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Meditation for Depression and General Health

The latest research suggests that something as simple as meditation can help treat depression. (Source: WebMD)

Research shows mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT) is as effective as antidepressants in treating and preventing depression.

Studies show that meditation changes the neurological response to stress, anxiety, and depressive feelings. If you have been exhibiting mood disorder symptoms like depression, anger, stress, or anxiety, daily meditation is an effective remedy. It can elevate the symptoms of depression and has a life-altering impact on your overall well being. [2]

How Meditation Helps Depression?

Meditation will not cure your depression, but it can reduce your symptoms and make it more manageable. (Healthline)

A study conducted by Harvard Medical School found that meditation leads to positive changes such as strengthening memory and increasing happiness levels.

Here is how meditation can help improve depression:

  • Promotes Positive Thinking

Depression leads to a lot of negativity and dark thoughts. People suffering from depression feel frustrated, hopeless, worthless, and angry at life.

Meditation encourages us to focus on thoughts and think about things that bring peace, calm, and joy. Thus, it trains the brain to shift to positive thinking instead of negative thoughts. (Source: NCBI)

  • Stimulates Happy Hormones

Moreover, positive thinking influences a positive response in the body by stimulating happy hormones: Serotonin, dopamine, oxytocin, and endorphins. [3]

  • Changes in Brain Mechanism

Meditation changes two key brain regions linked explicitly to depression.

Region 1: mPFC Overdrive

Research shows that the medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC) – aka ‘me center’ – becomes hyperactive in depressed people. It makes depressed people constantly overthink, worry, and stress about things.

Region 2: Amygdala

Another brain region responsible for depression is the amygdala – aka ‘fear center’ – which triggers the adrenal glands to release cortisol (stress hormone) in response to fear and perceived threat. [4]

Both the regions work simultaneously to cause and worsen depression. Research shows that meditation breaks the connection between these two regions. (Source: Boston University)

In an article in Psychology Today, Dr. Rebecca Gladding states that regular meditation “loosens” the neural pathways between the brain’s fear center. Meditation loosens these neural pathways, decreasing the feelings of fear and anxiety. While the new neural pathways create a more positive and empathetic response. (Source: Online Psychology)

Scientific Evidence

A vast volume of research evidence exists to support the benefits of meditation for mental and emotional wellbeing.

  • Studies 

The following popular studies reveal how meditation and mindfulness impact the brain to cure mood disorders like depression:

A study revealed that yoga and meditation have groundbreaking benefits on mental and physical wellbeing. For eight weeks, the subjects were given 2.5-hour weekly sessions of a mindfulness-based stress reduction program (MBSR). The subjects reported a significant reduction in chronic pain and depression. (Source: Forbes)

A study at Johns Hopkins investigated the link between meditation and pain, depression, and anxiety. The research concluded that meditation reduced depressive symptoms as effectively as an antidepressant – the effect size of meditation was 0.3 while that of antidepressants is also 0.3. Thus, meditation is an effective treatment for depression and anxiety.

One study concluded that people with high-stress jobs found transcendental meditation effective for stress, depression, and burnout. (Source: Health)

  • Research

According to research, MBCT (mindfulness-based cognitive therapy), psychotherapy with mindfulness meditation, lowers the risk of depression relapse.

A study examined two groups of adult subjects with Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD). The group using mindfulness-based treatment reported low-stress levels than the other group that did not receive mindfulness training.

  • Meta Analyses

A meta-analysis was published in JAMA Internal Medicine in 2014. It examined 47 randomized controlled trials of 3515 participants practicing meditation. The research concluded that meditation moderately reduces anxiety and depression. (Source: Mindful)

Another review of 18 studies also found that people practicing meditation experienced reduced symptoms of depression than those in a control group. (Source: Healthline)

Conclusion

If you are suffering from mental health disorders, start meditating. There is conclusive evidence that proves meditation can be a powerful and effective tool for stress management and mood regulation. It boosts cognitive performance and keeps mental health in check by preventing depression symptoms.

References

  1. Mindfulness Meditation Improves Mood, Quality of Life, and Attention in Adults with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder by Viviane Freire Bueno and colleagues. 2015. Retrieved from: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26137496/
  2. Biologic effects of mindfulness meditation: growing insights into neurobiologic aspects of the prevention of depression by Simon N. Young. 2011. Retrieved from:https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3044190/
  3. Amygdala volume in Major Depressive Disorder: A meta-analysis of magnetic resonance imaging studies by J. Paul Hamilton, Ph.D., Matthias Siemer, Ph.D., and Ian H. Gotlib. 2019. Retrieved from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2739676/
  4. How meditation helps with depression: https://www.health.harvard.edu/mind-and-mood/how-meditation-helps-with-depression
  5. Meditation Won’t Cure Your Depression, but It Can Be a Big Help: https://www.healthline.com/health/meditation-for-depression
  6. 11 Types of Meditation That Can Help Treat Depression: https://www.health.com/condition/depression/types-of-meditation-for-depression
  7. What to Know About Meditation and Depression: https://www.webmd.com/depression/what-to-know-about-meditation-and-depression
  8. What it’s like to meditate with depression: https://www.headspace.com/articles/meditating-with-depression
  9. Can Meditation Help You with Depression: https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/can_meditation_help_you_with_depression
  10. Meditation: A simple, fast way to reduce stress: https://www.mayoclinic.org/tests-procedures/meditation/in-depth/meditation/art-20045858

 

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