Meditation and Depression Relief

Is there a beneficial link between meditation and depression relief?

The single most common psychological disorder in the United States today, depression affects millions of people. Various forms exist, ranging from mild, to chronic and severe, as well as postpartum and seasonal affective disorder.

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A note about Meditation and Depression Relief

In natural health and healing, we believe in holistic health and healing, as we realize that different parts of the human body are highly interlinked, often beyond Man's understanding. We also believe that the body has the ability to heal itself of any disease, even supposedly incurable diseases.

In order to do so, the body needs the support of some basic dietary and lifestyle good health habits, such as a full body detox and a proper understanding and application of nutrition. Taking these fundamental health steps will greatly magnify the effects and benefits of any of our health-promoting efforts, including the use of certain holistic remedies.

Depression occurs for many reasons - as a result of a traumatic event, a chemical imbalance, or genetic predisposition - and is thought to occur as a result of a combination of factors. An episode can be triggered by repetitive negative thought patters, and many people who suffer one episode live in fear of relapse. Winston Churchill, who suffered from the disorder and stigma associated with it, once said that he lived in constant fear of the "black dog", or dark depressive episodes that plagued his life.

However, recent studies have shown what sages have known for centuries - meditation not only purifies mind, body and spirit, but also greatly improves mood and leaves a sense of serenity. Thus, there is a positive link between meditation and depression relief, and meditation techniques can alleviate and even eliminate depression without having to resort to the use of antidepressants.

Why does meditation work whether other treatments fail? How does the beneficial link between meditation and depression relief work?

In part, meditation gives meaning back to life, a feeling that is sometimes lost or forgotten as one is feeling depressed. Meditation can be a purely secular pursuit, but many people report that a meditation practice enhances their spirituality and gives them a sense of purpose and meaning.

On the physiological level, studies in cognitive neuroscience show that individuals who meditate show altered brain wave patterns. Meditation stimulates positive mood. Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy, which employs mindfulness meditation techniques, has proven to be especially beneficial to individuals with mild to moderate depression.

In this technique, the individual practices being concentrated and non-judgmental, an important step because those suffering from depression tend to be their own harshest critic. Meditation allows for personal growth rather than stagnation, and allows the person to live in the present moment, rather than be caught up in disturbing past memories, traumas or anxieties about the future. A consistent meditation practice helps avoid a depressive relapse.

How about other meditation and depression relief associations? Apart from cognitive based mindfulness therapy, one can use several meditation techniques when working to cure depression. Meditation can focus on the breath, or on a pleasing visual image.

Mantra meditation focuses the attention on a powerful word (such as the Sanskrit "Om", the embodiment of universal energy and the primordial sound). One can meditate on an instrumental sound, such as the bells used by Buddhist monks. Music can be helpful to those initially exploring meditation and depression relief.

Some people find meditation on a soothing color to be helpful as well, as a form of color therapy, while others employ rainbow mandalas. Movement meditation can be especially useful to people suffering from Major Depressive Disorder. In this type of depression, the individual loses the desire to engage in any pleasurable activities. The symptoms include extreme fatigue and interference with a person's ability to work, sleep, study, and eat, virtually disabling them.

A movement meditation practice, when gradually built upon, will counteract these intense feeling of stagnation, and provide much needed exercise (which has also been shown to effectively combat depression). Forms of movement meditation include the traditional Zen walking meditation called Kinhin, as well as dance meditation. Sufi whirling dervishes practice an especially energetic form of movement meditation that can be very inspiring to witness.

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