Meditation for Depression

Last Updated: November 11, 2023

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Discover the powerful role of meditation in managing depression. Explore the science-backed benefits of meditation techniques for mental health issues, and learn how to incorporate mindfulness practices into your daily life to alleviate depression symptoms effectively. 

What is Meditation for Depression?

Depression is a common mental disorder affecting approximately 280 million people worldwide. 

Having depression causes many difficulties in an individual’s everyday life: difficulty functioning at work, maintaining social and personal relationships, maintaining healthy hygiene and lifestyle habits, reduced use of the prefrontal cortex, and overall causing the person to struggle severely.

Along with the right medication and prescribed treatment, meditation is a great way to relieve depression. 

Meditation is a practice that involves increasing your awareness of your thoughts, feelings and experiences and brings long-lasting positive results to those who have been diagnosed with depression. 

Although suffering from depression involves dark, negative thoughts and bringing awareness to them might be the last thing you want to do, meditation helps the thoughts and feelings to pass through you without holding any negative attachment.

Some may ask themselves, “Does it work”? The truth is that although meditation practice is not a cure-all, it has significantly improved major symptoms of depression.

Benefits of meditation for depression

Studies have shown that regular meditation can reduce negative thought spirals, anxiety and stress. Benefits include:

  • bringing awareness to thoughts and feelings
  • reducing depressive symptoms
  • improving the overall quality of life
  • and decreasing stress levels. 

Meditation can even alleviate back pain, a little-known but widespread symptom of depression.

Meditation practice and mindfulness help to become more aware of negative thoughts and their origin. 

Sometimes, there is no justification for negative thinking and feelings that come with a major depressive disorder, so meditation can help let these thoughts and feelings pass through with little significance.

Types of meditation for depression

Many other forms of meditation have been proven to help treat depression. Meditation practices, alongside gaining emotional control, aim to find what works best for you. 

Mindfulness meditation

Mindfulness meditation is one of the most popular and effective types of meditation.

Many other types that will be discussed further stem from this type of meditation. 

In a busy world, our minds run through a thousand thoughts simultaneously. This can make it difficult to stay focused on the present moment.

Depression is often rooted in ruminating over past events, negative thoughts and a negative self-perception. 

Staying mindful of the present is a great way to not focus on past negative thoughts and anxiety but rather let pleasant images pass through you more easily. There are many ways to practice mindfulness meditation, so here are a few tips to get you started:

Breath awareness meditation

Breathing meditation is similar to mindfulness. They both often have the same goal: to become more aware of the present moment. This type of meditation focuses on the in and out of every breath and uses different breathing techniques.

This one is often easier to accomplish daily because it can be done many times throughout your day. Finding small moments of two to three minutes to focus on mindful breathing can bring you peace and presence and, in the long run, help you train your brain to be more present. 

Walking meditation

Walking is a great way to improve physical and mental health and reduce stress. The good news is that you can increase its benefits by meditating while walking. Sometimes, finding a calm and quiet area to sit and meditate in can be hard. 

By combining your physical activity and a mental health practice, you can find time throughout your day to lower stress levels and benefit yourself in the long run.

As you walk through a calm and peaceful space, notice the sights, sounds and scents, physical sensations, and feelings within you. Utilize all the sensors in the body to stay in the present moment. 

Meditating directly before or after physical exercise, like walking, has proven beneficial for those suffering from mental issues. These moments of meditation during walking meditation do not have to be long; five to ten minutes is sufficient for depression management.

Body scan meditation

Body scan meditation is about reconnection with physical and mental and detachment from the sources of stress. 

To practice body scan meditation, find a quiet and calm space and focus sequentially on a different body part, how it feels, and what thoughts come up when focusing on individual body parts. 

Observe the body and pick up the signals it might send you, whether it’s tight hips or tingling sensations in the palms.

Research has shown that this type of meditation is very beneficial for those with bipolar disorder. Practicing it even once a week produced less recurrent depression relapses in those suffering from bipolar conditions and symptoms.

Loving-kindness meditation

Loving-kindness meditation focuses on creating thoughts and feelings of love, kindness and gratitude towards oneself and others. 

