Meditation As A Way To Deal With Depression
(This week’s post will be the first in a series of guest-posts, written by readers of this blog. Marcela De Vivo is a freelance health writer in Southern California. In this post, she shares an intimate view into how meditation has helped her to deal with her son’s illness and with the depression that has arisen in her life around his care.)
Before the birth of my first son, Nathan, I was devastated to discover that he would be born with holoprosencephaly, a severe form of cerebral palsy. The doctors told me that his chances of surviving birth were very slim, and if he did survive, he wouldn’t make it to live past his first birthday.
While this news was incredibly heart-breaking, my partner and I stayed very hopeful. Nathan did survive. If that wasn’t a miracle in itself, he is now more than 7 years old.
However, that doesn’t mean that the journey thus far was easy. We’ve faced many challenges (and still are) trying our best to give him the best life possible, as every child deserves. Of the many obstacles that I have had to overcome, depression was and still is an everyday occurrence for me as a mother.
Imagine trying your best each and every day, only to realize that your efforts of trying to give your child the best life he deserves don’t meet the expectations of what you’re trying to achieve.
Seeing him suffer breaks my heart, and some days, I can’t help but to only think about where I’m going wrong. When that happens, I try to turn to a more productive way of thinking, and I find that meditation not only helps me to see things more clearly, but it also has a way of lifting my spirits tremendously.
I’ve found that depression, while it can be incredibly frustrating and even debilitating, is rarely anything more than a symptom of a deeper problem. Depression, brought on by the difficulty of life events, is expected and is a normal coping mechanism for many. But, even when major disappointments and setbacks cause us to feel sad or angry, these negative feelings usually lessen with time.
On the other hand, clinical or “chronic” depression tends to come about for little or no reason, and makes a habit of sticking around for a long time.
When struggling with this type of depression, we are forced to look past the obvious, since depressing life events often aren’t present, and therefore aren’t responsible. Oftentimes, a loss of peace and inability to relax, or a heavy anxiety that we’ve never dealt with, can cause us to go into bouts of depression.
This type of depression leaves us without a cause, an explanation or a solution– it’s incredibly discouraging.
Medicating for Depression
With the unfortunate reality that depression is a fact-of-life for many people, the number of people using antidepressants rises each year.
The side-effects of this medication can be a major deterrent for a lot of people, depending on the severity of their depression and how much they trust prescription solutions.
If that’s your situation, it’s highly probable that you could benefit from alternative treatments for depression. Simple activities, like meditation, have made a significant difference in many people’s lives and could do the same for you.
While meditation is not typically prescribed by doctors for their patients, that doesn’t mean it can’t work for you. Many studies involving science have been done which help to reassure those who are not yet convinced of the benefits of using meditation to help with depression.
Calming Our Worries
As I previously mentioned, victims of depression may have also had a fair amount of anxiety in their daily lives. For me, I am constantly worried that the slightest cough or sneeze Nathan makes can trigger an even more serious illness. I can’t even begin to tell you how many trips we’ve taken to the hospital. With his condition, the “common cold” is never something we can overlook, as it can quickly become life-threatening.
Meditation can help to improve these feelings because it allows you to find calmness and inner peace through relaxation and clear thinking. I find that when I become stressed (even what seems to be over the smallest things), setting a few minutes aside for meditation helps to relieve these feelings of anxiety and worry, helping me to paint a clearer picture in my mind of how to handle a particular situation.
Fueling Our Minds and Bodies
There are countless days where I’ve wanted to do nothing but stay in bed, a common issue that plagues many of us who deal with chronic depression on a day-to-day basis. But I’ve found that doing so just causes me to feel more tired and depressed, and that’s no way to live.
While meditation may not be a strenuous exercise, like running or swimming, which can likewise be beneficial for battling depression, it can help to increase your energy levels and reduce an overall lethargic or sleepy feeling, by helping your body and nervous system purge toxins and free radicals that can build up overtime.
