It’s challenging to lead a normal daily life when burdened with depression and anxiety. Both have a negative impact on your body and mind, making you sad and causing you to lose interest in things you once enjoyed. In extreme cases, it makes you feel paralyzed with panic and worry.
Research suggests that meditation may help alleviate some of the symptoms caused by depression and anxiety.
A study was published earlier this year in the Psychiatry Research journal showing the benefits of meditation. 70 adult participants with Generalized Anxiety Disorder—or GAD—were selected for the study. They were then divided into two groups: one of them received mindfulness-based stress reduction as a technique to cope with the situation, the other received nothing.
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Meditation helps in reducing stress
Researchers discovered that participants doing mindfulness techniques and meditation were less stressed. The levels of a specific biomarker were much lower than that of one living with stress. This research proves that meditation truly helps in bringing inner peace.
Previous studies had difficulty proving the claims as the studies were essentially flawed. Some early studies lacked a control group and many fell victim to “expectancy bias”, which is when participants expected meditation to work and thus reported feeling better after the experiment.
The research published in the Psychiatry Research journal looks promising and solid because they took all the factors into account. They avoid getting biased results in that the researchers said that the study was about reducing stress without mentioning meditation. The mindfulness techniques was only introduced to some of the participants.
Problems with previous studies:
According to Elizabeth Hoge, the study’s lead author and professor of psychiatry at Georgetown University, this was done so that the researchers could separate out meditation as an active component.
“If you are meditating and start to ruminate on a major work mistake or an unfounded fear, notice what’s happening but don’t get frustrated. The thoughts won’t disappear but you will learn to create distance from them.” Hoge said.
“Mindfulness meditation is based on the idea of paying attention to one’s own inner experience, whether that’s thoughts or sensations or emotions,” she told the media. “Anything that passes through the mind is the internal stimuli that you’re paying attention to.”
With enough practice, anyone can learn to create space between negative thoughts and how we react to them.
“See them as distinct objects from yourself,” Hoge said. “As in, ‘My thoughts are not myself.’ That allows a layer of separation so that the person has a little bit more freedom in how to respond to the thoughts or how to cope with them.”
However, there is a small catch.
Although meditation has its perks, medication is highly recommended for people with severe depression and anxiety. According to Chloe Carmichael, a clinical psychologist based in New York City, mixing both techniques is the best way to achieve serenity from stress.
“When you just sit there and follow your breath, that is a mindfulness meditation. It’s one of the early steps of learning how to follow our thoughts,” Carmichael said. “Once you have a mindful awareness of what your thoughts are, you’re able to observe them without reacting to them.”
Depression can make people think they are worthless and then they tend to ruminate on that negative idea. People with anxiety are prone to excessive worrying. According to Carmichael, meditation is a great tool to settle those thoughts and with the help of medication, replace those thoughts altogether.
“That’s one of the cornerstones of cognitive behavioral therapy: to analyze someone’s automatic thoughts,” she said. “So they work together really well ― psychology and mindfulness meditation.”
“You try different things to relieve suffering,” she said. “You can celebrate whatever method, or a combo of methods that help.”