This type of meditation has shown a positive outlook on self-esteem and self-love. Loving-kindness meditation diminishes self-criticism and helps to bounce back faster when negative thoughts spiral.

For this type of meditation, sit or lay down in a quiet environment and shift your mindset towards pleasant thoughts: what you are grateful for, the love you feel for others and the parts of yourself that you cherish. 

Negative thoughts may pass by occasionally, but letting them exist without judgment or too much attachment is important.

Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy

This branch of mindfulness practice combines cognitive behavioural therapy to produce effective results. It emphasizes the changing of damaging behaviour patterns and thoughts.

Visualization meditation

Visualization meditation is a form of guided meditation in which the individual focuses on visualizing calming and peaceful images to induce relaxation. 

The practice involves using mental images, such as a peaceful landscape or a calming ocean scene, to cultivate inner peace. 

During the practice, the individual imagines the object of their visualization in detail and notices how this brings about feelings of serenity, relaxation and tranquillity. This type of meditation can be used to reduce stress, anxiety and physical tension. 

By regularly practicing visualization meditation, you can increase their overall emotional well-being.

Impact of meditation on mental health conditions

Evidence suggests that meditation can have a positive impact on mental health. Studies show that mindfulness-based cognitive therapy can reduce depression and anxiety symptoms by helping to prevent individuals from getting caught in negative feelings. 

The positive impacts of meditation include a change of thought patterns, increased mental resilience towards stressful events and possibly traumatic or triggering experiences, and protection of learning and memory mechanisms or hippocampus by increasing the grey matter in the brain. 

How to get started with meditation for depression 

If you're new to meditation, it can be intimidating. But taking a few simple steps can help you get started quickly and easily:

1. Get comfortable

Most people find it helpful to sit down when learning meditation, but if standing up or lying down is more comfortable, go for it. The key is to feel relaxed and at ease. Closing your eyes also helps.

2. Focus on your breath

Take slow and deep breaths through your nose to begin your relaxation process. Allow yourself several seconds to focus solely on your breathing, paying attention to the sensations of inhaling and exhaling and the audible sounds of your breath. 

Don't be surprised if your thoughts wander away from this focus - a common occurrence. However, it's important to redirect your focus back to your breathing whenever you become aware of these distractions. 

Remember, practicing these breathing exercises can help alleviate stress and promote relaxation within your mind and body.

3. Shift from breath to body

Once you have chosen the starting point for your body scan, slowly and consciously shift your attention to that area. 

Take a few moments to pay close attention to any sensations in that part of the body. Notice any feelings of tension or relaxation, tightness or looseness, comfort or discomfort. 

Then move on to the next area of your body, noting any changes since the last time you paid attention and breathing deeply as you go. Continue this practice until you've scanned through all parts of your body, ending with your head if desired.

You can find dozens of free guided meditations and articles on websites like Headspace, Calm, and Insight Timer. You can also use YouTube or podcasts to find meditations that suit you. Many religious institutions offer meditation classes if you're looking for a more formal approach. 

You can also look up meditation centers near you or contact a certified meditation coach or teacher who can provide private instruction. Always ensure that the resources you consult are backed by scientific evidence from mental health professionals. 

Limitations of meditation for depression: when to seek help

Depression is serious. Although meditation shows promise in treating depression, it is often not sufficient on its own. 

If you are experiencing symptoms of a major depressive episode, seek professional help and support from a therapist before trying alternative methods for depression treatment. Many therapists offer mindfulness-based cognitive therapy so patients can still reap the benefits of meditation.


11 Types of Meditation That Can Help Treat Depression - Health

Depression and anxiety disorders: benefits of exercise, yoga, and meditation

Depression - World Health Organization (WHO)

How meditation helps with depression - Harvard Health

Meditation for Depression: Why It Works and How to Start

Vagus nerve stimulation, depression, and inflammation


The contents of this article are provided for informational purposes only and are not intended to substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. It is always recommended to consult with a qualified healthcare provider before making any health-related changes or if you have any questions or concerns about your health. Anahana is not liable for any errors, omissions, or consequences that may occur from using the information provided.