In this guide, we will look at the best meditations for depression, and their scripts.
The good news is that yes, meditation can help depression. This is something I have witnessed myself in my private online meditation lessons.
There are many depression meditation scripts. Methods include guided meditation for depression, mantras, mudras, Transcendental Meditation, and more.
In this guide, I will cover all the best options. I recommend you try the various methods and choose the one that works best for you. Once you know which method is best for you, use it daily.
For best results, contact me for a professional online meditation lesson.
Best Meditations For Depression (With Scripts)
1. Easy breathing meditation for depression
- Find somewhere quiet and peaceful where you will not be disturbed.
- Sit with good posture. Make sure your back is straight but relaxed. Your feet should be shoulder-width apart (if you are doing seated meditation). Roll your shoulders back then let them relax. Slightly lower your chin to lengthen your spine.
- Close your eyes and focus on your breathing.
- With each inhalation, imagine bringing new energy into your body.
- With each exhalation, imagine breathing out any harmful and depressive thoughts.
- Take 108 breaths in this fashion.
This is a straightforward exercise. It’s the type of mindfulness exercise advocated by Deepak Chopra and Doctor Oz. It reduces symptoms by offering you a few precious minutes to relax and unwind.
Proper breathing meditation like this one can help to release emotions and to start the healing process. Plus, they are excellent for helping with grief.
Studies show that this type of meditation can reduce sympathetic nervous system activity and amygdala activity while increasing hippocampal volume (2011, Sara Lazar, Harvard). This means meditation helps reduce stress and anxiety and improves emotional control [READ: Meditation for Anxiety].
Above we looked at a basic breathing meditation for depression. Now I’d like to discuss some Buddhist options.
Many of the best ways to meditate come from Buddhism. When we use Buddhist meditations for depression, we are working on understanding the mind.
Buddhist methods provide insight. This helps to reduce the effects of emotions. When you use these techniques, you will control your mind and stop depressive thoughts.
The first Buddhist meditation for depression is called Anapanasati.
“Anapanasati” is the proper term used to describe mindful breathing. It is an easy type of breathwork, and it is unquestionably one of the best types of daily meditation for depression and anxiety.
- Perform the simple breathing exercises that we looked at above (#1 on this list). Focus on your breathing for a minimum of ten minutes.
- As you continue to focus on your breathing, notice when your mind comes and goes. When it switches from being mindful to being preoccupied with thoughts, label these movements. For instance, if the mind gets lost in thoughts, say “thinking”. This trains you to be more aware of your states of mind. Plus, it improves self-control.
- Once you feel peaceful, meditate on the feeling of peace for ten minutes.
For a complete guide to this depression meditation script, refer to our main menu,
The International Yoga Journal produced scientific evidence of the benefits of this method, which you can read about here.
2: Smiling Buddha
The smiling Buddha method is a moderately advanced technique that is best for people who have some experience meditating.
It is a technique specifically designed to create happiness. It involves a combination of mudras (hand positions) and mantras (repeated words) to create deep relaxation and happiness.
Why is this one of the best meditations for depression (as well as anxiety and stress)? Simple: It cultivates positive emotions like joy and happiness. To do this technique, you meditate and then start smiling. Then you focus the mind on the energy of your smile. This produces positive emotions like joy and happiness.
Again, for instructions, refer to our main menu,
3: Zen Walking
When you’re feeling down, a pleasant long walk helps.
A walk gives you the chance to escape and allows you to clear your mind. Especially if you go for a walk in a beautiful natural environment.
Harvard Medical School states that just five minutes of walking is enough for mental health.
The only thing better than a walk is Zen walking, a method advocated by Zen master Thich Nhat Hanh.
In Zen walking, you walk up and down a path while meditating on the sensation of movement. This allows you to get some fresh air (which by itself helps to alleviate many of the symptoms of the condition). Plus, it clears the mind, bringing calmness and relaxation.
This is definitely one of the best types of daily meditation for depression. Daily practise will cultivate inner peace and relaxation, especially if you walk outside.
Being inside for too long can cause mental atrophy and general sadness. Therefore, a mindful walk outside will help to relieve the symptoms of depression.
4: Loving Kindness (Metta)
Scientific research reveals that Loving Kindness is one of the best daily meditations for depression. Why? Because it helps to cultivate feelings of happiness, interconnectedness, and love. The Journal Evidence-Based Complementary And Alternative Medicine published a report on the benefits of this method.
Loving Kindness is an activity in which we focus on giving and receiving compassion.
Here is our depression meditation script for this technique.
