meditation for depression art

What are the best daily meditations for depression? Which techniques and scripts should you follow, and how long do they take to work?

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. 

As a meditation instructor, many people ask me what the best daily 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 doing daily meditating as well as other methods like taking Niacin. Depression gradually reduced, and I learned to stop the painful emotions that were killing me.

Not only did meditation help depression, but I also 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:

Note: Some people may experiencing worse symptoms after meditating, according to research by Miguel Farias at Coventry University in the UK [a]

Video version

Best Meditations For Depression--5 Different Types Of Meditation You Need To Try

The Best Meditations For Depression  

There are many self-healing depression meditation scripts. They start from the very basic breathwork to guided meditations and traditional methods. These methods can greatly help you to heal, as well helping with grief and other problems.

The easiest is 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.

Meditation 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.

Easy technique

Spend 10 minutes daily doing this meditation for depression relief that’s fast and easy. It will clear your mind and help you to start feeling relaxed.

  1. Find somewhere quiet and peaceful, where you will not be disturbed.
  2. Sit with good posture.
  3. Close your eyes and focus your mind on your breathing.
  4. With each inhalation, imagine bringing new energy into your body.
  5. With each exhalation, imagine breathing out any harmful and depressive thoughts.
  6. 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. And it can help with your symptoms by offering you a few precious minutes in just to relax and unwind. 

 Best Buddhist Meditations For Depression   

Now we’ve covered the basics, let’s look at the best meditation techniques for depression. 

Many of the best ways to meditate come to us from Buddhism.

When you use Buddhist meditation techniques for depression, you primarily 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).

1: Anapanasati

“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 reasonably 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 minutes, 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 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, and improves self-control. Once you feel peaceful, meditate on the feeling of peace.

The International Yoga Journal produced scientific evidence of the benefits of this method, which you can read about here.

2: Smiling Buddha 

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 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. 

3: Zen Walking 

I’m sure you’ll agree with me when I say that when you’re feeling down, a pleasant 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 Zen walking.

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) and clears the mind, bringing calmness and relaxation.

This is definitely one of the best types of 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. Getting outside and doing mindful walking 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 because it helps to cultivate feelings of happiness, interconnectedness, and love. The Journal Evidence Based Complementary And Alternative Medicine has published a report on the benefits of this method.

Loving Kindness is an activity in which we focus on giving and receiving compassion.

To do this technique:

  1. Close your eyes and think about someone (begin either by thinking of yourself or someone you’re close to)
  2. See this person happy, smiling
  3. List 5 beautiful things they have done for you in the past, things that made you feel supported
  4. Imagine extending love and kindness to this person
  5. 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]”
  6. Imagine the person sending loving-kindness back to you.
  7. Repeat the process with a second person, third person and so on.
  8. The first time, aim for ten people.

Loving-kindness is a soft and gentle way of feeling more compassion both in and around you. It is definitely one of the best types of meditation for depression.


5: Mindfulness Meditation for Depression

There are many scientific studies that confirm the benefits of mindfulness meditation 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 practise mindfulness, you train yourself to let go of thoughts and to focus on the moment. This is very potent for sadness because it helps you to escape the perpetual cycle of painful ideas 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: Self-Guided Meditation for Depression 

An alternative solution is to use guided imagery for depression. Guided imagery or “visualization” 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.

  1. Imagine standing on the beach beside the ocean
  2. Sea the waves lapping to and fro at your feet
  3. Hear the swoosh of the waves
  4. See the horizon
  5. Feel the warm sand at your feet
  6. Taste the crisp air
  7. 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 and this cultivates peacefulness. Unquestionably one of the best meditations for depression.

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 essentially means focusing on reality instead of psychological phenomena.

Body Scan technique gets you in touch with your body and puts you back in the present moment.

It’s reasonably simple 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 called “Progressive muscle relaxation”).

  1. Begin with your feet. Focus your mind on your feet.
  2. Notice any sensations in your feet.
  3. If there is tension, ask your feet to relax.
  4. Imagine breathing air into your feet and asking them to relax.
  5. 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.
  6. Reverse the process from head to toe. 

You can read about the benefits of this method on VeryWellMind.

Effect of MBSR Meditation On Depression
Effect of MBSR Meditation On Depression

8: Mantras

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”

Try this exercise:

  1. Close your eyes
  2. Focus on your breathing
  3. Recite the mantra OM
  4. Feel the sound reverberating in your body
  5. Focus 100% on the sound.
  6. 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 help you to start manifesting positive thoughts. 

9: Best Guided Meditation For Depression And Anxiety

Here is, in my opinion, Youtube’s best guided meditation for depression.

Guided Meditation for Detachment From Over-Thinking (Anxiety / OCD / 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 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.  

With MBCBT you will completely revolutionise your mind.

Why Use Daily Meditation For Depression? 

Above we looked at the best meditations for depression, but you might wonder just how meditation helps with 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 health 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. The link between daily meditation and depression is that meditation increases the production of new brain cells and balances 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. The chemical aids in communication between parts of the brain, and has a significant 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.

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 acute 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 built, including serotonin. Meditation balances cortisol to prevent this from happening, so there are benefits of meditation for depression, anxiety and stress.   

 Benefits  

There are pivotal links between meditation and depression. When we meditate, we relax the mind, and we take a recess 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.  

Tara Brach: Healing Depression with Meditation, Part 1

The link between daily meditation and depression – Scientific Research 

There have been many scientific studies that prove how meditation helps depression. 

One of the most authoritative studies on depression and meditation was produced by The Lancet medical journal, who conducted a study of 424 British adults. The group was divided in 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 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 determined that mindfulness might work better than pills for those people who are at high risk of relapse. 

 

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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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2 Responses

  1. Thanks for sharing all of these great ways to help deal with depression! I have found that gratitude meditation, focusing on any and all the things that you feel grateful for, and also self love meditations to be quite helpful in dealing with depression. I’m glad to see that you put that last paragraph in there about how there are times that you should not use meditation. Sometimes when we become more aware of a less then enjoyable experience going on within us, like depression, it gets much worse. There are a million and one ways to deal with this and there is no one “right” approach for all people. It will vary greatly. I like to call these the growing pains of meditation. They get called the dark night if meditation as well. They can happen with many different things in the practice as well. Not just depression.

  2. Hey,

    i found your article very useful as myself was also into the state of depression but somehow i recovered myself and started reading so many inspirational articles just to attain the knowledge about these things.

    Thanks,
    Meetu

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