The Benefits of Meditation for Depression: How It Helps
How Meditation Dominates Depression
An incredibly complex disease, depression has an interwoven variety of biological, psychological, and sociological contributing factors.
Here, from a variety of angles, we discuss why meditation is the very best way to once and for all, eliminate depression.
How Upgrading "The King of All Brain Regions" Destroys Depression
How A Weak "Prefrontal Cortex" Can Result In Depression
As we evolved from our prehistoric Neanderthal form to our modern human form, one particular brain region has risen to prominence.
Known as the brain’s overall thought orchestrator, "CEO", and emotional control center — the "prefrontal cortex" is pinpointed as perhaps the clearest dividing line between ancient man & modern man.
And this brain region is super-important for depression sufferers.
A study published in one of the world’s leading medical journals, "The Lancet" (Pascual-Leone & all) tested the brains of 17 clinically depressed patients. What did they find?
Kind of like that skinny-legged guy at the gym who only trains his upper body (& never his lower body), the depressed subjects’ "emotional regulating" prefrontal cortexes were remarkably underdeveloped as compared to the rest of the brain.
Imagine if you could upgrade this amazing brain region, and in essence — make an evolutionary quantum leap! You can, through meditation!
How Meditation Builds Up The Prefrontal Cortex
A landmark study by Harvard neuroscientist Dr. Sara Lazar showed that the brains of meditators had remarkably more "prefrontal cortex gray matter thickness" — with degree directly linked to level of meditation experience.
In other words, the more you practice meditation, the stronger & better your prefrontal cortex, the greater your emotional well-being and balance.
Just one of many studies illustrating the same thing, researchers continually find meditators’ to be the smartest, happiest, and healthiest folks.
If you want to rewire your brain for happiness while permanently unshackling the chains of depression, meditation is your master key.
Doctors Treat Depression With Meditative Brainwaves
Depression Lives In Your Brainwave Patterns
Day and night, your whole brain fires directly measurable electrical signals which, when combined, form what are called "brainwave patterns."
Everything about us, from our emotional state, to our moods, to our thoughts — is directly reflected in our brainwave patterns.
What if it was possible to upgrade so called "depressed" brainwave patterns to the healthiest, happiest, most mentally balanced states? You can! But first a quick look at some depression specific brainwave data.
How Alpha & Theta Brainwaves "Knock-Out" Depression
In 1991, the Biofeedback Institute (Saxby & all) monitored 14 clinically depressed alcoholics as they were given experimental alpha and theta brainwave therapy over the course of 20 sessions.
To measure their results, each participant took a "Beck Depression Inventory Score" before and after the experiment. What did they find?
Amazingly, the participants reduced their depression score(s) by a whopping 80% (21-pre, 4-post). In addition, at the two year follow up, results held firm while relapse was miniscule.
If alpha and theta brainwaves are so beneficial, how do we boost them without expensive biofeedback therapy?
How Meditation Creates Alpha & Theta Brainwaves
One of the countless reasons neuroscientists love studying their magnificent brains, meditation heavily increases both theta and alpha brainwaves. These are the brainwaves of meditation, you could say.
(Note: EquiSync audio tracks are designed to magnify these magnificent meditative brainwaves!)
Sitting on a mountain of evidence, when it comes to eradicating depression once and for all, the neuroscientific community has emphatically confirmed that meditation is the very best way.
Meditation Solves The Psychology Of Depression
How The Depressed Mind Works
When we get stuck in a mental rut, like a howitzer, negative thoughts fire one after another. "I'm not good enough... I make too many mistakes... I'm such a bad person."
In fact, scientists estimate the number of human thoughts at over 50,000 per day — meaning that a "depressed mind" can generate dozens of pessimistic thoughts per minute!
While we all succumb to thoughts of "no hope" from time to time, the difference is the depressed mind's sheer volume & level of bombardment. Truly paralyzing.
Luckily meditation fixes all of the above.
The Importance Of The Present Moment
When we regret the past and fear the future, what happens? We lose the present. And so, with today's joy sucked away, depression is right there to fill the void.
Meditation opens your eyes to the beautiful moment to moment unfolding of life, while unlocking a whole new world of stimuli.
In this way, meditation makes even the most mundane existence feel fresh and alive, melting away depression in no time.
How Meditation Defuses Depressive Thoughts
Meditation works by quieting down the "worrywart" conscious mind, and bringing the far more powerful "present-moment" subconscious mind to the surface.
When we realize that our "hopeless" thoughts are actually not reality, that they are just secretions of our "tip-of-the-iceberg" conscious mind, then we stop fixating on them.
When we use our deep mind to take a step back from the conscious mind, not only do our negative thoughts become less frequent, but they lose their power to control us.
And so, instead of a negative thought spiraling out of control, digging a deeper and darker hole — meditation ends it right then and there.
How Meditation Makes You A Master "Depression Fixing" Mind Mechanic
Our emotional peaks and troughs come not from the roller coaster of events that happen in our lives — our ups and downs come from our interpretation of what we experience.
In other words, we all have a choice in how we react to every situation, positive, negative, or neutral. This goes beyond simply seeing the glass as half empty or half full.
Meditation allows you to understand, at the deepest of levels, how your thoughts, mind, and emotions intertwine, and just how much control we have over our reality.
The result? A bulletproof brain, impervious to depression.
Feeling Incomplete: How Meditation Fills Our Spiritual Void
Whether it's not enough money, or not enough love, or not enough happiness, many of us in modern society feel incomplete.