- Close your eyes and think about someone (begin either by thinking of yourself or someone you’re close to).
- See this person happy, smiling
- Remember five compassionate things they have done for you in the past, things that made you feel supported.
- Remember five beautiful things you have done for this person.
- Imagine extending love and kindness to this person
- Say the words “May [name of person] have love and kindness. May they be happy, healthy and successful. May they also have the strength to overcome troubles in life. I love [name of person]. I am one with [name of person]”
- Imagine the person sending loving-kindness back to you.
- Repeat the process with a second person, third person and so on.
- The first time, aim for ten people.
Loving kindness cultivates compassion. This is important because research shows that self-compassion helps relieve depression. [Journal of Affective Disorders]. That’s why this is one of the best meditation techniques for depression.
5: Mindfulness Meditation for Depression
Numerous scientific studies have shown big benefits of mindfulness meditation for depression.
Mindfulness isn’t so much a technique as an attitude that encompasses a wide variety of exercises and habits.
Mindfulness is awareness. You simply focus on the present moment.
Richard J. Davidson, PhD [a neuroscientist at the University of Wisconsin] says that mindfulness is a broad term, a “family of activity, not a single thing.” It means living in the moment.
When you practise mindfulness, you train yourself to let go of thoughts and to focus on now. This is very potent for sadness because it helps you to escape the perpetual cycle of painful thoughts that can make you feel depressed. I especially recommend mindfulness if you are suffering from negative-thought depression.
The NHS tells us: “When we become more aware of the present moment, we begin to experience afresh things that we have been taking for granted.”
Look for exercises and activities that will help you to focus your mind on the present moment.
6: Self-Guided Meditation for Depression
An alternative solution is to use guided imagery for depression.
Guided imagery or “visualization” is a method in which we lead the mind through different imaginings. For instance, imagine you are on a relaxing beach in the sunshine.
You can think of this as self-guided meditation. For depression and anxiety, it helps to fill the mind with positive thoughts.
- Imagine standing on the beach beside the ocean
- See the waves lapping at your feet
- Hear the swoosh of the waves
- See the horizon
- Feel the warm sand at your feet
- Taste the crisp air
- Say to yourself, “I am relaxed and calm. It is a good day”.
I’m sure you can see the benefits of using this self-guided meditation for depression, anxiety and other conditions. It trains the mind to think about positive, relaxing things. This cultivates peacefulness.
7: Body Scan
When you are depressed, you lose touch with the present moment. The condition causes the mind to become consumed by ruminating negative thoughts. Comparatively, when we are happy, we live in the moment.
Living in the moment means focusing on reality instead of psychological phenomena (like thoughts and feelings).
Body Scan technique, a method created by Jon Kabat Zinn [creator of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction], gets you in touch with your body and puts you back in the present moment. It’s simple.
To do a body scan, you move your focus around your body. You may also consciously relax your body as you go. This is similar to the technique called “Progressive muscle relaxation”.
- Close your eyes and take a minimum of twenty deep breaths to relax.
- Begin with your feet. Focus your mind on your feet.
- Notice any sensations in your feet.
- If there is tension, ask your feet to relax.
- Imagine breathing air into your feet and asking them to relax.
- Continuing this process, move your focus progressively up your body, from feet to ankles to legs to pelvis to stomach, chest, arms, hands, neck, face and head.
- Reverse the process from head to toe.
A mantra is a sacred sound we focus on when meditating. There are two effective types of mantras for depression. The first is a sound mantra. For instance, the mantra “Om”
- Close your eyes
- Focus on your breathing
- Recite the mantra OM (pronounced “AUM”)
- Feel the sound reverberating in your body
- Focus 100% on the sound.
- Chant “Om” 108 times.
The other type of mantra is affirmation.
You can use any affirmation you like. For instance, you may use the affirmation “I am feeling calm and relaxed.” You then recite this mantra repeatedly while focusing on the words.
Affirmations help you to create the reality of the words. For instance, saying “I am calm and relaxed” will make you calm and relaxed. These mantras for depression relax you and help you to start manifesting positive thoughts.
9: Best Guided Meditation For Depression
10: Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Behavioural Therapy
Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Behavioural Therapy is massively helpful when you’re feeling depressed. It is a form of therapy that combines mindfulness with cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT). In my experience, it works wonders.
Cognitive Behavioural Therapy is about challenging and changing harmful thoughts. And as you have seen, mindfulness is about being in the present moment.
Therefore, Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Behavioural Therapy is about focusing on the present moment in a way that changes harmful thoughts.
