Feeling Down? Meditation Can Help!

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HopeXchange is pleased to welcome guest blogger, Lucy Duncan. Lucy is a freelance writer and editor who loves self-improvement, meditation, and mindful living.

How meditation can help with depression

Depression is now considered to be one of the leading causes of disability and ill health worldwide. Psychotherapy or antidepressants are usually the first line treatments for depression, however a growing body of research suggest that meditating regularly could help with depression as it can change the way that the brain responds to stress and anxiety.

The link between stress, anxiety and depression

Stress and anxiety are two major triggers for depression. Meditation can help us get on top of that stress and anxiety before it escalates into depression, as well as being considered as a valid treatment for people who already are depressed.

With regular meditation practice the mind will become much calmer and more still, and you will find that you are more skilled at being engaged with the present moment, rather than carried away with thoughts, worries and concerns.

Meditation brings us back to the present moment

So often when we feel anxious or depressed, we find that our minds are busy with worried thoughts that are often about things that happened in the past or anticipated events in the future, this can trigger negative emotions and unhealthy thought patterns. It takes us out of the present moment, whereas meditation helps us learn to become more engaged with the here and now and find peace and calm within the present moment.

Meditation helps to focus the mind

According to Dr. John W Denninger, director of research at Massachusetts General Hospital “Meditation trains the brain to achieve sustained focus, and to return to that focus when negative thinking, emotions, and physical sensations intrude — which happens a lot when you feel stressed and anxious.” Research shows in fact that regular meditation can actually reverse brain patterns associated with poor attention and mind wandering. This is brought about by the sustained focused of the mind during meditation practice.

Meditation changes brain regions linked with depression

Scientists have demonstrated that the medial prefrontal cortex is hyperactive in depressed individuals. This is the brain centre that is responsible for processing information about yourself, which as mentioned, in depressed individuals this tends to revolve around worrying about the future and replaying events in the past. When people feel stressed and anxious abut themselves and their lives, the medial prefrontal cortex goes into overdrive.

Meditation breaks the connection between these brain regions

Another region that is over triggered in people with depression is the amygdala, otherwise known as the ‘fear centre’ of the brain. These two brain regions – The medial prefrontal cortex and the amygdala – actually work together to cause depression. When the mPFC goes into overdrive due to stress and anxiety, the amygdala responds by releasing a stress hormone to respond to a threat that only exists in our minds.

Stick with it to reap the benefits

Yet meditation can help to break the connection between the two. According to Dr. Denniger “When you meditate, you are better able to ignore the negative sensations of stress and anxiety, which explains, in part, why stress levels fall when you meditate.” It takes time to feel the results of meditation, but with regular practice of just 20-30 minutes a day, after one or two months you would start to notice the positive impact that it is having on your mental health.

Would you like to get into meditation? There’s a forest of information out there and it’s hard to know where to start. Indeed, there are many ways to begin too. First, take a look at this article on getting into meditation and check out this Guardian article on ways to get into meditation.

Should I Go? Help for the Holidays

Help for the Holidays

Help for the Holidays

Holidays and special events are normally a time of joy and celebration, however they can become a painful reminder of your loss. Seeing family members, making decisions, and attending the holiday activities you usually enjoy can take on a different outlook after the loss of a child.

If you begin feeling sadness during the holidays or a special occasion, think about why you are feeling that way; process those feelings and accept them.  It is a perfectly normal reaction to your grief. Taking this step ahead of time may help you to avoid some uncomfortable moments in public.

 

Should I Go?

 

Ask yourself if you are ready to attend family gatherings or parties. This will give you the opportunity to let someone know your decision in advance. Knowing that you would have planned to share your new baby at these celebrations could make them difficult and even tearful for you. Give yourself the option to gracefully bow out of the activity. Asking yourself these questions before a special event may help:
  • Can I handle this? Is this something I would enjoy? If so, it could be a good way to lift your spirits.
  • What does my spouse think? Will it cause problems if I do not attend?
  • Would the holiday or special event be the same if I don’t attend? Deciding not to attend a Christmas play will not take away from the holiday season; however deciding not to attend Thanksgiving dinner will certainly change the Thanksgiving holiday.
Thinking through these questions ahead of time can help you arrive at a decision that is right for you, and one that will not negatively impact your spouse or your family.
The above is an excerpt from the book Hope is Like the Sun.

Peace of Mind: Four Ways to Battle Depression

We are pleased to welcome guest poster Jennifer McGregor to the HopeXchange blog! She is a medical student who has seen the impact that mental health has on our overall well-being. She believes we should all embrace our emotional health in the same we do our physical health.

Peace of Mind: Four Ways to Battle Depression

Counseling is one of the best ways to battle depression and suicidal thoughts. The expertise of a trained psychologist can guide a person from the hopelessness of depression and help them to reclaim their life. Though talk therapy represents the standard concept of therapy, it can be expensive and may not work for some.

Talk therapy is usually a component in many treatments, but using a different format as the main focus can be very beneficial for some people. Keep in mind that “therapy” may sound intimidating, but in reality it is simply the word used to describe any process that can provide insight and promote healing. The following routes do not necessarily require the guidance of a mental health professional (though it may be helpful), and anyone struggling with anxiety or depression may find these methods to be beneficial:

Exercise Therapy

Exercise is a critical component to recovering from many mental illnesses. Physical activity keeps our bodies healthy while providing mood-boosting endorphins to our brains. Exercise therapy is a treatment method that prescribes different forms of exercise to keep mood elevated and battle depression. The self-esteem boost that comes with regular exercise can also be hugely beneficial in combating suicidal thoughts.

Dog Therapy

Dogs have been shown to be excellent mental and physical health caretakers. Their need for food, water, exercise, and love ensure that their owners have a reason to get up every morning, a reason to get out of the house, and someone to offer unconditional love and comfort for when they are feeling down. Dogs are also highly attuned to their owners’ emotions and will usually be the first to provide comfort on a bad day.

Some therapy groups will bring in dogs to comfort the patients while simultaneously making it easier to reveal personal information.

Phone Therapy

Many people lead lives far too busy to attend therapy sessions, or they may even be embarrassed to tell loved ones where they are going each week. A good alternative might be phone therapy. These sessions are conducted over the phone with a trained counselor, providing essentially the same service as if you were to attend a physical session. Using phone therapy is a good option for people who may have difficulty getting to an office for treatment.

There are also options such as video chat sessions and text chat sessions. Text chat can be great for those who struggle with verbal communication while video chat is ideal for someone who wants a face- to-face experience but is unable to make the trip.

Meditation as a Therapy Supplement

Meditation alone cannot be used as a complete treatment plan, but numerous studies have shown that meditation is a very effective supplement. Its effects may even match medication therapy. The act of meditating works to silence the mind and embrace feelings of peace. It only makes sense that this would be very effective against something like depression or addiction. It is best to utilize this technique alongside talk or group therapy.

Finding therapy for your depression and suicidal thoughts is the first step to recovery. When people suffering from depression do not receive treatment, things can only get worse. Whether you decide to stick with traditional talk therapy or test an alternative route such as meditation or phone therapy, what’s important is the fact that you are seeking help. Once you have taken that first leap, it will only be a matter of time before you start feeling good again.

Jennifer is passionate about expanding access to trustworthy health and medical resources and helping others stay up-to-date on the latest developments in general wellness.

Image via Pixabay