What are the best types of meditation for depression? And how long does it take?
In this guide I will show you all the best meditation techniques for depression relief. And we will discuss the scientific benefits of meditation for depression, such as the fact that it balances brain chemicals like noepinephrine and serotonin.
As a meditation instructor, many people ask me what the best meditations for depression are. It is something I have researched extensively both for personal and professional reasons.
I used to suffer from depression years ago. I would feel sad every day. Nothing helped. Then I started meditating. Meditation cured my depression. It stopped painful emotions that were basically killing me. And not only did meditation help depression, I got so into it I started to teach other people to use mindfulness and similar exercises to improve their mental health.
So let me show you how to meditate for depression relief.
Here is what I am going to share with you today:
- Video of this article
- Different meditation techniques to use
- Best Meditations For Depression
- Easy Methods
- Buddhist Meditation For Depression
- Mindfulness For Depression
- Best Guided Meditation For Depression
- Guided Imagery
- Scientific Research
- Benefits Of Using Meditation On Depression
- And you might also like to read my guide to helping someone with depression.
Most Helpful Benefits Of Meditation For Depression
How does meditation help depression? To answer that question you have to consider what causes depression in the first place.
There are many possible causes of depression. They include everything from family history to childhood trauma and certain events in life. These circumstances can lead to mental heath problems including low self esteem, self criticism, sadness, and feeling depressed.
According to research by Princeton, depression is caused when fewer new brain cells are produced. Meditation can help depression by increasing the production of new brain cells and balancing certain chemicals involved with depression.
Specifically, meditation helps depression by effecting the following brain chemicals:
Serotonin: Serotonin is the “feel good” chemical and often plays a pivotal role in depression. Low levels of serotonin are linked with depression. Most brain cells are affected by serotonin. It aids communication between parts of the brain, and it has a big influence on mood. Research by the University of Montreal shows that mindfulness and meditation [two of the best types of meditation for depression] help by bathing neurons in feel-good chemicals that reduce stress, which is one of the main causes of low serotonin levels.
Norepinephrine: 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 accute effect on the production of norepinephrine, but does block the hormone’s effect.Because of this, hormone levels are not decreased but we still get the calming effect. This means that there are benefits of meditation for depression and anxiety (and stress, too).
Cortisol: Cortisol is produced during stress. Too much cortisol destroys healthy tissues and prevents “good hormones” from being produced, including serotonin. Meditation balances cortisol to prevent this from happening, so there are benefits of meditation for depression, anxiety and stress.
So it is clear how meditation helps depression. The only question remaining is: What are the best meditations for depression?
The Best Types Of Meditation For Depression
There are many self-healing meditation techniques for depression. They start from the very basic breathwork to guided meditations and traditional methods.
The easiest is the breathwork.
When you focus the mind on the breath you silence your thoughts, which helps you to escape from depression and anxiety.
The following scenario paints the picture:
Like a cup, if the mind is full, nothing more can be put in it. No new information can enter a full mind. A problem. Because just as the body needs water, the mind needs new information.
Meditating empties the mind. Then, new, healthy, positive information is free to enter.
It helps us let go of what is there, and put something happier and more pleasant in its place.
Essentially: out go depressive thoughts. In come healthy, happy thoughts.
A Very Easy Meditation Technique For Depression (and anxiety)
Spend 10 minutes trying this simple exercise. It will clear your mind and help you to start feeling relaxed.
- Find somewhere quiet and peaceful where you will not be disturbed.
- Sit with good posture.
- Close your eyes and focus your mind on your breathing.
- With each inhalation, imagine bringing new energy into your body.
- With each exhalation imagine breathing out any negative and depressive thoughts.
- Take 108 breaths in this fashion.
This is a very simple exercise. It’s the type of mindfulness exercise advocated by Deepak Chopra, and Doctor Oz. And it can help with your symptoms by offering you a few precious minutes in just to relax and unwind.
More Effective Meditations For Depression
Now we’ve covered the basics, let’s look at the best meditation techniques for depression.
Buddhism’s Best Meditations For Depression (And Anxiety)
Many of the best tways to meditate come to us from Buddhism.
When you use Buddhist meditation techniques for depression, you essentially educate yourself on the workings of the mind. You gain more understanding of feelings like sadness and grief. And this helps to reduce the effects of those emotions.
With these techniques you will take control of your mind and stop depressive thoughts and painful emotions.
Here are Buddhism’s best meditations for depression (see the link above for complete guides to all these techniques).
