Today I’m going to be discussing how to use meditation when you are sad and depressed.
Can I be honest with you? The reason that I’m doing this today is because I’m feeling sad actually, to be honest with you. Yeah, feeling sad. A lot of stuff go on in my life recently. And so I’ve been feeling sad and depressed.
But you know what? That’s fine. It is fine to feel sad and depressed. Feeling sad, feeling depressed, is a completely normal part of life. It’s a natural and healthy human emotion to feel depressed, to feel sad, to feel down, and I just really want to put on the table, you know, that we need to just accept that we have moments when we feel sad. We have moments when we feel down. It doesn’t mean that we’re weak. It doesn’t mean that anything particularly is wrong. Usually it’s just because we have a warped perspective on something temporarily. But I do want to just say that feeling sad is not wrong.
Still , you might want to stop it, because obviously feeling sad is not a very positive emotion. It makes you feel bad, and so you probably might like to use meditation to stop yourself from feeling sad. And that brings us to the topic for a day, which is how do you use meditation when you’re feeling down, when you’re feeling sad.
By the end of this episode I’m gonna arm you with some really valuable information and some great techniques that you can use the next time that you’re feeling sad next time you’re feeling depressed [Read: Meditation for depression] So by the end of this episode, you will have armed yourself with some good tools for the next time you’re down.
So let’s get into it. How do you use meditation to stop yourself from feeling sad?
How To Use Meditation When You Are Sad And Depressed
1: Reduce The Effect Your Sadness Has On You
Well, first of all. The 1st way in which you can use meditation to stop your felt self from feeling sad is simply to reduce the effect that that emotion is having on you.
Oftentimes in life we experience negative emotions. It could be sadness, could be anger. It could be, you know, any of those wonderful negative emotions that we all experience. When you experience a negative emotion such as sadness, sometimes your mind gets kind of sunk into it. Sometimes you get lost in that sad emotion. Maybe you ruminate on it and you really make things worse for yourself because, OK, you’re experiencing the emotion, but not only are you experiencing it, you’re really sinking into it, you know. And I think you probably know what I mean. I think that that’s something that we’ve all done when we’re feeling blue and instead of just saying, yeah, OK, I’m feeling a bit down today, we proper sink into it and get completely lost in it.
So the 1st way in which we can use meditation to stop us from feeling sad is kind of to pull the mind out of the emotion.
2: Use Anapanasati And Vipassana
We want to use two forms of meditation, which are the Buddhist methods Anapanasati and Vipassana. So anapanasati is your basic traditional sitting and focusing on breathing. That’s a really good way to begin to stop feeling so down. I’m going to go through a lot of powerful techniques in this that are going to be more effective for Sadness. But mindful breathing is always going to help because it will relax your mind and it will just give you a bit more awareness and a bit more space so that instead of being completely lost in all that emotion, you’re able to just, you know, step away from it and just say, OK, fine, I feel like crap, but I’m just going to let myself sit here. I’m just going to let myself chill and just relax and just be OK, and when you do mindful breathing, that’s what it gives you. It kind of gives you this sense of space, the sense of freedom, and it reduces the effect that emotion has on you.
Scientifically speaking, we can say that it stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system and balances a bunch of neurochemicals such as serotonin and noradrenaline. But you know, science aside, mindful breathing is simply going to help us to relax and to get a little bit of space when we’re feeling blue.
And so that’s the first meditation that I would like to mention here, and definitely a good place to start with mindful breathing.
3: Reducing reactivity with vipassana
While mindful breathing is good for just general relaxation and for reducing the effect the emotion has on you, it won’t actually change your emotion. So after, let’s say you you you’re feeling sad, you meditate for 20 minutes, you feel good for like a few hours, but eventually if things don’t change in your life or in your mind, eventually you are going to start to feel sad again. So what do you do about that? How do you not just get temporary relief from sadness when you meditate? How do you use meditation to change your mind about whatever it is that you’re thinking of that’s making you upset.
So thankfully there are many ways to do that.
4: Changing thoughts and feelings with Analytical meditation
One of the best ways to use meditation for reducing sadness is to do what is called a bit of analytical meditation. So analytical meditation is kind of like a cognitive behavioral therapy. I also do have an episode on here, that is entirely about analytical meditation, so you might like to look at.
So essentially, analytical meditation means to sit and to observe the mind and to kind of just take a note of what we’re thinking, you know, all the negative force that you’re experiencing.
For instance, I’ve been thinking, “Well, I’m getting old, to be honest. Old ish. I’m 41 next month, so I’m getting a bit old and I haven’t really accomplished the things that I wanted to accomplish in my life and that’s getting me down.” Right. So that’s the thought that I’ve been experiencing.
When I sit in analytical meditation and I observe that thought, I say OK, so I have this thought that’s routinely going through my mind that’s saying I’m getting older and I haven’t accomplished my ambitions and that’s making me sad. So now that you know the thought that you’re experiencing, that’s making you sad, you’re gonna say well, OK, how do I flip that thought so that it’s less negative? So for instance, I can say, “Yes, I there are dreams and ambitions that I have not accomplished in my life that I wanted to accomplish, but I don’t have to think about that in a negative. I can simply flip that thought and say to myself, well, I still have the opportunity to achieve the dreams that I set out for myself when I was young.”
