Meditation for Depression A Mindful Guide to Combat Depression

Who to Meditate With

You have a few different options when it comes to choosing how to meditate and with whom. For people who practice meditation every day, meditation is usually practiced alone. You may also practice meditation in groups or with guidance from a podcast, track or video.

There are a growing number of group meditations available in locations across the globe. These classes usually have a meditation and a talk about mindfulness which can be very useful in fully understanding the processes.

What Meditation Consists of

The entire meditation process can take as little as 10 minutes, though you may want to meditate longer, especially once you build up your mind-muscle. You will sit in a quiet area and practice breathing and focusing your thoughts. By being aware of your thoughts and by improving the way you can control your mind, you will develop heightened awareness.

When to Meditate

Meditation can be practiced at any time of the day. Some people find that meditating first thing in the morning can be helpful to set a positive tone for the rest of their day, while others find that meditating at night allows them to relax and get a better night’s sleep. Additionally, people who are highly anxious may find that meditating mid-day gives them the calm that they need to get through the day. 5 minutes of breathing meditation sitting at your desk can be very powerful. As previously mentioned, book-ending your day (meditating in both the morning and at night) can be beneficial.

Where to Meditate

Meditation is a technique that has very few requirements other than quiet and somewhere you can be comfortable. Therefore, the where to meditate depends on you. You may choose a quiet corner of your office at work in a comfortable chair, a candle-lit room in your house, or even a blanket on the grass outside. You can meditate where you feel comfortable most.

As with your pre-meditation routine, you will find that repetition is key. If you meditate in the same place all the time, your mind will start to prepare itself a soon as you enter your meditation place. You don’t need any special equipment though if you are meditating from a video or a recording, it is useful if you can turn off other distractions from your smartphone or tablet.

How to Meditate

Step #1: Prepare to Meditate

The first thing that you should do is follow your pre-meditation routine. Spend time quieting your mind, stretch, take a shower, or do whatever activity you normally would before meditation. Make sure you are dressed comfortably and go to your meditation area. Sit or lie down and become comfortable as you can. If you are intending to sleep immediately afterwards, you can lie in your bed, otherwise it is probably better to be sitting upright so you do not nod off.

Sit back with your spine straight and with you head held in a continuation of your spine. Your feet should be comfortably on the floor, hip width apart. Your head should be tilted slightly downwards and allow a slight smile to play on your lips. This is a pleasurable experience so allow your face to soften. Place your right hand in your left palm, your thumbs gently resting against each other. Loosen your shoulders. Allow everything to sit at ease and without any tension.

Your eyes can be open or closed though I find it best to have my eyes almost closed so that I have some light coming in (to ward off sleep) but I cannot see anything so I am not distracted. There is a meditation which focusses on objects outside of the body so for that exercise you would need to keep the eyes open.

Before you start, ensure you are comfortable to ensure distractions are minimal.

Step #2: Take a Few Deep Breaths

Once you are ready to meditate, take 3-4 very deep breaths. Inhale through your nose slowly, paying close attention to the swelling of your abdomen. Fill your belly with air and then gently exhale through your mouth. Repeat this a few times.

Step #3: Focus on Your Breaths

After your initial breaths, start to gently guide your awareness so that you are focused solely on the breath flowing in and out of your body. If you find yourself having trouble focusing, think ‘inhale’ as you breathe in and ‘exhale’ as you breathe out or you can count your breaths 1….2….1….2. Another alternative to this is feeling your bodily sensations like the flaring of your nostrils as you breathe and the rise and fall of your chest and abdomen. You can also focus on the cooling sensation of air entering your nostrils or the warming sensation of air leaving your body. These can all help to focus on the breath.  Find out what works for you and use it.  It isn’t cheating.

Step #4: Avoid Losing Yourself in Emotion and Thought

As you meditate, it is very likely that your mind is going to wander. This is perfectly natural. This is especially true for someone who has not been practicing meditation for a long time. The key to meditation, however, is to notice the thoughts but not let them take over. For example, imagine that you find yourself thinking about a situation at work that made you angry. Acknowledge the thought and your feelings toward it without judging or resisting it and then let that go when you exhale. Return your focus to the breath.

