If you're suffering from depression — and perhaps already taking antidepressants, attending talk therapy, or both — you may be wondering what meditation can do for you.
Meditation can help you prepare for new and situations and recurrent stressful activities alike. It will put your brain and body in a calm state that allows you to better analyze a situation, so you can decide what to do next. The aim of meditation is to come to the realization that you don't necessarily have to act on your stresses, problems, and pent-up feelings of negativity.
Depression is a common but serious medical illness that causes feelings of sadness and a loss of interest in normal everyday activities. It may also lead to emotional and physical problems that can interfere with your daily functioning. Symptoms associated with depression can include:
- Feeling sad
- Changes in appetite
- Trouble sleeping or over-sleeping
- Feeling worthless or guilty
- Trouble making decisions
- Thoughts about death or suicide.
Thankfully, depression is treatable — and meditation can play a role in that treatment. It helps battle symptoms associated with depression such as stress and anxiety. Meditation trains the brain to become and remain more focused whenever negative thoughts and emotions arise, which is whenever you become stressed and anxious.
1. Meditation boosts neurotransmitters
Meditation boosts neurotransmitters that include both serotonin and norepinephrine naturally. Serotonin is sometimes called the "happiness hormone", as it contributes to wellbeing and happiness. Norepinephrine is a catecholamine hormone that functions as a neurotransmitter in the sympathetic nervous system to stimulate the adrenergic receptors.
2. Meditation challenges negative thought patterns
Meditation allows us to become self-aware of negative thoughts and in turn enables us to find better solutions to the thought, even if that means letting it go. It helps us realize that thoughts differ from reality, and float by temporarily. Instead of making an uncomfortable situation influence our mood or state of mind, we can choose to not fixate on it — which clears the mind so we are able to come to better conclusions.
3. Meditation shrinks the brain's 'fear center'
Meditation can be used to shrink the size of the amygdala, a portion of the brain that stimulates the fight or flight receptors once used for survival. In this modern era, your amygdala may be stimulated over simple issues such as financial and relationship problems. A study by Harvard neuroscientists confirmed that meditators have a smaller and less active amygdala.
4. Meditation restores healthy thought
By allowing you to see your flaws, meditation frees you to focus on aspects of your life that need working on. By working on these flaws, you can regain the stability that you have so needed, enabling you begin feeling whole again. Feeling whole will bring a sense of calmness while being alert and energetic with a positive vibe.
5. Meditation strengthens and fortifies the hippocampus
Meditation builds a bigger, stronger hippocampus. A study conducted in Geissen, Germany, has found that meditation practitioners have a highly developed hippocampus in terms of overall “hippocampal grey matter density”. The hippocampus is the part of the brain that is most closely associated with regulating emotions, long term memory and spatial navigation.
6. Meditation creates alpha and theta brainwaves
Meditation increases alpha and theta brain waves, which makes the brain highly focused and very well balanced. In 1991, a study at the Biofeedback Institute gave 14 depressed alcoholics experimental alpha and theta brainwave therapy. The participants had an 80 percent decrease in depression due to simple meditation.
7. Meditation builds up the prefrontal cortex
Studies show that the brains of individuals who meditate have increased prefrontal cortex gray matter thickness. This translates to greater emotional well-being and balance. Meditating tends to make a person feel happier, healthier and in a more conscious state that seems to lead to easier decision-making.
Depression also tends to cause major health issues for aging adults (65 or older), where depression seems to increase the risk of heart disease and death from illness. If you suffer from depression and are 65 or older, depression may not just act on mental and emotional health but physical health as well. Depression in these individuals may also cause them to become socially isolated, as well as affecting their memory and cognitive functions. Meditation can assist with this as it helps people focus and concentrate. It will also provide a calmer mind state at which you may feel more confident in approaching people.