Meditation and Depression
Meditation has been used in Eastern religious and spiritual traditions for thousands of years as a method of uniting the spirit and the mind.
Through the years, medicine men and tribal doctors have used the healing benefits of meditation.
In more modern times, meditation has become a popular natural depression remedy for relieving the stress in our fast-paced world as well as helping to improve both mental and physical health. On the list of ways in which meditation appears to benefit the brain, depression treatment has received some scientific backing.
It is now well known that physical exercise can alter hormone levels within the body and have a positive effect on our moods, however more recent research has demonstrated that meditation works in a related manner and offers similar benefits. Despite the obvious metabolic differences between running and meditation, similar positive mood changes occur after both of these activities.
Research on Meditation and Depression
Spontaneous thoughts are often cited as a symptom of depression. For this reason, scientists have investigated ways in which these thoughts can be controlled without the use of drugs. Meditation and prayer can help prevent depression by reducing intrusive thoughts.
In one study, 20 men and women were monitored after prayer, meditation, and carrying out a memory task. The results showed that there was a significant reduction in thought arousal during both the memory task and the reciting of prayer after meditation.
Another study in 2014 found that meditation can rival antidepressants in easing the symptoms of depression for some people. He study’s authors looked at thousands of earlier studies on meditation, arriving at a small number of randomized clinical trials for their analysis.
The researchers found that when it comes to the treatment of depression, anxiety, and pain, the practice can be just as effective as medication. The research team examined over almost 18,000 earlier studies, focusing in on 47 randomized clinical trials because they provided a total of 3,500 participants that had practiced meditation for the research.
Meditation vs Antidepressant Medication
The results are more interesting when you keep in mind that antidepressant medication is the go-to method in the U.S. for depression and anxiety.
Antidepressant medication actually has a notoriously low treatment success rate when it comes to treating both depression and anxiety. Another benefit is that meditation doesn’t carry the side effects that can accompany drug treatments.
Other upsides of meditation as a treatment for depression include the fact that there is no known major harm from meditating and meditation doesn’t come with any known side effects. Patients can also practice meditation along with other treatments they are already receiving.
Though the mechanisms behind the effect of meditation on depression aren’t entirely clear, researchers have wagered some guesses. Mediation can enhance attention regulation, body awareness, emotional regulation, and changes in self-perspective which all play a role in depression.
On a biological level, MRI studies have shown that meditation is associated with a reduction in activity in the amygdala, the brain area that governs the stress response, and to reduced activity in the default mode network, the brain network that’s “on” when your mind is wandering from thought to thought, which is often linked to feelings of unhappiness and stress. The evidence for meditation’s effects on the brain is becoming more and more convincing.