Depression and anxiety are two of the most commonly occurring mental health disorders across the world. Although conversations around mental health have increased and work has been done to reduce stigmas surrounding it, there are still many people who struggle with these disorders and go without treatment. Living with chronic depression or anxiety can affect a person’s quality of life significantly and make it feel impossible to meet the demands of everyday life.
While seeking professional help is one of the best things you can do to treat a mental health condition, there are other lifestyle changes you can make to support your overall wellbeing. One of the most effective practices you can incorporate into your daily routine is meditation. Mindfulness and meditation are ways to address symptoms of depression and anxiety directly. While it may seem like a simple enough process, becoming comfortable with meditation is not always easy, especially with a mental health condition.
How Does Meditation Work?
Meditation is an ancient practice that has been used by countless people to improve mental health. Meditation is often used in conjunction with mindfulness to help shift a person’s state of consciousness in a way that reduces symptoms of anxiety and depression. The practice can be done alone or with the help of an instructor to guide participants through the process. While getting into a meditative state may require unique approaches for different people, in general, it can be achieved using the same basic formula.
- Get comfortable: Take a seated position, engage your posture, and close your eyes. Meditation is best achieved in a quiet environment and removing distractions such as the television or your phone can help you focus.
- Focus on your breathing: After you have situated yourself, try to let go of your inner thoughts. Rather than becoming distracted by your worries, fears, or responsibilities, focus on your breathing. Think about inhaling and exhaling. Observe how you breathe. Do you feel your breath your belly? Are you breathing through your nose or mouth? Pay attention to how you breathe.
- Control your breath: After a couple of minutes, focus on controlling how you breathe. Slow your breath by inhaling deeply through your nose and slowly releasing it through your mouth. Do this for a couple of minutes.
Focusing on your breath and slowing it down can help reduce your heart rate and calm your mind. You may find that by focusing on your breath, other intrusive thoughts disappear. Rather than engaging with the thoughts that can cause stress and anxiety, forcing your mind to focus on the rhythm of your breath can provide relief.
It is not always easy to do this without distractions arising. This is where mindfulness comes in. Mindfulness is the act of being present and engaged in the current moment. Mindfulness and meditation work together to keep you physically and mentally present in the moment. By focusing on your breath, engaging your posture, and sitting still, you can remove the physical distractions that can make your mind wander. Being present and aware of your body’s rhythm is a critical component of successful meditation. You may not always be able to prevent feelings of anxiety from creeping in. Rather than engaging them and actively fighting them off, observe them, acknowledge them, and then let them pass by bringing your attention back to your physical state.
Meditation for Mental Health
Meditation may seem easy, but it is a practice that takes time to master. You do not need to spend a significant amount of time meditating in order to feel the benefits. Giving yourself just 10 minutes a day can have a profound impact.
Allow yourself to practice meditation without judgement. Over time, it will become easier to enter into a meditative state. As you engage in the practice more, you will begin to understand what it feels like to relax and achieve a sense of calmness. Although meditation is not a cure for anxiety and depression, it can have positive benefits for mental health. These include:
- Meditation allows you to process difficult feelings: Rather than becoming reactive to the thoughts and feelings fueled by depression and anxiety, meditation encourages you to face them. Instead of fighting them, it is important to observe them, process them, and allow them to pass. Everyone struggles with difficult thoughts and emotions. If you do not allow yourself the space to deal with them, you may find yourself succumbing to them.
- It allows you to explore your mind: As you process difficult thoughts and feelings, you provide yourself with an opportunity to explore where they are coming from. Instead of reacting to them, give yourself time to contemplate why they are surfacing and what underlying experiences cause them to manifest. By giving yourself time to work through them, you create space to learn how to cope with them in a healthy way.
- It helps you create safety: Meditation creates a safe space to explore your thoughts and feelings in a productive way. For many people, difficult thoughts and feelings can become all-consuming and overwhelming. Meditation allows you to reduce the weight of them by helping you learn to cope with them effectively.