Can meditation help depression? Yes, without a doubt it can help. Meditation is not magic and won’t fix everything but it is free and easy to start. You can meditate anywhere and there are many different types to choose from. Learning how to meditate when you have depression is the first thing I would recommend starting with when looking for ways to help depression.
How Meditation Can Help Depression
My favorite first step when looking for ways to help depression naturally is meditation. Not only is it free it can be done anywhere. It can also help with other mental issues and improve productivity. What meditation can improve:
Meditation calms the brain
The more you feel depressed the easier it is to feel depressed again. Your brain creates pathways. The more your brain uses a pathway the easier it becomes to use it in the future.
Think of a path in the woods. When you walk on a nice path the walk is easy. When you have no path walking through the woods is difficult.
Meditation helps create pathways to calm. The more you practice meditation the easier it becomes for your mind to calm down. Eventually calming your mind becomes easier and easier. You are literally programming your brain for calm.
Meditation Decreases Stress
You can greatly reduce stress when you meditate. Meditation encourages deep breathing. You can improve your stress response by deep breathing alone. Meditation can help you become aware of negative thoughts. Once you are aware of negative thoughts you can start to remove them.
I understand having a calm mind and having less stress is similar. But having a general feeling of calm and not becoming overwhelmed in stressful situations are slightly different. Practicing mediation helps with both.
Meditation Improves Productivity
Calming your mind through meditation can help productivity. When your mind is frantically racing it is hard to focus. If you are unable to focus, regardless of your job, productivity decreases.
When you feel like you can never get enough done this can make you anxious and depressed. Feeling anxious and depressed decreases productivity. It turns into a vicious cycle.
If you have audible (that is an affiliate link. If you don’t want to use it simply search audible if you are interested in joining) there is a good audiobook that is currently free. It is How To Train Your Mind by Chris Bailey. It is a little over 3 hours long and about meditation and productivity. I already meditate but I still really enjoyed this short book. It helped me realize how powerful meditation can be and I try hard not to miss my daily meditation.
Meditation Reduces Pain
When you meditate endorphins are released. Those endorphins reduce pain. Also, some think observing and accepting pain increases tolerance.
Chronic pain and illness can be a cause of depression. Depression itself can also cause pain. When you meditate not only are you improving yourself mentally you increase your pain tolerance.
Learning to Meditate for Beginners
We don’t have as much control over our minds as we think. Our minds wander often. When I started to meditate I was shocked at how difficult it was. How can something so simple be so hard?
The good news, it gets easier with practice. There are many different meditation styles to choose from. The bad news, there are many different meditation styles to choose from. I waited years to start meditating because I told myself I didn’t know how. Then I couldn’t decide what type of meditation to try so I waited longer. Piece of advice, just pick one and try it.
If you have no idea how to start here are a few suggestions for beginners. I like these because they can be done anywhere. They require no equipment or only your phone and maybe headphones.
Focus on your breath
Take a slow deep breath. Focus fully on that breath. Pay attention to your inhale and exhale. You may experience random thoughts simply acknowledge them and return your focus to the breath.
You can box breath. Breathe in for a count of 4, hold for a count of 4 and exhale for a count of 4. Adjust the time to make it comfortable for you.
If there are repeated thoughts that come up I like to take a moment after I meditate to address those ideas. Sometimes I am upset about an issue and I simply need to let it go. There may be a problem bothering me that I was unaware was stressing me out and I need to address it.
This form of meditation I do use often but it is difficult for me. I practice it to improve my focus and mindfulness but I am not good at it. I make it 2-5 minutes.
Focus on an image
You can light a candle and focus on the flame while breathing deeply. Focus on a river or waves of a body of water. There are days when closing my eyes just feels irritating. I use a plant to focus on often on days like that.
There doesn’t have to be an actual object. Use your imagination and visualize a candle in your mind. I have heard of some people visualizing and beam of light shining on them and filling them with energy.
