Starting to meditate when you’re prone to depression
Perhaps one of the most promising things about meditation is that initial studies suggest it can relieve the symptoms of depression. Depression is something that affects huge amounts of people, with the World Health Organisation listing it as one of the leading causes of disability worldwide – and it’s an illness that can place barriers in the way of our ability to enjoy life. Using meditation in a wider self-care routine can be one way to reduce the impact of depression, but where should you begin?
– Choose the right time for you
While meditation can sometimes help people who are experiencing an acute episode, for most, it’s unlikely that meditation is a viable prospect if they are suffering with severe symptoms. Anecdotally speaking, it’s possible to have great success in overcoming depression through meditative techniques, but it’s perhaps most helpfully pursued when symptoms are mild, or as a protective measure to prevent relapse.
Meditation shouldn’t replace front-line mental health services or your doctor’s advice, and if you find that the meditation technique you have chosen worsens feelings of despondency – and you don’t have the tools to work through these feelings at this time – inform the pertinent professionals and don’t continue with this practice until you are further along in your recovery.
– Seek experienced meditation teachers and discuss your intentions with health professionals
If you suffer with depression, you are going to have more complex needs than someone who is fully well. Seeking guidance in a meditation practice – someone you can discuss any issues with and call on for further support – is an important aspect of starting to meditate in these circumstances. You should also bring up meditation for depression with your GP and any mental health professionals you are engaged with (such as therapists).
This is because depression is so highly individualised in its expression that you may find some meditation techniques more appropriate than others. People who are depressed tend to find it more difficult to engage in new tasks, so it’s important to use a technique that’s both easy and right for you on a personal level. By keeping your circle of support informed about your meditation practice they can help you keep an eye on its effect on you and steer you in the right direction.
– Allow yourself time
The changes meditation brings about in us are often subtle and incremental. You may find that your symptoms gradually lift, or that you can begin to view your depression as something separate and controllable, rather than an inherent and domineering aspect of your personality. Let go of any expectation of what meditation should feel like and the idea that you aren’t doing it “properly”. It’s consistency that’s the key, not a vague idea of performance – where you are fighting yourself in an attempt to empty your mind and instantly feel better.
Meditation can and does help people everyday when they are living with depression – and for some, it even becomes the key factor that leads to a full recovery. As a simple technique that’s easy to fit into daily life, it can slot seamlessly into the routine of other self-care practices that you have found work for you, whether that’s going for a run or enjoying a long soak.
In this way, meditation can become part of a long-term strategy devised by yourself and your GP for managing your symptoms and coming out of the other side. It’s not a quick fix, but it is often a source of support and stability, and a method that may just help you find sustainable and lasting wellbeing.
Holly Ashby is a writer who has written extensively about wellbeing, health and meditation. She currently works for the meditation centre Beeja meditation, who help people to combat stress using meditation.