Research Finds that a Regular Meditation Practice Tackles Depression
Depression is becoming a major health issue for many people in the world. Approximately 6.7% of the American population and 5.4% of the Canadian population 15 years of age and older have experienced some kind of depression. It is one of the leading causes of bad health and disability worldwide.
Depression can lead to many other health risks such as heart disease, further mental illness and in extreme cases death. It affects people’s lives on a major scale by making them socially isolated and affecting cognitive function such as memory.
A solution that is growing more and more popular over the years is meditation and mindfulness. Ongoing research has been finding that regular meditation practices can help by changing how our brains respond to stress and process anxiety which is a lead cause of depression.
What Research has Shown
There has been a lot of research proving how good meditation can be for recovering from depression. A study done in 2017 inspected Generalized Anxiety Disorder. The experiment consisted of 2 groups of adults, one group used mindfulness meditation and the other group didn’t. The group that did the meditation reported lower levels of stress while the other group had even more stress.
A similar study was done by the Journal of Psychiatry Research. In the experiment they randomized 70 adults with anxiety disorders into 2 groups. The first group practiced the same mindfulness meditation and the other group being the control group did not. Scientists found that the mindfulness meditations again lowered stress in the meditation group. This shows that meditation can not only help how someone feels but also may affect cells in a positive way as well.
Research has shown that people who suffer from depression have a smaller hippocampus than their mentally healthy peers. Another study found out that people who meditated for 30 minutes a day for 8 weeks increased the volume of gray matter in their hippocampus!
The Benefits of Regular Meditation
Meditation is good for training the brain to keep a sustained focus and be able to return to that focus when negative thinking or emotions appear. Stress and anxiety are major triggers of depression so a sustained, positive focus is very helpful.
Meditation has been found to alter certain brain regions that are linked to depression. The medial prefrontal cortex becomes hyperactive when people are depressed. This is where people process information about themselves and worry about the future and past. The amygdala is the other part of the brain that is associated with depression. It is responsible for the fight-or-flight response. It triggers the adrenals glands to release stress hormones when in fear or danger. These brain regions work together in a way to cause depression. Meditation helps to break the depressive connection between these two brain regions.
Meditation also protects the hippocampus because meditation is about allowing the stress and negative thoughts to leave the mind. It allows you to still think and feel these depressive thoughts, while understanding that you do not have to act on them and that they do not define you. Meditation can be as simple as closing your eyes and repeating a phrase or word or just counting your breaths. It helps to provide distance between those thoughts and feelings and allowing you to be mindful and recognize that, sometimes they affect you but they are not you.
Take it Slow
If you do suffer from depression, you may feel hesitant to do meditation as a way to recover. You may feel like meditation isn’t for you and that is fine. There is a lot of others ways to recover, this is just one of the many ways.
Do your best not to be overwhelmed by meditation or your thoughts. Often it can be challenging as you are in your mind but the more you practice the easier it becomes. It is also very low stress as you only need to rely on yourself to start meditating, you don’t need to leave where you are comfortable and you don’t need to be at events, or around things or people that might cause anxiety.
Just following a regular meditation practice, additionally a proper diet and exercise can help many people to control their reactions to their stress and anxiety which often leads to depression. Having a regular meditation practice can work wonders on dissolving mental health issues.