Focus on a part of your body. Imagine the energy in your body and it flowing like a river. Move the energy to different parts of your body.
Some of these can sound a little out there. But stick with me, you may find something that sounds incredibly goofy but works wonders for you.
If you have a difficult time focusing guided meditation can be wonderful. I use guided meditation almost every time. I pick a free guided meditation off youtube and put in my cheap headphones and meditate.
If you’re a complete beginner I suggest guided meditation. I have been meditating for years and still can’t sit still and focus on breathing. But I can meditate for 25-50 minutes easily with guided meditation.
You can buy guided meditations but there are none I suggest. There are too many good free versions. Keep searching until you find your perfect one. It took me a few tries but now I have a few I love.
On a good day, when I meditate it gives me a feeling of intense joy and I feel content after. I feel as if I just woke up from a wonderful restorative sleep and am filled with energy. And some days I literally fell asleep doing it and woke up feeling miserable. Can’t focus and feel just as crabby after as before. Also, I grumbled about it being a waste of time.
I want to make it clear every time will not be perfect. You need to practice and even after a bad day view it as a learning experience, not a failure.
Focus on a Mantra
Pick a positive phrase that you will repeat and focus on. It can also be a sound, for example, ummmmmmm, or one word like love.
I am worthy of love. I am one with the universe and the universe is one with me. These are examples of mantras I have heard others use. A mantra can be extremely helpful for some or distracting for someone else. Remember you can make this any phrase you want and change it daily if that helps.
Can’t sit still? Try a walking meditation. Focus on your breath while slowly walking. Listen to guided walking meditation. When you find you can’t sit still this may be the best type for you.
I get distracted with a walking meditation but I must admit I do really love it. I turn walking meditation into a walk. But sometimes a simple walk can make things better too.
How Long to Meditate
When you are first starting out have a goal of 2-5 minutes. As you get better you can increase the time. As you improve gradually increase to 20 minutes. But if you don’t have time even a few minutes can help.
You may find one form of meditation difficult. If you find you can’t increase your time or absolutely hate meditation try a different type. Most people find 20 minutes to be a good time. You can really feel the good effects of meditation but it doesn’t take up too much time. Try different ways until you can work up to 20 minutes.
Remember it is called a meditation practice. You need to practice to get good at it and that may take some time. If you are like me it can take a while before you work up to 20 minutes. I still can’t focus for 20 minutes with most forms of meditation. Find what works best for you.
When to Meditate
I like to meditate in the morning. The simple fact is if I don’t do it first thing in the morning I will not do it. I like to take a pen and paper and write down my goal for the day.
Let me be clear only write down 1 or 2 goals. Do not make the goals extremely hard that defeats the purpose. You should be writing down easily achievable goals.
After I write down my goals I meditate. This helps my mind not wander as much. Either during part of my meditation or right after I imagine the feeling of accomplishment after completing my goals for the day.
I find this extremely helpful when fighting depression. If you are having a hard time functioning give yourself 1 goal. Make the goal easy and something you know you can finish.
No time in the morning to meditate? Meditate at night. When you meditate at night it can relax you before bed and help you sleep. I would still write down 1 or 2 goals to focus on the next day and then meditate.
Does your mind race as soon as you lay down to go to sleep? If you meditate the racing thoughts will start to slow down making it easier to sleep.
What about if you fall asleep while meditating? Great! Sleep is what you need and a few minutes of meditation may help improve your sleep.
You can always do morning and evening meditation. Also, anytime you have available during the day can work too. Have a specific time you try to meditate. But if you miss it don’t worry just try to do it later that day or try again tomorrow.
Of all the natural ways to help depression meditation should be first on the list. You can do this anywhere and anytime. It is a great skill to learn and helps you cope with stress, anxiety, and depression.
No medications or supplements are necessary. It only takes a few minutes of your time a day. If you experience depression or think you are starting to experience depression (you can read my article on what depression feels like for me) start meditation now.