How effective is meditation in coping with depression?
Meditation for depression: Alternative treatments to cure complex disorders
Meditation for Depression: Description
The first thing we need to be clear about is the fact that meditation is NOT a religion but a science, and when practiced in the right way it produces results that can be verified. It is a technique to rest the mind and reach a state of consciousness totally different from the normal waking state. The most important aspect is that the mind does not concentrate on the external world (events that take place around it, fantasize, etc.), but instead concentrates on the inside. The ability to achieve a silent mind and not be distracted by external stimuli is the key to a successful meditation.
Although we can usually explain to our colleagues what meditation implies, finding a scientific definition is quite difficult. Generally, there are two different fields that try to define the concept of meditation.
One field explains that this concept is a family of mental training techniques, which is known as the “definition of the method”. The other field takes the improved experiential states or the altered states of consciousness from the use of these methods as a reference, which is called the “definition of state”. Having two very different definitions makes it inevitably difficult to compare the results of the investigation.
Meditation for Depression: Types
There are several types of meditation, each with its own method. What they all have in common is the contribution to a healthier body and mind if they are practiced correctly. The type of meditation should be selected based on the individual’s goal, and practiced frequently.
1. Concentration Meditation: As the name implies, this type of meditation involves focus. Here you try to focus your attention on a single aspect for a certain period of time. It is important that you regain concentration every time you deviate from your mind.
Three techniques are listed below and are suitable for beginners:
- Zazen (Breathing)
- Vipassana (bodily sensations)
- Tratak (Concentration in a Candle Flame)
2. Reflective Meditation: This type of meditation refers to disciplined thinking about a particular question, subject or discipline. In this method, people devote all their attention to the chosen theme. If the thoughts roam other subjects, the person has to return to the original question. Therefore, it is essential to first become familiar with concentration meditation.
3. Mindfulness Meditation: This is the most popular and widely accepted meditation in the Western world. As in concentration meditation, the practitioner directs his attention to an object, but the focus may be broader here (there may be a simultaneous awareness of other phenomena).
4. Heart-Centered Meditation: Here the person performing this method focuses on their heart area while inhaling and exhaling slowly but gently. This type helps to release fears and sadness and “heal” your heart.
5. Creative Meditation: With this technique, visualization techniques are used to help achieve a certain goal. The ability to create mental images with your mind is a powerful tool for individuals who execute this method to be able to subsequently create their present moment that leads to thinking and being positive.
These meditation techniques could have implications for the treatment of several complex disorders. We will take the very common case of depression to see how meditation can influence the severity of the symptoms associated with this disorder.
Conventional treatment of depression – The problems
Depression is a common problem mainly in the First World. According to the American Psychiatric Association, depression is a common and serious medical condition that affects the way you feel, act and think. However, there are a number of opportunities to relieve the symptoms of depression using antidepressants. What they do is restore the balance of neurotransmitters (chemistry) in the brain. The neurotransmitters responsible for the regulation of mood in depression do not work correctly. The work of antidepressants is to increase or decrease the amount of these neurotransmitters in the synapse, thus restoring the chemistry of the brain to its normal state. This sounds like the perfect treatment, but unfortunately, changing the release of the neurotransmitter so drastically and artificially comes with side effects. Nausea, weight gain, loss of sexual desire and fatigue are only a few on the list of potential side effects. For this reason, it is common for doctors to prescribe medications to alleviate the side effects that arise from the antidepressant.
To make matters worse, the positive effects of the antidepressant are usually felt only after 3 to 4 weeks of constant administration. Therefore, it would be much more beneficial to change the composition of neurotransmitters naturally to completely avoid these side effects. Therefore, meditation for depression would be an option.