Can Meditation Help If You’re Anxious or Depressed?

by | Nov 19, 2013

Many people who suffer from depression take anti-depressant drugs and feel better. But drugs may be expensive, cause side effects and when it\’s time to come off the drugs, depressed people are vulnerable to a relapse. Mindfulness-based meditation, often coupled with cognitive therapy (MBCT), may alleviate or eliminate these problems.

MBCT is a combination of Eastern meditation and Western cognitive therapy. You sit quietly and focus on your breathing, which helps give you a feeling of detachment. You notice as your thoughts ebb and flow, but without judgment. You are simply aware of them without trying to change them. You are separate from them. This understanding is supported by cognitive therapy, and can help break the cycle of depression.

The trouble with being anxious or depressed is that those negative thoughts take precedence in your mind. When you are feeling bad you tend to dwell on the bad things in your life and not the good. This exacerbates your mood and drives you into a downward spiral. MBCT can break that cycle.

Although meditation is entirely secular, and you need not be religious to meditate, Buddhism is often associated with it. Here\’s what the Dalai Lama wrote in his book, How to Practice: The Way to a Meaningful Life:

If you cannot stop worrying over something in the past or what might happen in the future, shift your focus to the inhalation and the exhalation of your breath. Or recite this mantra: om mani padme hum* (pronounced “om mani padmay hum”). Since the mind cannot concentrate on two things simultaneously, either of these mediations causes the former worry to fade.

Mindfulness meditation strengthens your ability to control your thoughts. When you\’re anxious or depressed, you can, with practice, accept your thoughts and let them go with compassion toward yourself.

How does it work?

Researchers have found through brain imaging that there are specific areas of the brain involved with the control of worrying. Mindfulness meditation can reduce anxiety by regulating the thought process. And loving kindness meditation, which focuses on thinking compassionate thoughts toward yourself and others, also seems to help. Both types of meditation, over time, change the brain structure and can give anxiety and depression sufferers some relief.

Nancy Travers is an Orange County Counseling professional.  If you need safe, effective counseling services, please get in touch.  You can reach her here:

*The translation is “Praise to the jewel in the lotus,” although there are many interpretations of the religious meaning of these words.



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