Meditation Can Worsen Your Depression And Anxiety: How To Avoid That
Meditation is a well-known practice that people value for self-improvement. Millions, if not billions, of people practice it often so that they can find peace, happiness, and improved overall well-being in this chaotic world.
However, research has found that it can also worsen the same health issues it is known to help with, like anxiety and depression. And while this is true, the answer to why this happens may lie within ourselves and how we engage in meditation practice.
Here, we will be taking a deeper look at the some of the negative effects of meditation and the important things to keep in mind and work with to reduce the chances of having bad experiences with it.
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About the Author: David Oscar is a huge meditation and mindfulness enthusiast. He is also a mental health researcher and the editor of Improve Your Brain Power , a website that shares the legitimate and effective ways to improve the power and function of the brain.
The opinions and views expressed in any guest blog post do not necessarily reflect those of www.rtor.org or its sponsor, Laurel House, Inc. The author and www.rtor.org have no affiliations with any products or services mentioned in the article or linked to therein. Guest Authors may have affiliations to products mentioned or linked to in their author bios.
Meditation Types: Potential Negative Effects
For many people, meditation induces calmness, relaxation and a sense of well-being. However, this is not true for everyone. Individuals suffering from mental health problems or who have undergone trauma in the past may find that meditation causes unpleasant or painful memories to arise, which they’re not ready to confront. Long-term studies at Brown University are still ongoing. Once complete, science should have a clearer picture of the potential adverse effects of meditation for certain individuals.
If you experience difficulties with your preferred type of meditation, it may be appropriate to seek help from a support group or psychotherapist. Meditation should not be a optimization goal in-and-of itself but rather a means of developing self-compassion and peace. Be wary of pushing on with a meditation practice if it feels counter-productive.
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Therapies That Work Best For Depression
Depression is one of the most common mental health issues. There are different courses of treatment that are available for treating depression. Generally, therapy and medication are the two lines of treatment that can help in bringing relief to symptoms of depression.
Generally, medication is preferred when there are certain medical causes underlying depression. If this is not the case then talk therapy is the most preferred and effective form of treatment. While many therapies are practiced by professionals certain therapies work best for depression. The reason being that therapies for depression work differently on an individuals thoughts, behaviors, and more.
The depression therapies help you step back and identify what might be contributing to your depression, and further guides you in making necessary changes. But, each therapy has a different approach and different areas to tap on. Depending on the type of therapy that will work best for you there will be a different role of you and your therapist in the same.
Below we have discussed the top 5 therapies for depression treatment briefly and crisply that will help you understand your treatment with a clearer headspace.
The Power Of Serotonin And Norepinephrine
Between your wonderfully complex brain’s billions of neurons are an internet-like group of chemical messengers known as “neurotransmitters.” For the depression sufferer, there are two critical “need to know” neurotransmitters: serotonin and norepinephrine.
When levels of these two highly important brain chemicals get low, we feel an overwhelming sense of sadness, and consequently, become depressed. If you’re taking an antidepressant, these two critical communicators are the likely target.
But with an array of side effects , dependency, and general ineffectiveness , antidepressants aren’t really ideal. Thankfully, there is an ultra-powerful, time-tested, all-natural solution.
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Best Guided Meditations Of 2022
- Best for Deepening Your Practice: Tara Brach
- Best for Beginners: Headspace
- Best for Skeptics: Ten Percent Happier
- Cost: Calm offers a 7-day free trial with an annual membership for around $70. Or, if you want meditations for life, you can pay about $400 for indefinite access to the app.
- Features: Calm background waves, individual exercises.
Why We Chose It: Calm is a quick and easy meditation for anxiety through a flexible app.
App offers more individual exercises
Levitts class gets right to what helps anxiety
Calming waves in background
Need a subscription
App isnt the most intuitive
If you live with anxiety, adding one more thing to your day is enough to trigger thoughts of worry, stress, and panic. The good news? Calm offers a meditation from Tamara Levitt that only takes 10 minutes.
This meditation is perfect for a morning routine to help prepare your mind for the day ahead or at the end of a hectic day to help ease stress and anxiety. At the start, youll get right into body awareness and deep belly breathing. Then, you’ll focus on calming racing thoughts. She often pauses to let you just focus on breathing , which can be difficult for someone with anxiety.
You might notice thoughts arising about the past, the future, or something you should have said or done. Her advice? Dont make an effort to look for thoughts, but when they arise, simply notice them.
Feeling anxiety? Online anxiety support groups can help.
It May Reduce Inflammation
In recent years, scientists have associated depression with inflammation in the brain and body. The relationship is cyclical: Higher inflammation is linked to worsened depressive symptoms, while depressive symptoms are believed to increase inflammation.Research indicates that meditation can help lower inflammation.