I love this method because it offers the best of both meditation and CBT. The former slows down your mind and makes you feel more relaxed and peaceful. The CBT aspect changes the way you think so you can stop depressive thoughts. This method has made an enormous difference in my life. I seriously recommend that you try it.
Researchers Meagan MacKenzie and Nancy L Kocovski at the Department of Psychology, Ryerson University, Toronto tell us that there is good evidence suggesting that MCBT is effective at treating depression. However, they do state that further research is required.
Benefits of Meditation for Depression
Above we looked at the best types of meditation for depression. You might wonder just how daily meditation helps with depression. To answer that question, you must consider what causes depression in the first place.
There are many potential causes of depression. They include everything from family history to childhood trauma and certain events in life. These circumstances can lead to mental health problems, including low self-esteem, self-criticism, sadness, and depression.
According to research by Princeton, depression is caused when fewer new brain cells are produced.
The link between daily meditation and depression is that meditation increases the production of new brain cells and balances neurochemicals.
Specifically, meditation helps depression by affecting the following brain chemicals:
Serotonin is the “feel good” chemical and often plays a pivotal role in depression.
Low levels of serotonin are linked with depression, which is why many people with depression are given SRI’s (serotonin reuptake inhibitors).
Most brain cells are affected by serotonin. The chemical aids in communication between parts of the brain and has a major influence on mood. Research by the University of Montreal shows that mindfulness and meditation help by bathing neurons in feel-good chemicals that reduce stress, which is one of the leading causes of low serotonin levels. For best results, use the above-mentioned depression meditation scripts.
Norepinephrine is a neurotransmitter in the central nervous system that increases arousal and alertness levels. Too much secretion of norepinephrine can cause anxiety. Too little norepinephrine can lead to depression.
Meditation does not have an acute effect on the production of norepinephrine. However, it does block the hormone’s effect according to research from Dr Herbert Benson at Harvard Medical School. Because of this, hormone levels are not decreased, but we still get the calming effect. So, another big benefit of meditation for depression, anxiety, and stress.
Cortisol is produced during stress. Too much cortisol destroys healthy tissues and prevents “good hormones” from being built, including serotonin.
Meditation balances cortisol to prevent this from happening. Therefore, there are benefits of meditation for depression, anxiety and stress.
Even more benefits of meditation for depression
- Helps with mental health problems such as obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)
- Reduces negative thoughts
- Helps us let go
- Promotes inner peace
- Prevents and relieves anger
- Increases communication between parts of the brain.
- Reduces painful emotions
- Reduces sadness and grief
- Prevents loss of appetite
- Offers relief from agitation
- Stops restlessness
- Helps control thoughts
- Relieves insomnia
- Helps with bipolar disorder
Studies on meditation and depression
There have been many scientific studies that prove the effectiveness of daily meditation for depression and sadness.
One of the most authoritative studies on depression and meditation was produced by The Lancet medical journal.
The Lancet studied 424 British adults. The group was divided into two. Half the test group were allotted pills and the other half were given lessons in mindfulness. The latter group stopped taking their medication entirely after a winding-down period. The results were impressive.
“The relapse rates in the two groups were similar, with 44% in the mindfulness group and 47% for those on the drugs,” reports British newspaper The Guardian. Lead author Willem Kuyken, professor of psychology at the University of Oxford, said, “Our hypothesis was that [therapy would be more effective than pills].”
The results showed that meditation is equally as good as medication and does offer an alternative therapy. It also revealed that one of the best types of daily meditation for depression is mindfulness.
Nigel Reed, who has been suffering from depression and who took part in the study, says, “Mindfulness gives me a set of skills, which I use to keep well in the long term.”
Research by M Farias et. al 2020 published in the Acta Psychiatrica Scandinavica shows that in some rare instances meditation can make symptoms worse. This is unlikely but is worth bearing in mind.
It is clear from the evidence that there are plenty of benefits of meditation techniques for depression. Try using one method from the list above each day. And for best results, contact me for an online meditation lesson.
1: Roderik J. S, Gerritsen. and Guido P. H. Band, 2019, Institute of Psychology, Cognitive Psychology, Faculty of Social and Behavioural Sciences, Leiden University
Paul Harrison is a passionate meditation teacher who believes in genuine, authentic meditation. He has more than 15 years experience in meditation and mindfulness. He studied meditation in beautiful Oxford, UK, and Hamilton Ontario Canada, and earned his degree at Staffordshire University.
“My goal is to provide the most authentic meditation sessions so you can harness the power of your own mind for personal transformation” – Paul Harrison