Notice how that’s so much more positive. Instead of thinking, well, I’m getting older than I am achieved what I wanted to achieve. So I’m gonna be really sad and act miserable. Instead of thinking that, you just think, “Well, I still have an opportunity in my life to achieve the ambitions that I sent for myself when I was younger.”
Just changing that thought, it still says actually the same things, it still says the stuff I haven’t achieved right and I’m getting older, but instead of putting it in a negative, I’m putting it in a positive. And so that’s what you do with analytical meditation. You simply observe what’s happening in your mind, what thoughts you’re experiencing, and then turn them on their head. You don’t ignore the thought, which is something that self-help books tell you to do all the time and is the dumbest thing of like ever. Don’t ignore your thoughts because they’re important and they tell you important information. So acknowledge the thought. Say yes, I’m having whatever kind of negative thought it is I’m having that thought, but I’m going to spin it and put it into a positive light.
So so far we’ve gone over 2 meditations that will help with sadness. The first is just your general anapanasati mindful breathing which is going to help you to relax and to get just the bit of space when you’re feeling sunk in all that emotional gunk you know. And then the second one is analytical meditation, where you sit and observe the thoughts that are going through your mind and then use a little bit of CBT, cognitive behavioral therapy to twist the thought and to turn it. Into something a bit more positive. So those are two options.
But there’s a lot more and I really think that you should know the other options because honestly, let’s face it, we’re going to feel sad again. You’re going to feel sad again, and by knowing these meditations, it’s really going to help you the next time you feel sad to say, OK, fine, I know what to do about this.
Another way in which we get sad is when we’re kind of like. Oh, life just sucks you know? I hate my life… blah blag blah.
When you experience thoughts like that, you need to go to gratitude. You really do, because inevitably when you think that everything in the world and everything in your life is wrong, well, that’s just bonkers, isn’t it, really? And it means that you’re not aware of all the things that you have to be grateful for.
I’ll be honest, I’m human. There’s times when I sit there, and I think, wow, my life sucks, right? We all, I think if we’re honest with each other, we all face those times and that’s fine. When it occurs, all we need to do is say, you know what, I recognize that me thinking that the entirety of my life is crap is just absolute rubbish. It’s a rubbish thought and I’m going to change it by just sitting with my eyes closed and thinking about all the things in my life that I have to be grateful for. And when you do that, it, like pretty quickly, gets you out of that funk where you’re thinking that everything sucks and you very easily start to realize that actually, you know, there’s quite a few things in my life that I do enjoy.
And if you can’t think of anything, then just think of cats. You know, I’ve got three of them here. Be grateful for cats or dogs. Or animals or nature. If you really can’t think of anything else in your life as good, just be grateful for the trees and the blue skies, and for birdsong and rainbows and nature.
6: Shinrin Yoku
Speaking of which, I wasn’t going to mention this in this in this episode, but I do want to say if you are feeling sad, down, blue crappy, in a funk, et cetera, then nature really can be your friend.
In Japan, and increasingly popular. In the West is nature therapy Shinrin Yoku, which is forest bathing, which basically means sitting in a forest. Being in nature is incredibly beneficial, it’s ridiculously good for your mental health and one of the best ways to to get out of a funk.
But here’s a really, really, really fascinating fact that’s going to blow your mind. You don’t actually have to go into a forest or into nature to experience nature therapy or forest.
Forest therapy research actually shows that you get the vast majority of the benefits by simply going into a virtual natural environment. So for instance, if you play birdsong or play ocean sounds on your phone, if you just sit somewhere quietly and visualize nature, even if you watch nature on the TV, you are still being exposed to nature and getting the benefits.
So that’s four ways you can use meditation to feeling so sad and blue. There’s one more that I would like to mention, which is Metta or loving kindness meditation.
7: Loving Kindness
Loving kindness meditation really is brilliant for sadness, for feeling down, especially, you know, that kind of malaise and sadness that you get when you just feel disconnected with the world and you don’t feel the love of other people in your life. And you just feel alone and sad. Wow, that sounds terrible, doesn’t it? And it is terrible. But if you’re going through that terrible sadness of loneliness, Meta, Loving Kindness Meditation will do you wonders. All you have to do is is to sit and simply visualize the people in your life smiling and then say the loving kindness mantra, which is “May [this person] have happiness and strength, may they have freedom and inner peace, and may they have the strength to overcome any obstacle in their life”. And then visualize the person smiling at you and saying the words back to you.
So I feel like I’ve rambled a little bit in this episode. I apologise for that, but I also feel like I have perhaps imparted a few wisdoms and a few tools that you can use for the next time you feel sad and blue. Again, you can use anapanasati to your mindful breathing to give yourself a sense of kind of relaxation, freedom and space when you need it. Use analytical meditation to simply sit and observe your mind, and then to note the types of thoughts that you’re having. Once you’ve noted the types of thoughts, use a bit of cognitive behavioral therapy to kind of twist it into something a bit more positive. And then nature therapy, loving kindness, and gratitude.
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