“Anapanasati” is the proper term used to described mindful breathing. It is an easy type of breathwork and it is unquestionably one of the best types of meditation for depression and anxiety.
The basic process of anapanasati is about focusing on the breath to relax the mind, and then focusing on the feeling of calmness.
Anapanasati is fairly easy to do, and it creates a deep sense of relaxation.
If you’re wondering how meditation helps depression, try this exercise. You will feel calmer in as little as five minute and the effects will remain for many hours.
To do it:
Close your eyes
Focus on your breath
As you continue to focus on your breath, notice when your mind comes and goes, when it switches from being mindful to being lot in thoughts. Label these movements. For instance if the mind gets lots in thoughts, say “thinking”. This trains you to be more aware of your states of mind, and improves self control.
2: Smiling Buddha Technique
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 position) and mantras (repeated words) to create deep relaxation and happiness.
Why is this one of the best types of meditaiton for depression (as well as anxiety and stress)? Simple: It cultivates positive emotions like joy and happiness.
To do this technique you basically meditate and then start smiling. Then you focus the mind on the energy of your smile. This produces positive emotions like joy and happiness.
3: Zen Walking
I’m sure you’ll agree with me when I say that when you’re feeling down, a nice long walk helps a lot.
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 such as a park or a hike through the forest.
The only thing better than a walk is a Zen walking.
In Zen walking you walk up and down a path while meditating on the sense of movement. This allows you to get some fresh air (which by itself helps to alleviate many of the symptoms of the condition) and it clears the mind, bringing calmness and relaxation.
This is the best type of meditation for depression when you’ve been stuck inside too long. Being inside for too long can cause mentral atrophy and general sadness. Getting outside and doing mindful walking will help to relieve the symptoms of depression.
4. Loving Kindness (Metta)
Scientific research shows that Loving Kindness is very helpful for depression (1).
Loving Kindness is an exercise in which we focus on giving and receiving compassion.
To do this technique:
- Close your eyes and think about someone (being either by thinking of yourself or someone close to you whom you like)
- See this person happy, smiling
- List 5 nice things they have done for you in the pat, things that made you feel supported
- 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 10 people.
Mindfulness Meditation for Depression (5)
There are many scientific studies that show the benefits of mindfulness meditaiton for depression.
Mindfulness isn’t so much a technique as it is an attitude which encompasses a wide variety of exercises and habits.
Essentially, mindfulness is awareness. You simply focus on the present moment.
When you practice mindfulness you train yourself to let go of thoughts and to focus on the moment. This is very powerful for depression 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.
6: Guided Imagery for Depression
One of the alternative solutions is to use guided imagery for depression. Guided imagery, or “visuazliation” is essentially a method in which we lead the mind through different imaginings, such as imagining you are on a relaxing beach in the sunshine. You can think of it as self -- guided meditation. For depression and anxiety, it helps to fill the mind with positive thoughts.
Try the following self -- guided meditation for depression. now and you will become happier and more relaxed.
- Imagine standing on the beach beside the ocean
- Sea the waves lapping to and fro 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 train the mind to think about positive, relaxing things. This brings calmness and inner peace. Unquestionably one of the best types of meditation for depression.
7: Body Scan
When you are depressed you lose touch with the present moment. The condition makes you get lost in ruminating negative thoughts.
Comparatively, when we are happy with live in the moment.
Living in the moment essentially means being focused on reality rather than what is in your mind.
Body Scan technique gets you in touch with your body and puts you back in the present moment.
It’s fairly easy to do. Ideally do it lying down, though you may stay seated if you prefer.
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 call “Progressive muscle relaxation”).
- Begin with your feet. Focus you 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 having them 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.
8. Mantra Meditation For Depression
A mantra is a sacred sound that is meditated on.
There are two effective types of mantras for depression. The first is a sound mantra. For instance the mantra “Om”
Try this exercise:
- Close your eyes
- focus on your breathing
- recite the mantra OM
- Feel the sound reverberating in your body
- Focus 100% on the sound.
- Chant “Om” 108 times.
The next type of mantra uses a sentence.
You can use any sentence you like. For instance, you may recite “I am feeling calm and relaxed.”
You then recite this mantra repeatedly while focusing on the words.
This helps you to create the reality of the words, such that, for instance, saying “ I am calm and relaxed” will make you calm and relaxed. These mantras for depression relax you and helps you to start developing positive thoughts.
9: Best Guided Meditation For Depression And Anxiety
Here is, in my opinion, Youtub’e 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). And in my experience it works wonders.