In a 2017 analysis of 18 studies, the authors concluded that meditation and similar mind-body techniques, like yoga, may significantly reduce inflammation. The authors note, though, that more studies are needed that account for lifestyle factors such as sleep, diet, and exercise.
A 2019 study on 79 males found that those who engaged in regular yoga-meditation had notably lower inflammation and stress levels than age-matched controls. But this study had a small sample size, so again, more research is needed to support these results.
Types Of Meditation That Can Help Deal With Depression
Some meditation types help manage depression. Remember to continue with your medications and other treatments as you continue with meditation. Use it as part of your conventional medical care, and if possible, under your doctorâs supervision.
- Loving-kindness meditation. Focuses on creating a loving and kind environment for yourself. It can help remove feelings of doubt and self-criticism.
- Mindfulness meditation. Some people consider this the most potent form of meditation. Most other forms of meditation come from this type. Itâs about being aware of the present moment and feeling it to the fullest.
- Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy. This is a branch of mindfulness meditation. It blends with cognitive behavioral therapy for effective results and focuses on changing damaging behavior patterns and thoughts.
- Yoga. This is a meditative practice that involves physical postures, breathing techniques, and meditation.
- Visualization. When you focus on pleasant images, your brain becomes calm. It changes how you remember negative memories. You end up with happy thoughts.
- Chanting. This activates parts of your brain involved with emotional control and mood regulation.
- Walking meditation. This helps you to mentally and physically stay healthy and improve your flexibility.
Dealing With Unwanted Thoughts
If any unwanted or unpleasant thoughts and emotions come up as you breathe, acknowledge them briefly, then turn your attention back to your body scan.
Keep in mind thats is nearly impossible to keep your attention from ever wandering, even if youve been meditating for years. The key is to not beat yourself up about it. Simply redirect your awareness with self-compassion. This will probably feel odd at first, but it gets easier with time.
If youd like to learn more about meditating effectively, you can always take a class or find a meditation teacher. You dont need to necessary venture out or fork over money, though. There are plenty of free resources online.
You can find some guidance here, or check out the resources below:
Theres really no right or wrong way to meditate. If youre looking for some extra pointers, though, these tips can help.
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How The Depressed Mind Works
When we get stuck in a mental rut, like a howitzer, negative thoughts fire one after another. “I’m not good enough… I make too many mistakes… I’m such a bad person.“
In fact, scientists estimate the number of human thoughts at over 50,000 per day meaning that a “depressed mind” can generate dozens of pessimistic thoughts per minute!
While we all succumb to thoughts of “no hope” from time to time, the difference is the depressed mind’s sheer volume & level of bombardment. Truly paralyzing.
Luckily meditation fixes all of the above.
How Mindfulness Acts As The Perfect Counterbalance To A Stressed
This is an interesting and somewhat complex question. To some degree, any form of meditation may provide some assistance, and in most cases, any meditation is better than no meditation. However, because of the specific way that different meditation practices impact the brain, mindfulness may be your best bet to counteract the impact of chronic stress and anxiety.
Before we go further, let me say a few words about what I mean by mindfulness.
For the purposes of this post, I will use Jon Kabat-Zinns definition, which basically describes mindfulness as paying attention in a particular way, on purpose, in the present moment, and without judgment. This is important, as it separates these practices from other common forms of meditation, including styles that emphasize focus or concentration, loving-kindness or compassion, or expanded consciousness.
When mindfulness is practiced in line with the definition used above, a few interesting things happen in the brain. First, theta brainwaves increase in a specific portion of the frontal lobe called the Anterior Cingulate Cortex . Theta waves in this region of the brain are associated with relaxed, gentle attention. This is the kind of attention that is engaged when you observe what is happening in the present moment, yet are not attached to any of it.
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How A Weak Prefrontal Cortex Can Result In Depression
As we evolved from our prehistoric Neanderthal form to our modern human form, one particular brain region has risen to prominence.
Known as the brains overall thought orchestrator, “CEO”, and emotional control center the “prefrontal cortex” is pinpointed as perhaps the clearest dividing line between ancient man & modern man.
And this brain region is super-important for depression sufferers.
A study published in one of the worlds leading medical journals, “The Lancet” tested the brains of 17 clinically depressed patients. What did they find?
Kind of like that skinny-legged guy at the gym who only trains his upper body , the depressed subjects “emotional regulating” prefrontal cortexes were remarkably underdeveloped as compared to the rest of the brain.
Imagine if you could upgrade this amazing brain region, and in essence make an evolutionary quantum leap! You can, through meditation!
