by Kaitlin Krull
For millions of people around the world, mood disorders such as depression and bipolar disorder affect almost every aspect of daily life. While medications top the list of remedies for symptoms surrounding these types of mental health issues, many sufferers are wary of using them (because of negative side effects, high price tags, and social/emotional stigmas associated with medications). Thankfully, there are several alternatives for mood disorder sufferers, not least of which is meditation. Through regular practice of calming and centering meditative exercise, patients can potentially see their symptoms alleviated over time. Here are some of the top reasons to consider meditation if you suffer from depression or bipolar disorder.
Benefits of Reflection, Mindfulness
Sufferers of mood disorders often describe their depressive and emotionally low periods as overwhelming and all consuming. Meditation helps to focus thought in a reflective and mindful way. Rather than prohibiting negative or stressful thoughts, practitioners recommend that patients become aware of their thought processes and observe them rather than become consumed by them.
While this kind of practice is important for increasing awareness, Stacy Lu from the American Psychological Association adds that mindfulness “may lead to changes in patients’ brains, improving connectivity among some brain areas and changing tissue density in key regions” and when “pay[ing] attention to the present moment … [patients] use a different set of neural pathways than when they engage in narrative self-reference to think about experiences over time” (American Psychological Association: Mindfulness and mood disorders in the brain). This means that meditation and other similar reflective practices can actually change the brain chemistry of mood disorder sufferers and thereby help them to think differently about the world around them.
Meditation as a Positive Experience
Another benefit of meditation that is particularly useful to those with mood disorders is its ability to relieve stress. Meditative practices encourage both the body and mind to remain still, calm, and present for a period of time. This stillness, although daunting for many, is a way for patients to focus on breathing, centered thought, and other positive processes that help lower stress levels. Increased positivity leads to an increase in emotional well-being and health, which is extremely beneficial to sufferers of depression and bipolar disorder.
Exercise and Meditation
Regular exercise is, of course, good for the body and an essential part of overall physical health. What many people overlook is the fact that physical exercise is also important for mental health. At Modernize, we love the reflective and meditative workouts achieved by activities like yoga. Yoga, a physical meditative exercise, is the perfect combination of a mindful and physical workout that can help your body release endorphins and get in peak physical and emotional shape.
For many, meditation is not an activity that comes easily or naturally. Patients with depression and other mood disorders might find it beneficial to think of meditation as a practiced exercise that can help develop calming and coping skills. Acquiring this reflective skill set will help patients to deal with negative thoughts in a productive and logical way instead of becoming overwhelmed by them. This alternative medication, if you will, can be learned over time and can ultimately help sufferers go from a mental state full of anxiety and stress to a place of inner peace and calm.