It is common and perfectly normal for the mind to wander during meditation. Everyone who meditates experiences that so it isn’t important. What is important is that you keep returning to the awareness of your breath. This is like the repetitions that you do at the gym to build a muscle. It is the practice of bringing the mind back into focusing on the breath that strengthens the mind. So, don’t see a wandering mind as a sign of failure – see it as a chance to improve your practice.

Step #5 Release Self-Defeating Thoughts

When you suffer from depression, it is common to think negative, unhelpful thoughts about yourself. The downside of this is that you are often left feeling as if you are not good enough to try new things or to succeed in life. Chances are, if you struggle with depression, the thoughts you experience as you meditate are going to be self-loathing or negative. Instead of brooding on your thoughts, you are going to practice letting them go. Acknowledge every thought as it crosses your mind without judging it. Then, exhale the thought with the breath and imagine it dissipating into the air around you. This may be difficult to do initially but, again, be kind to yourself.  Everyone finds starting meditation a challenge.

Step #6: Breathe in Self-Confidence and Positivity

Once you exhale the negative thoughts, you will find that you can fill yourself with more positivity. Imagine that positivity is all around you and you are soaking it in with every deep breath. Feel confidence and positive thoughts filling you until you are ready to burst. Continue breathing in positivity and breathing out negativity.

Step #7: Let Your Thoughts Go Without Judgment

Your key to defeating depression is going to be learning to observe depressive thoughts without letting them upset you. Mindfulness meditation will teach you to let them go. As you find yourself experiencing self-defeating or depressing thoughts throughout the day, learn to observe them without letting them affect the way that you feel. Acknowledge that your thoughts are depressing and then let them go, without giving them the chance to manipulate your emotions. Remember that you are not your thoughts.

One way to think about this is to imagine a large empty sky in your mind as you meditate. If a thought comes in to your mind, imagine it as a bird which has flown across the empty sky in front of you. Don’t make a judgement about it. It isn’t right or wrong. It is simply a thought. Like a bird, the thought will fly away leaving the empty space of the sky around you. When you are not meditating, if a depressing thought comes into your head, simply acknowledge it, and then imagine it is a bird flying off. Try to smile and look up as the thought/bird flies off as this makes it more difficult to allow the negative energy to build up inside.

Bonus Tips for Combatting Depression with Mindfulness

#1: Use Positive Affirmations

One of the best ways to build self-confidence to combat depression is with positive affirmations. To use this technique, first make a list of the things that you struggle with. Then, turn these into positive statements. Here are some examples:

  • I am attractive.
  • I am an asset to my company.
  • I am successful.
  • I am confident.
  • I am in control of my situation.

Make a list of the affirmations that mean the most to you and put them next to your bathroom mirror. Spend 10-15 minutes repeating these each morning. As you say these aloud, look at yourself in the mirror. Repeat each phrase until you believe it to be true. It may seem difficult to do this at first but you will need to keep practicing. Think how many years you have been talking to yourself in a negative way. It will take some effort to change your thinking, so don’t be too hard on yourself if you don’t see changes immediately.

#2: Challenge Negative Thoughts

Those who suffer from depression often go through periods of negative thinking. Over time, they begin to believe their thoughts. A good exercise is to challenge your negative thoughts. Start by writing down any negative thoughts that wander across your mind. After each thought, write a statement that combats the thought. For example, if you think, “I am not a good person,” start by questioning why you do not think you are a good person. Can you recall something you have done which was good?  If you can challenge your negative thoughts with evidence, you can begin to change your perception of yourself.  If you cannot bring any evidence to refute the negative perception, remember that you can change the way you act from this moment onwards.  For example, remind yourself that even if you are not good by your standards, you can change.

#3: Develop a Positive Mantra

You may also find it helpful to choose a meaningful statement to reflect on at certain points throughout your day. If you question your worth, say something like “I do have value.” Every time that you find yourself questioning your self-worth, put your hands on your chest and say it (aloud when you can) and continue to do so until it rings true for you.