did you know what it showed? It showed that antidepressants were ineffective or harmful.
The findings in the times show that antidepressants only have a 50/50 chance of working or not, and that the times they do work are more likely to be due to the placebo effect than anything else.
In addition, many antidepressant medications come with debilitating side effects, not to mention the fact that some can make depression even worse and even lead to suicide. Common side effects of antidepressants include weight gain, insomnia, loss of sex drive and other sexual problems, agitation, anxiety, and irritability. Sound depressing yet?
One woman I know very well was briefly on an antidepressant. After a while, it started giving her symptoms as if she had Parkinson’s disease.
She was tested many times for Parkinson’s and other diseases but all came back negative. Then one day, a doctor diagnosed her with drug-induced Parkinson’s disease syndrome.
Five years later, she still has trouble walking and chronic pain. Antidepressants are just not worth the risk and certainly best tried only as a last resort.
Go From Depressed to Feeling Blessed
By learning to be more present, by understanding our thoughts and emotions, and by realizing the root cause of our suffering, all through the age-old and scientifically proven powerful practice of meditation, we can bring greater awareness to our mental state.
Not only this, but we can also increase our ability to be more grateful, joyful, peaceful, and loving.
When we’re more present, flavors are more flavorful, colors are more vibrant, sounds are more melodic, and we awaken from suffering and depression.
We are the creators of our own physical reality. This shapes through our awareness, trust, belief, willingness, and desire to tap into the spiritual reality more than the physical reality. And with meditation, it is all possible.
As late Louise Hay stated, you can heal your own life. You can cure your depression and step into the world of mental, physical, and spiritual bliss. All you have to do is tap into your subconscious with meditation and step into the new age well being. So are you ready?