mindfulness exercises for depression

Mindfulness Exercises for Depression (Techniques That Work)

Finding effective ways to deal with depression can be challenging at best. From the side effects of antidepressants to the stigma that’s associated with mental health, finding an effective treatment can be difficult. Fortunately, studies have shown that mindfulness exercises for depression are a promising alternative to medication or traditional psychotherapy.

This article will explore what depression is, the different types of depression, and why mindfulness-based approaches might be the best way to reduce the symptoms of depression. 

(Please note that this article is not meant to replace professional help. If you think you might be depressed, please reach out to a therapist or doctor.)

Understanding depression

It is important to acknowledge that depression is not just feeling sad or down.

Depression is a complex mental health disorder affecting people’s thoughts, feelings, and actions. It can range from mild to severe, depending on the individual and their circumstances. Depression affects how people go about their day-to-day lives and interferes with work, school, relationships, and most other everyday activities.

While the exact cause of depression is not known, a variety of factors, such as biological and hereditary elements, psychological factors (including stress or trauma), environmental or social situations (such as job loss or the death of a loved one), and lifestyle habits may contribute to its development. In some cases, depression may have no identifiable cause.

Mindfulness exercises for depression: Woman cross-legged meditating
Mindfulness exercises for depression: Common types of depression

Common types of depression

There are several types of depressive disorders, each with its own symptoms. Below are some of the most common types:

Major depression (MDD)

This is the most common type and causes severe symptoms affecting your feelings, thoughts, and behavior.

With major depression, you may feel sad for weeks or months on end and lose interest in things you once enjoyed doing. You may also have changes in appetite or weight, sleep too much or too little each night (or both), have trouble concentrating on simple tasks, feel guilty or worthless, and think about death or suicide.

Persistent depressive disorder (PDD)

This is a mild or moderate type of depression that lasts two or more years.

It causes symptoms similar to those of major depression but less intense. You may still feel sad and lose interest in things you once enjoyed doing, but these symptoms are less disruptive. Other symptoms include low self-esteem, loss of appetite or overeating, insomnia or excessive sleeping, and problems concentrating.

Seasonal affective disorder (SAD)

This type of depression typically occurs during the fall and winter when there is less natural sunlight.

It can cause various symptoms, including oversleeping, low energy, carbohydrate cravings, and weight gain. You may also experience a negative mood, such as hopelessness or irritability, and feel less interested in usual activities.

Bipolar disorder

Bipolar disorder is a serious mental health condition characterized by extreme mood, energy, and activity shifts.

There are several types of bipolar disorder, with the most common being bipolar I and II. Symptoms of bipolar disorder include drastic changes in mood, energy, and activity levels; extreme shifts in sleep and eating patterns; and unusual risk-taking behavior such as excessive spending or sexual sprees. These manic periods are usually followed by depressive episodes.

Mindfulness exercises for depression: Mindfulness-based therapy

Mindfulness-based therapy as a treatment

Thankfully, there are treatments available for depression. And mindfulness-based therapies are becoming an increasingly popular choice for treating depression.

Mindfulness-based therapies are based on the concept that by cultivating a non-judgemental awareness of our thoughts, feelings, and physical sensations, we can manage our moods more effectively. Mindfulness training involves gently directing attention away from negative thoughts and towards positive ones.

Benefits of mindfulness-based approaches to treating depression

Mindfulness-based approaches to treating depression have several benefits. They can help you:

  • Recognize and counteract negative patterns of thinking
  • Develop greater self-compassion and acceptance
  • Create healthier ways of responding to difficult emotions
  • Gain insight into the connection between your thoughts, feelings, and behaviors
  • Cultivate more positive coping mechanisms for dealing with stress
  • Improve relationships with yourself and others
  • Promote a greater sense of well-being, happiness, and meaning in life

Studies on the connection between mindfulness and depression

Studies on mindfulness-based approaches’ efficacy in treating depression have shown extremely promising results.

One study published in the National Library of Medicine found that participants who received mindfulness-based cognitive therapy for eight weeks had a 26% lower relapse rate than those given standard forms of treatment for depression, such as antidepressants. In the follow-up, researchers also found that mindfulness-based therapies were linked to lower levels of depressive symptoms and an increase in quality of life.

Another study published by Frontiers in Psychology found that participants who received meditation-based therapies for four weeks experienced decreased rumination (negative thinking) and depression and increased mindfulness and self-compassion.

Related: Can Meditation Make You Smarter? 7 Ways Meditation Affects Intelligence

How to get started with mindfulness exercises for depression

If you think that mindfulness-based therapies may be beneficial for managing your depression, there are several practices that you may wish to try.

Learn to meditate

Meditation can be a powerful tool for managing your depression. It can help you to develop greater awareness of your thoughts and feelings, allowing you to respond more skillfully and compassionately. Try to build a habit of meditating for five minutes each day and gradually build up to 20 minutes per session. If that seems too challenging, it’s okay to start with just one minute daily.

Try this…

Mindfulness exercises for depression: the 4-7-8 breathing technique

  • Start by letting all the air out of your lungs
  • Breath in through the nose for a count of four
  • Hold for a count of seven
  • Breath out through the mouth making a hissing sound
  • Repeat this up to four times and try to notice how you feel

Practice self-compassion

Self-compassion is an essential skill for managing depression. It involves being kind, understanding, and non-judgmental toward yourself. Try a loving-kindness meditation, where you wish yourself well and send yourself loving thoughts. This can help to reduce feelings of shame and guilt that often come with depression.

Think positively

Negative thinking is very common in depression, so focusing on positive thoughts is important. Next time your mind is racing with negative thoughts, try actively thinking of something positive. This could be anything from a memory of an enjoyable experience to something you’re looking forward to in the future.

How to help a loved one struggling with depression: Woman holding arms up in prayer position
Mindfulness exercises for depression: How to help a loved one struggling with depression

How to help a loved one struggling with depression

If you know someone struggling with depression, it can be difficult to know how to help. The most important thing is to tell them that they are not alone and that you are there for them, no matter what. Here are a few ideas to help you support a loved one who is dealing with depression:

  • Have a conversation. Encourage them to talk about their feelings. Don’t try to “fix” the problem; just listen and be patient. Empathy is essential and will help them feel understood.
  • Show your support. If they are open to it, offer to help find resources such as counseling or support groups. You may even help them set up, attend a support group, or go to their doctor’s appointment.
  • Be with them. Whether it’s going on walks, talking on the phone, or just sitting together quietly, being there for someone who is depressed can be very comforting.

A strong support system can be an invaluable resource for someone struggling with depression. With your help and understanding, they may be able to get through this difficult period and come out stronger than ever.

When to get help

If your depression symptoms are persistent or severe, it is critical to seek professional help. A mental health professional can provide you with the support and resources you need to manage your depression.

So don’t be afraid to reach out for help; there is no shame in seeking support when you need it. Taking this step can help you to find the best path forward for managing your depression.

The takeaway

Overall, mindfulness-based approaches are a powerful tool for managing depression that can provide long-term benefits for people who suffer from the disorder. This approach may be worth exploring for those looking for an alternative to medication or traditional psychotherapy.

If you are struggling with depression, know I am sending you my love and support. I hope you find a treatment that works for you, and I wish you the very best on your healing journey.

Please share your thoughts, questions, or experiences with managing depression in the comments section below.

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