The reason I love this method so much is that you get the best of both meditation and CBT. The former aspect slows down your mind and makes you feel more relaxed and peaceful. The CBT aspect then changes the way you think so you can stop depressive thoughts.
This method has made a huge difference in my life. And I seriously recommend that you try it. The link above has a complete guide so you can start doing it today… as in, right now.
With MBCBT you will completely revolutionise your mind.
Benefits Of Using Meditation For Depression
There are some key links between depression and meditation. When we meditate we relax the mind and get a break from depressive thoughts. We also help balance brain chemicals to boost overall wellbeing. But that’s just the beginning.
Take a look at this list of benefits. It shows why, for people with depression, meditation is a must.
Benefits of Meditation
- Helps with mental health problems such as obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD)
- Massively reduces anxiety symptoms
- Stops negative thoughts
- Helps with post traumatic stress disorder
- Helps us let go
- Boosts the immune system
- Promotes inner peace
- Prevents and relieves anger
- Increases communication between parts of the brain.
- Helps to stop painful emotions
- Reduces sadness and grief [READ: Meditation For Grief]
- Prevents loss of appetite
- Offers relief from agitation
- Stops restlessness
- Helps control thoughts of death, suicide, and self-harm
- Cures insomnia
- Helps with bipolar disorder
How Meditation Helps Depression -- Scientific Research
There have been many scientific studies that prove how meditation helps depression.
One of the best recent studies on depression and meditation was done by The Lancet medical journal. In the study, 424 British adults were divided into two groups.
Half the test group were allotted pills and the other half were given lessons in mindfulness.
The latter group stopped taking their medication completely 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 showed that one of the best types of 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. ”
The study also showed that mindfulness might work better than pills for those people who are at high risk of relapse.
What’s More Helpful For Depression: Meditation Or Medication?
Above we looked at the best types of meditation for depression. But which is more helpful for depression, meditation or medication? .
Professor Roger Mulder, of the University of Otago New Zealand, believes that mindfulness should be offered as a therapy for patients. His reasons is that meditation lowers costs and has less side effects.
“We have a promising new treatment that is reasonably cost-effective and applicable to the large group of patients with recurrent depression,” says Mulder.
Mulder states that drugs are not working as expected.
“Despite the increased use of drugs, the long-term outcome of mood disorders has not improved in the modern era.”
And yet despite these facts the pharmaceutical industry continues to force pills on people. And that despite the mounting placebo research.
Current best practice, endorsed by Nice (2) is to encourage people with a history of recurrent depression to remain on antidepressants for at least two years.
So here’s what we know:
- Meditation can be as effective as medication for depression
- It doesn’t have the side-effects medication has
- Experts recommend people with depression try mindfulness and meditation
Naturally, you will want to consult a healthcare professional to see what the best option is for you. And there are alternatives to medication too, such as using niacin when depressed.
The full list of side-effects from anti-depressants
- increased appetite
- weight gain
- loss of sexual desire and other sexual problems
- fatigue and drowsiness
- dry mouth
- blurred vision
- Weight gain
- Loss of sex drive
- Dry mouth
- Difficulty urinating
- Sun sensitivity
- Increased heart rate
- Weight gain
- Sleep disruption
- Abdominal pain
How To Improve Your Thoughts By Using Meditation Techniques For Depression
The best types of meditation for depression and anxiety (and stress, and sadness… I could go on….), those techniques help us to stop negative thoughts.
It doesn’t matter whether you’re using a simple method like breathing, an advanced method like VIpassana, or a guided meditation for depression, one of the main reasons why meditation helps with depression is because it helps us control negative thoughts.
I wanted to know precisely how much of an effect these negative thoughts have on us. So I researched. And was shocked by the answer.
EocInstitute rell us, “Scientists estimate the number of human thoughts at around 50,000 per day — meaning a negative, depressed mind can literally generate dozens of pessimistic thoughts per minute! 
You need to stop negative thoughts so that you can find peace and calm. You need to find a new, positive way of thinking.
One way to change your negative thoughts is to use mindfulness-based cognitive behavioral therapy (MBCBT) for positivity. This is a powerful way of boosting the positive thoughts in your mind, while reducing the negative thoughts. To do this technique, essentially what you will want to do is meditate, listen to your thoughts and challenge any negative thought that comes along. This will help stop depressive thoughts.
And that is basically how meditation helps depression. I hope you have found this guide helpful.
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