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How Meditation Can Relieve Depression and Anxiety

May 19, 2019

Author

Dr. Jennifer Chain is the President and Owner of Thrive for the People.

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I remembered the first time I tried meditation. I attended an introduction to meditation where the facilitator provided guided meditation for the first 15 minutes and then we sat in silence for the next 30 minutes. At first, I struggled with keeping my focus on my breath and allowing my thoughts to drift in and out. I started thinking about my to-do list and the conflict that I had with my partner. A few minutes into the meditation, I was fighting my desire to curl up on the floor for a nap. I learned that meditation is not easy. But with regular practice, I can see the power of meditation in my life to reduce stress, improve sleep, manage anxiety, and increase focus.

 I introduce it regularly to my clients because of how effective meditation can be in treating depression and anxiety. Science has shown that meditation can quickly change the function of our brains and, with regular practice, it can create lasting change in our brain structures. In this blog post, I want to share with you the mechanisms behind how meditation can alleviate the symptoms of depression and anxiety for good. 

The Science Behind Meditation

There are two brain regions that are key in understanding depression and anxiety. The first region is the medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC). This region is located right behind our forehead. This is the region of our brain that is active when we think about ourselves, our self-worth and self-esteem, how we compare to others, what happened to us in the past, and what will happen in the future. The second region is the amygdala. This region of the brain is located closer to the center of the brain. This part of the brain regulates the emotion of fear and is responsible for our fight-flight-freeze-appease responses. Both brain regions are active when we experience depression and anxiety symptoms.

When you practice meditation, you are quieting down the mPFC and amygdala and disrupting the connections between the two. That is, you are practicing letting go of your negative perceptions of yourself and calming your fears. According to an abundance of research, in the short-term, meditation helps you calm the amygdala, which creates stress hormones; in the long-run, meditation actually shrink the size of the amygdalaResearchers have found that meditation can be as effective as antidepressant medication. One study showed that in just 3 days, meditation can make a significant difference in your stress level. 

Meditation Apps

Ready to give this practice a try? Check out one of my favorite meditation apps, Insight Timer, where you can search for guided meditations by topic and length of time. You can also try one of my meditations from a previous post. As with any new practice, I encourage you to start off small. Try a 5 minute guided meditation and build up your practice from there.

Counseling in Ballard

Have you tried meditation before but struggled? Maybe you want the accountability of working with a therapist, or even after trying meditation you are still suffering from anxiety and depression symptoms.  Counseling may be able to help. We are a team of trained therapists that aim to help individuals and couples in the Seattle area. You can schedule a 15 minute phone consultation or contact me for more information. 

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