What is depression?
Depression, or depressive disorder, is a serious mental health issue that causes increased feelings of sadness and loss of interest in activities that were once enjoyed. A person who suffers from depression may have feelings of severe despondency and dejection.
Unfortunately, our current busy lifestyle and manic schedules do create unrealistic expectations, enormous stress and a feeling that we constantly lack something. The latter means that we feel ‘broken’, we seek something in order to fix us, to stop lacking something. This comes back to a so-called ‘rat race’, burnout and sometimes results in severe forms of depression.
Yet it is not just all down to stress, we are being hurt in a physical way too. Our current nutrition patterns are abysmal. Depression is a common symptom of eating disorders, that was confirmed by scientists Thompson and Trattner-Sherman back in 1993.
Let us explore how mindfulness meditation for depression can massively help everyone suffering from mild depression
The benefits of mindfulness meditation for anxiety and depression
A study at the John Hopkins University School of Medicine and published in JAMA Int Medicine showed that meditation can provide a level of relief from symptoms of anxiety and depression similar to that of antidepressant drugs.
When it comes to mental health, mindfulness is an integral part of the treatment of various psychological disorders such as anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), borderline personality disorder and more (as quoted in “The rough guide to mindfulness” by Albert Tobler and Susann Herrmann).
So, how looks like the mindful way through depression guided meditation practices? You can focus on stress and fatigue, make a connection with activity and the mood, cultivate intention to foster a de-centered perspective, to deepen insight into the nature of the mind (as suggested in ‘Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy book by Rebecca Crane).
Matt Haig suggested a few ideas that can serve you as meditation themes in your contemplative practice.
Here are a few ideas:
- Awareness and self-observation – ‘Who am I?’
- Wholeness (we simply fight feelings of lacking something or some kind of deficiency)
- The world is subjective
- Less is more
- You already know what’s significant
- Acceptance seems to be key. We don’t need to distance ourselves from ourselves.
This is so true, we are not as kind to our own selves as we could be. Let’s try and do so more often!
Guided mindfulness meditation depression
This mindfulness meditation practice that targets depression, in particular. It is based on the principle of ‘egolessness’, or simply the fact that everything changes including your ego and thoughts, so you need to cut yourself some slack.
Mindfulness meditation exercises for depression are aimed to let go of your ego even slightly, and there would be less of ‘me’ and ’my’ in your thoughts. It means you start to learn that your thoughts are just your thoughts, not the reality or even a valid reason to suffer. These two major concepts of impermanence and letting go of your ego are two major meditation themes that will help you overcome depression. Practicing mindfulness meditation for anxiety and depression is really easy and you can try it right now.
Use these simple instructions for a concentration meditation on breathing with elements of vipassana meditation directed at dealing with depression:
- Find a quiet place and set your alarm for an initial 10 minutes (more if you feel comfortable to start with a longer session).
- Sit cross-legged on a floor (use a mat and a cushion to level your hips with your knees), place your arms on your lap. Only sit on a firm chair if the cross-legged position is very uncomfortable. In general, your posture should be fairly relaxed but not sluggish, so you won’t meditate yourself to sleep. Full lotus is the most stable and firm posture, but you can adopt half-lotus or a simple cross-legged position too.
- Take a few really deep breaths as so other people would be likely to hear you breathing. It should make you feel relaxed fairly quickly.
- Close your eyes and start paying attention to sounds, smells, posture, and breathing. Simply make a mental note on what you are observing. No need to judge it or dwell on it.
- Pay attention to how your body feels. Start doing so by scanning your body from top to bottom and notice how even the smallest parts of your body feel. Don’t try to change anything or judge. It’s all good, you are being attentive, that’s it.
- Move the focus of your attention to your breathing. Do not try to change it, just let it be. No judgment please, do not allow to be violent towards yourself. Notice where in your body your breathing starts, how it flows and how it ends. To help you settle with this pattern, you can start counting your breaths from 1 to 10 and then revert back to 1. If your attention shifts to something else, notice the very fact of this happening. Then gently get your mind to count the breaths again and again. These ‘jumps’ happen all the time, so be kind to yourself. The more skillful you become, the less monkey-like your mind learns to be. Every single time your mind gets back to counting breaths, it also gets stronger. This, in effect, gives your mind a proper training.
- When you have established a good concentration on breathing, invite your mind to contemplate yourself. Ask yourself ‘Who am I?’
- Be gentle, do not rush things. With time, you will come across manifestations of your own ego and notice some preconceptions that are simply not true. You will learn how to be kind to yourself. What’s more, you will realize that there is no such thing as a constant and non-changing self. As everything changes, and you can contemplate on that too, so do you like everyone else. What it means is that with meditation you can become a better you.
- No stress though, your first achievement is to realize that you do not lack anything major. Yes, you may want to learn a skill or two, but that doesn’t make you an unwholesome person. Your critical thoughts that are constantly there in your mind are not you. It means you do not need to associate them with you. Your self is constantly changing, so are those thoughts. Note those thoughts. Think about them in as a third person: ‘Ah yes, there are thoughts about uncle Jeff’ or ‘Oh, there is some pain in a left knee’. There is no ‘me’ or ‘mine’ in this noting technique, simply acknowledging the fact. Guess what, if you master this simple thing, everything will come and go easier than before. Your depression will subside too. It is not even ‘your’ depression – those are just thoughts that appeared and then went away. Why do you need to suffer because of that?
- Continue breathing, contemplating and noting for your set amount of time. When finished, allow your mind to rest for 30 seconds with no focus on anything at all. Just observe and let it simply flow.
Finish by making a mental note how you feel now, what you are going to do next and open your eyes.
It is enough for you to spend 15 minutes a day in the morning or in the evening or even in the afternoon for mindfulness meditation exercises for depression. For complete relaxation, you can also include special meditation music.
Music-video for mindfulness meditation for depression
You have just completed a session of mind training or cultivation that specifically targeting depression.
The more you become comfortable with this noting technique, the more you will be able to let go of your ego. It is important to overcome your depression. Getting over yourself and realizing an ever-changing nature of things that results in so-called ‘non-self’ is difficult. Yet it is so liberating!
We wish you a good meditation practice. Share this guide with your friends who might need it and we are more than happy to guide you and answer any questions.