From acquiring material things (i.e. a better house, car, clothes, etc.) to relationship hopping, we often seek out temporary fixes to fill-in this gap. The thing is, looking outside of yourself for what is, in essence, an inner void — only leaves us stranded, forever spinning our wheels.
And so, in this war that can't be won, we disconnect, we feel jaded, we develop bad habits, we sleep too much (or too little), we become disinterested in life, and eventually — we just give up. Depression at its dirtiest.
Luckily, there is a perfect solution. By tapping into our vast inner divinity, that wonderfuly sacred space in each and every one of us, meditation is perhaps the only true way to regain spiritual wholeness.
We all know the lore. The meditating monk who gives it all up for a life of simplicity. With nothing, he finds true and lasting happiness. While those of us in modern society are unlikely to go the monk route (i.e. giving it all up for the monastic life), meditation most certainly can change us in a way that ends our mindless pursuit of "that which can only be found within."
Armed with this kind of inner peace, depression simply cannot exist.
Meditation, the "Happy Hippocampus", & Decimating Depression
The Curious Case of The Shrinking Hippocampus
With 1 in 15 people suffering major depressive disorder (MDD) at any given time, there is no shortage of people ready and willing to put their brain under the microscope in hope of a cure.
Thankfully, with journal after journal of promising insight into the so called "depressed brain," neuroscientists understand this ugly mental health issue's moving parts better than ever.
A landmark Washington University School of Medicine study (Sheline et al, 1999) MRI imaged the brains of 48 women, half of which were suffering from major clinical depression. What did they find?
Versus the control group, the "hippocampi" of the depressed patients had atrophied significantly, with a clear link between "number of years depressed" and degree of shrinkage.
To illustrate the findings, when we break our leg, its size and strength slowly dwindle away inside our orthopedic cast. When depression has us on the ropes, our brain's hippocampus slowly wastes away inside our noggin.
Meditation Changes The Brain, Exterminates Depression
"So, if I want to lift myself out of depression (and prevent it in the future), I need to strengthen my hippocampus. Got it. But my gym doesn't have a hippocampus machine!"
Save yourself a trip to the gym, meditation is your "ACE Certified" hippocampus personal trainer.
A 2008 study published in the Neuroimage Journal found that, after only 8 weeks of meditation, the left and right "hippocampi" of participants had significantly grown in neural thickness, density, and overall size.
This incredible finding means that adding meditation to your daily routine can, in essence — reverse depression's dirty wheels no matter how deeply your tires are "dug-in," while bulletproofing your brain to future attacks.
With headlines like the Independent's "How The Beatles Meditation Technique Could Cure Depression," it appears that meditation's uncanny ability to lift us out of the doldrums is slowly entering mainstream consciousness.
As John Lennon's famous lyrics so eloquently put it, "Imagine all the people... living for today." Indeed, a world full of (depression-free) meditators would certainly grant the legendary Beatle his wish.
More Neurotransmitters, Less Depression
The Power of Serotonin and Norepinephrine
Between your wonderfully complex brain's billions of neurons are an internet-like group of chemical messengers known as "neurotransmitters." For the depression sufferer, there are two critical "need to know" neurotransmitters: serotonin and norepinephrine.
When levels of these two highly important brain chemicals get low, we feel an overwhelming sense of sadness, and consequently, become depressed. If you're taking an antidepressant, these two critical communicators are the likely target.
But with an array of side effects (paradoxically, suicide is one), dependency, and general ineffectiveness (i.e. no more effective than a placebo), antidepressants aren't really ideal. Thankfully, there is an ultra-powerful, time-tested, all-natural solution.
How Meditation Fills Neurotransmitters, Empties Depression
As countless studies show (including a highly esteemed University of Montreal research team) — with meditation, you can boost both serotonin and norepinephrine to healthy "depression resistant" levels... naturally.
In effect, meditation's freshly drafted serotonin army will quickly neutralize any depression linked enemy combatants occupying your brain, while making it a powerful fortress against any future invader.
In other words, meditation creates a sort of "neurochemical utopia" — where depression simply cannot survive.
While antidepressants are great for temporary happiness, if you want true and permanent happiness, meditation is the key.
Meditation Deactivates The Anxiety and Depression Center Of The Brain
Survival Mode Was Essential For Our Ancestors
"I think that tiger wants to eat me! Better grab my spear or get ‘outta here."
Considering what they dealt with every day, our primitive hunting and gathering ancestors needed highly tuned survival instincts.
And so, with a well-tuned fight or flight response so critical to everyday survival, a big and strong "fear-center" amygdala was how they adapted. The problem is, thousands of years later, we are still wired much like our ancient ancestors.
Compounding the problem, each time we activate our "life or death" fear center amygdala, a chemical cocktail of hormones (like cortisol) get released, flooding our bodies with a bunch of nasties.
This "neuro-environment" opens the door to an array of ugly physical, mental, and emotional disease, especially depression.
Clearly, while our caveman ancestors needed their "survival mode" activated on a daily basis, we don't.
How Meditation Shrinks The Brain's "Fear Center"
Then, what's the very best way to cool an overheated amygdala and, in effect, dismantle depression? Meditation.
In 2012 a team of esteemed Harvard neuroscientists examined the brains' of freshly minted meditation practitioners before and after an 8 week mindfulness class. What did they find?
Incredibly, their "depression center" amygdalae had actually managed to shrink in size, while also being far less electrically active.
In other words, faster than the light switch in your living room, meditation turns off perhaps the most critical brain region involved in depression.
For anyone drowning in a sea of depression, meditation is the world's best lifesaver.