Nothing Worked For My Depression Until I Tried Meditation
Ive been on the wrong side of happy since I was 4, when my parents split. I dont remember a sense of devastation, but I doubt this was a coincidence. An adverse childhood event such as divorce increases the risk of depression, especially when coupled with my fathers history of mental illness.
Genes play a role in mood disorders, but they dont write your destiny the same way having a family history of alcoholism doesnt mean youll become an alcoholic. I had been moderately depressed my whole life. I seized control of it when I stopped blaming my history and focused on my brain. Specifically, the negative thought loops that were keeping me down.
Research shows that factors such as unfulfilling work and increasing isolation affect our mood, but the idea of making grand life changes such as quitting your job so you can toss your meds isnt a realistic option for most. And for many, such as me, that might not even do the trick.
I loved my first job. I worked with inspiring colleagues on meaningful projects, but the pressure of proving myself left me with butterflies in my stomach for a year. Anxiety worsened my depression, triggering a panic attack that left me gasping for air and feeling as though the world were disintegrating around me. A calming nurse and a prescription for Xanax may have saved my life.
The beginning of my depression
How I healed
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Youll Get In Touch With Emotions
When I work with people with depression, there are times when they are feeling so low that they dont have the energy to speak, or they might feel numb and arent even aware of what they are feeling, says Levy.
Levy might use a few mindfulness meditation techniques, like a short body scan or breathing exercise, to help them become more aware of their thoughts and emotions.
This helps move the therapy process forward because we are able to discuss what is going on inside of them, she notes.
Best Meditation For Depression:
Meditation is a good tool to reduce depression, it calms the mind and relieves depression. Meditation also helps in curing many diseases like- sleep problems, diabetes, hypertension, etc. Let us know the best meditation for depression.
Hariom meditation is very beneficial for coming out of depression. The bodys energy starts to decrease due to depression. By doing Hariom meditation, you are filled with energy and depression is overcome by you. Hariom meditation is based on the seven energy centers of the body, which removes elements like anxiety and depression.
The health of the breath is also necessary for your good health. Sudarshan Kriya is done to keep the breath healthy. Sudarshan Kriya is a powerful rhythmic respiratory process. It helps in balancing our bodies. Sudarshan Kriya also works by taking out the toxins present in the body, which causes diseases like depression, anxiety, and stress.
Rest In Meditation:
When in depression, the entire energy of the body is lost, due to which, even after wishing, they are unable to do any work. For this, it is necessary to rest so that you can store energy. Meditation develops energy within the body. The mind becomes happy from inside. Due to which all the worries disappear.
The Body Scan Meditation:
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Why Ask These Questions
Think of the total number of hours of meditation practice we do over our lifetime. That math matters: we find a dose-response effect, where more meditation leads to a greater range of benefits. And, going wide with a long-term daily practice has a different effect than going deep with weeks of retreat meditation.
Scientific research on meditation has greatly expanded since the experiments on meditators we conducted in graduate school in the 1970s. Back then there were just two published studies of meditation we could cite. Today there are more than 6,000, with the greatest number coming in the last five years and mindfulness the single most-studied method.
You dont have to be a long-term expert meditator to reap benefits from meditation.
In Altered Traits we look at the results from the very best studies the top one percent. We especially wanted to find evidence that meditation creates long-term effects, lasting trait effects rather than just short-term state effects that vanish once you stop your meditation session.
The good news? The best data shows powerful impacts from meditation right from the beginning. The more hours of practice you accumulate, the stronger the benefits.
What Its Like To Meditate With Depression
The World Health Organization recently listed depression as the leading cause of ill health and disability worldwide. Itâs a global problem, and one for which many possible solutions have been explored meditation and mindfulness are examples of solutions that have grown rapidly in popularity in recent years.
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Meditation Changes The Brain Exterminates Depression
“So, if I want to lift myself out of depression , I need to strengthen my hippocampus. Got it. But my gym doesn’t have a hippocampus machine!“
Save yourself a trip to the gym, meditation is your “ACE Certified” hippocampus personal trainer.
A 2008 study published in the Neuroimage Journal found that, after only 8 weeks of meditation, the left and right “hippocampi” of participants had significantly grown in neural thickness, density, and overall size.
This incredible finding means that adding meditation to your daily routine can, in essence reverse depression’s dirty wheels no matter how deeply your tires are “dug-in,” while bulletproofing your brain to future attacks.
With headlines like the Independent’s “How The Beatles Meditation Technique Could Cure Depression,” it appears that meditation’s uncanny ability to lift us out of the doldrums is slowly entering mainstream consciousness.
As John Lennon’s famous lyrics so eloquently put it, “Imagine all the people… living for today.” Indeed, a world full of meditators would certainly grant the legendary Beatle his wish.