meditation for bipolar disorder

Good news: There are some excellent meditations for bipolar disorder that science suggests could cure bipolar disorder.

This condition is an incredibly painful illness both for the individual suffering from it and for their friends and family. However, meditative practice can help alleviate the symptoms of the condition and create stability in mood, reducing the extremity of mania and depression.

As a meditation teacher, many people have asked me: can meditation cure bipolar disorder? So I researched science and discovered that year on year, more people with bipolar disorder are turning to mindful practices for help.

One of the most recent breakthroughs in medical science has been the use of mindfulness for the manic-depressive disorder. Research has unearthed some encouraging benefits of meditation for bipolar disorder, as I will reveal in this article. 

What Are Meditation And Bipolar Disorders?

Bipolar Disorder (Manic Depressive) is a brain disorder that causes unusual shifts in mood, energy, activity levels, and the ability to carry out day-to-day tasks. [1] People with the condition often fluctuate between mania and depression [READ: Meditation For Depression].

Meditation is a health practice that involves focusing the mind on specific things. This includes breathing techniques, physical exercises, and ways of thinking.

Statistics show that 2.6% of the population are manic-depressive. WebMD notes that it is a much more common problem than most people realise. [2]

symptoms 

Can meditation help bipolar disorder?

effects of meditation on dipolar disorder
effects of meditation on dipolar disorder

Many people ask me: Can meditation help bipolar disorder?

I am not a medical healthcare professional, rather a meditation teacher, so it is not my place to answer this question directly. However, there is significant scientific evidence indicating that meditation can help with bipolar disorder and certainly with the symptoms of the condition.

For the majority of people, there are certainly plenty of reasons to try some meditative exercises. However, it is also worth bearing in mind that there are some health risks of meditation, so if you start to feel uncomfortable or unwell when practising, stop. It is best to consult a healthcare professional before you attempt the exercises.

That said, science has proven the efficacy of certain meditations for bipolar disorder. These meditative practices can alleviate the symptoms of the condition, such as by increasing mood stability and reducing levels of mania and depression. 

Studies show that one particularly good exercise for manic depression is to use mindfulness-based cognitive behavioural therapy.

Research suggests that practising mindfulness-based cognitive behavioural therapy can lead to an increase in self-control and executive functioning, and reduce the behavioural symptoms of the condition. [3]  The study showed that mindfulness-based cognitive behavioural therapy increases awareness of thoughts, feelings and sensations, and thereby helped decrease decrease depression and increase cognitive functioning.

 Benefits 

There are specific ways meditation helps with bipolar disorder:

1: Mood regulation.

We can use meditation to regulate emotions and moods.

In The Tao Of Bipolar,  C. Alexander Simpkins PhD says :

The mental training that comes from practising meditation increases activation in the parts of the brain that manage emotions and moods.

Patients who use mindfulness as a part of their daily practice show increased levels of inner-peace and fewer mood swings for many hours after the practice session. [3]

Some of the best meditations for bipolar disorder include calming exercises like mindful breathing, which can help to decrease mood swings and improve emotional control.

These exercises also increase awareness, which can help manic depressives to avoid the highs and lows while maintaining a healthy, balanced mental state.

2: Improving neurotransmitters

Bipolar medications work by boosting certain neurotransmitters. [4]

Mood is significantly affected by lacks of dopamine, GABA, serotonin and other brain chemicals. Medication boosts those chemicals, but so too does meditation, and it does so with significantly less observed side effects than medication.

3: Awareness of the mind

When we meditate, we learn to observe thoughts and moods in a calm way, and we learn to detach from those moods so we are less reactive.

When we meditate, we increase awareness of the various processes of the mind, such as thoughts and emotions. We come to understand that it is normal for our emotions to fluctuate to some degree. Once we understand these mental processes, we become less reactive to them. Then, we can take a step back from the emotional rollercoaster and take more control of our moods.

4:Strengthens prefrontal cortex:

The prefrontal cortex is essentially the control terminal of your brain.

Its functions include knowing good from bad, right from wrong, and understanding the consequences of actions. It also organises the structure of thoughts. We can strengthen the prefrontal cortex by practising mindfulness.