Lightening Our Moods
I have personally found that meditation, when practiced consistently, can be very effective in lifting my mood, and believe it or not, there is actually a science behind it.
By releasing endorphins and neurotransmitters, like serotonin, that are responsible for making you feel happy, calm, or at peace with the world, regularly practicing meditation can help to keep endorphins and neurotransmitters at consistently higher levels.
That’s why many people that advocate meditation as a potential treatment for depression suggest patients meditate every day. For many, keeping a meditation schedule and giving it priority in the form of a particular time slot is a good practice to make sure you have time for it in the midst of other responsibilities.
Surrounding Yourself with Positivity
When I first began meditating, I chose to do so by myself until I became more comfortable with the process, and then moved to guided meditation with a class. Personally, I found that I really just needed time to myself without the possible distractions of a guide, but everyone’s situation is different.
For others seeking meditation as a way to deal with depression, guided meditation may be a great place to start if you’re ready to lift the veil of depression and develop a better balance in your life.
Through guided meditation, you’ll help yourself create a foundation of positive thoughts, while also learning the basics of the process of meditation. Guided meditation can be done in a few different ways: with a personal instructor, with a class or simply in your home with the help of videos or MP3’s.
After practicing guided meditation for some time, many choose to begin meditating on their own and continue to do so for the rest of their lives. Individuals that begin including meditation in their daily lives and stick with it may be less likely to relapse into depression in the future, even in the wake of difficult circumstances.
As you meditate, whether it is guided or not, listening to some sort of music is a great way to supplement your practice. For me, music helps to calm my mind even further, and provides a very soothing atmosphere in which to meditate. In research, music has even been shown to decrease the amount of perceived exertion and stress while doing exercise!
Depression can be a serious issue that’s difficult to overcome without the help and support of friends and family. While modern medicine has made some progress towards treating depression, natural remedies, like meditation, may be just as effective, particularly for those who aren’t comfortable with prescription medication.
Individuals with severe depression should still seek medical help, however. In many cases, conventional treatment, such as antidepressants, in conjunction with alternative therapies, like meditation, can be particularly beneficial.
This week’s guest writer is Marcela De Vivo, a freelance health writer in Southern California. As someone who has battled depression, she finds that meditating on a daily basis helps her to reach mental clarity and gain a more positive outlook on life. You can follow her journey with her son by visiting www.PrayForNathan.org. What paths have you chosen to help you overcome depression? Share your comments below!
If you would like to submit a guest-post for this blog, please contact me and let me know what you’d write about, offer samples of your writing, and a brief description of yourself. Thanks for visiting and being part of this community.
How To Meditate
Maybe you’ve already got a meditation practice. If that’s the case, great! Keep it up. And feel free to use all of the content from this site to support you in your efforts. If you haven’t started to meditate, begin now.
Many people don’t meditate because they believe that they need to do “something special” in order to meditate, maybe you’re one of them. “Doing something” special isn’t the case. All you need is your breath, and a few minutes of time set aside to begin your practice. Here are some tools to get you started:
- Meditation audio for using your breath as the anchor of your attention during meditation.
- Ebook and two chapters from the book, Minding the Bedside: Nursing from the Heart of the Awakened Mind, on how to meditate.
- Here’s a pitch for my book, Minding the Bedside: Nursing from the Heart of the Awakened Mind. You can even buy it in a Kindle version! Why buy it? Because I really did write it for you. Because it’s a meditation book written just for nurses. And, because it has EVERYTHING that you need to learn how to meditate and to use your practice at the bedside.
This site has tons of tools for learning how to meditate and be compassionate.
I encourage you to look through the HUNDREDS of articles that I’ve written and especially check out my weekly meditation tips and other useful meditation materials provided for your health and well being. And please let me know if you’d like to discuss anything with me, have any questions or need clarification regarding anything that I’ve written about.
Thanks for visiting and have a mindful day.