Meditation & Depression
Alternative Medicine,  Depression,  Healthy Living

Meditation and Depression

Depression is a huge problem all around the world, so today I want to explore meditation and depression.

  • More than 264 million people globally suffer some form of depression according to the World Health Organization (WHO), 2020
  • In 2015, about 16.1 million US adults had at least one major depressive episode in the past year
  • 11% of adolescents have a depressive disorder by age 18
  • Women are 70% more likely than men to have depression and about 12 million women in the United States experience clinical depression each year
  • Depression is the leading cause of disability in the world (WHO, 2020)

Depression is a mental health diagnosis where certain symptoms accompany a general feeling of sadness that lasts at least two weeks or longer. While all of us can have a bad day or even an occasional bout of depressive feelings or sadness, clinical depression is more serious.

There are many things that can lead to depression. It’s not dictated by age, as it’s common among teenagers, middle-aged individuals, and older people. In fact, major depressive disorder is the number one cause of disability in the United States for people age 15 to 44.

Your chances of suffering from depression can be increased by a number of factors, such as genetics, trauma, grief and loss, certain medications, a major negative event and substance abuse.

Anti-depressant medication prescribed by psychiatrists can sometimes help with many forms of depression, although they were not effective for my own chronic depression. Your overall success of recovery and depression management can be increased with the use of natural therapies and practices. Medication on its own is one option, but many people find that adding complementary options to help promote recovery and improve your quality of life is a smart plan when managing depression is your goal.

One of the best ways to combat depression is to begin meditating. Here are 4 key ways meditation helps fight this mental disorder.

Meditation Boosts Neurotransmitters

Depression medications actually work by artificially increasing key mood neurotransmitters in your brain. However, meditation has the same effect naturally by stimulating the release of norepinephrine and serotonin. When the levels of these two brain chemicals decrease, you experience sadness, and as a result of the decrease can become depressed.

A study conducted by the University of Montreal proved that meditation offers you the opportunity to naturally boost your levels of both serotonin and norepinephrine.

Meditation Revives the Hippocampus Brain Region

When the brains of individuals who suffer from depression are compared to those who don’t, there are some notable differences. One of the ways depression attacks the brain is by weakening your hippocampus. This brain region is known for playing an important role when it comes to memory and spatial navigation.

When the research team of the University of Washington in St. Louis conducted a study in 1996, they found the hippocampus was incredibly underdeveloped in individuals suffering from depression compared to people who were mentally healthy. In fact, they concluded that the longer you suffer from depression, the greater the damage your hippocampus will suffer.

There is good news though as this damage isn’t permanent. Meditation can actually help you revive your hippocampus. Even if you don’t suffer from depression, meditation will help strengthen your hippocampus which lowers the risk that you will ever suffer from depression.

Meditation Deactivates the Depression Center of the Brain

Whenever we trigger our fight or flight stress response when dealing with issues like career challenges, relationship difficulties, and financial stressors, we release a cocktail of ‘bad’ hormones into our bodies. This stress response is triggered in a part of the brain known as the amygdala.

Whenever your amygdala gets “overheated”, your body is flooded by a number of hormones that can damage your mental health. But, there’s an easy way to cool off your amygdala! A study conducted by Harvard neuroscientists found that meditation will not only help you learn how to control that fight or flight stress response, but will also shrink or “cool down” your amygdala.

Meditation Will Make You Whole Again

Many people suffer from depression because they feel incomplete in some way. Some start suffering from this mental disorder after they lose someone close to them or after life changing events, such as a divorce. People who dedicate a lot of their time to their jobs can also begin to experience depression if they are fired. Some people suffer from a chemical imbalance that leads to clinical depression while many are living with high levels of chronic inflammation from their food choices and don’t even know it. I admit now that I was one of those people.

Meditation combined with improved food and lifestyle choices can make a huge difference in how you feel. I was able to get of anti-depressants and have been off them for more than ten years now.

Best Meditation Practices For Depression

There are many different forms of meditation, but mindfulness meditation certainly is a great choice. A study published by psychologists from the University of Exeter shows real evidence that mindfulness-based cognitive therapy, or MBCT may actually be more effective than counseling or medications, citing that four months after MBCT, three fourths of study subjects felt well enough to stop taking antidepressants. This is a serious win as there are always side effects to medication.

Mark Williams, a professor of clinical psychology at the University of Oxford and leader of the team that developed MBCT cites that brooding is one of the key features seen in patients with depression. With people who are mentally healthy, sad thoughts come and go; those who are clinically depressed feel this sadness as a norm, and they can be the main feature of the disorder. MBCT specifically tackles brooding, and teaches sufferers compassion for themselves as well as compassion for others.

The MBCT technique uses mindfulness meditation, a practice where you sit with your eyes closed and simply focus on your breathing. If this sounds a little too “woo-woo” for you, I want to share that recently I’ve begun doing some sort of meditation every day. Five or ten minutes in the morning, and I’ve been using a meditation to fall asleep. My sleep is better, and if I wake up feeling a little out of sorts, the morning meditation seems to be improving my mood.

I’ve been using a phone app I want to share with you especially as they are offering the first year free, but for a limited time only. It’s the Balance app. You can take a look at it here: https://www.balanceapp.com/

I was skeptical at first, but I have a friend and colleague who swears by it. I’ve never been able to stop my thoughts from racing long enough to meditate, and frankly, I’ve had no patience for it. This app is magical though. I really hope you’ll give a try and will let me know how you like it.

Helping You Achieve Major Wellness!

Cheryl

Cheryl A Major, CNWC

Cheryl A Major, Certified Nutrition & Wellness Consultant

I’m  author, health guru, and entrepreneur Cheryl A Major, and I would love to connect with you. If you’re new to the world of creating a healthier menu and wellness plan for yourself, please check out my signature program The Anti-Diet Solution.   Learn how to lose weight without dieting. You may lose a whole lot more…like depression, which is exactly what happened to me!

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