NewScientist says” Mindfulness meditation increases thickness in the prefrontal cortex and parietal lobes, both linked to attention control. In contrast, compassion-based meditation produces increases in the limbic system, which processes emotions, and the anterior insula, which helps bring feelings into conscious awareness.”

This is why two of the best meditations for bipolar disorder are mindfulness and compassion-based methods like the Buddhist methods Loving Kindness and Karuna.

5: Helps manic depressives live normal lives:

Manic depressives who practice meditation have been scientifically observed to have more control of their mind compared to those with the condition who do not meditate.

4 Best Meditations For Bipolar Disorder

 Always consult a healthcare professional before beginning. This information is for educational purposes only. 

Here are some of the best meditations fr bipolar disorder.

1.Mindful Breathing 

 Seated breathing techniques are usually the best place for beginners to start.

This is one of the most natural methods to learn.

Essentially you sit and focus your mind on your breathing. This slows your mind down and helps to create internal balance and harmony (thereby helping to regulate the lows and highs of manic depression).

One of the common symptoms of bipolar disorder is that it makes it hard to control your breathing.[5] By using breathing exercises, you can take control of your breathing, which will help you to relax when you have experience mania.

2: Mindful CBT

Mindfulness is one of the most important of all techniques and one of the easiest.

In mindfulness, you focus the mind on the present moment in a non-judgemental fashion. This helps your mind to relax and helps you to control your mood, which is very beneficial for manic depressives.

Scientific research shows that Mindfulness-based cognitive behavioural therapy is particularly helpful.

3: Zazen

One of the best meditations for bipolar disorder is Zazen, the meditative practice used by the Zen sect of Mahayana Buddhism.

Zen methods are similar to breathing techniques. What makes Zen different is that it uses specific body postures that are said to make you relax more easily. Zen is also one of the most famous of all techniques, which is why it’s often the first one people try.

Zen meditation helps with bipolar disorder because it trains you to focus and to create inner balance. It completely closes you off to external stimuli, which is invaluable for people whose conditions are triggered by external stimuli, such as noises [8].

4: Zen walking

This is a gentle, slow technique which is excellent for general relaxation.

Think about the last time you went for a long walk and how relaxing that felt. Multiply that by ten and you’ll be somewhere near how relaxing twenty minutes of zen walking is.

Mindful walking is a fantastic way to silence your thoughts. And that’s very helpful for manic depressives. The condition can be triggered by racing thoughts [6] so by slowing your thoughts down, you can begin to take control.

Always make sure that you are comfortable and that it is safe to practice meditative exercises. I urge you to speak to a doctor before trying these techniques.

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SOURCES:  

1: National Institute of Mental Health, Bipolar Disorder https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/bipolar-disorder/index.shtml

2Bipolar Disorder Myths and Facts, WebMD https://www.webmd.com/bipolar-disorder/bipolar-disorder-myths-facts#1
3: Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy for Bipolar Disorder: Effects on Cognitive Functioning, Journal of Psychiatric Practitioners, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3277324/

3: Meditation and Yoga can Modulate Brain Mechanisms that affect Behavior and Anxiety-A Modern Scientific PerspectiveWorld Institute for Scientific Exploration https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4769029/
4: Bipolar Disorder and Anxiety, Dennis Thompson Jr, Pat F. Bass III, MD, MPH https://www.everydayhealth.com/anxiety-disorder/bipolar-disorder-and-anxiety.aspx
5: Common bipolar triggers, BipolarCareGivers, https://bipolarcaregivers.org/treatment-and-management/common-bipolar-triggers
6: Racing Thoughts and Bipolar Disorder, Marcia Purse,   Medically reviewed by Steven Gans, MD https://www.verywellmind.com/what-are-racing-thoughts-378823

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About Paul Harrison

Paul Harrison is a qualified meditation teacher and writer with more than 15 years experience in meditation and mindfulness. He studied meditation in Oxford, UK, and Hamilton Ontario Canada, and earned his degree at Staffordshire University. Paul has helped thousands of people to discover their true potential through mindfulness, yoga and meditation.


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One Response

  1. Meditation can’t cure bipolar. It can’t replace traditional therapy, like medications, for bipolar. Please don’t spread false notions.

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