The Benefits of Meditation for Depression: How it Works and Tips For Getting Started

The Benefits Of Meditation For Depression
the benefits of meditation for depression

According to the World Health Organization, depression is a common mental disorder affecting 280 million people worldwide. Such numbers assert a strong need to address depression, and while professional help is necessary, there is much one can do to tackle depression. Meditation for depression is proving to be a safe and effective way to handle stress, calm the mind, and induce emotional stability, which is important in managing depression.

Understanding Depression

Depression is a mental health disorder characterized by persistent feelings of sadness, hopelessness, and a lack of interest or pleasure in daily activities. People with depression usually self-isolate and often struggle with negative thoughts, rumination, difficult emotions, routine tasks, and social relationships. In more severe cases, depression also takes a toll on physical health due to the intense and overwhelming burden on emotional well-being. Moreover, depression arising from past trauma exacts an incredible amount of energy, leaving an individual emotionally drained with the inability to enjoy their present, let alone view a positive future. The most common signs of depression include the following:

  • Insomnia
  • Social withdrawal
  • Poor appetite and weight loss
  • Binge eating and weight gain
  • Physical and mental fatigue
  • Sense of worthlessness
  • Low self-esteem
  • Hopelessness, no confidence
  • Poor concentration and focus
  • Indecisiveness
  • Feelings of guilt
  • Digestive issues
  • Sadness and despair
  • Suicidal thoughts

It is important to understand that every individual’s depression is unique, and being a multifaceted condition can manifest in different ways. Some symptoms may be more pronounced in certain individuals or during specific episodes. If you are facing signs of depression considering meditation along with your therapy can help you heal faster.

How Meditation Impacts Depression

Studies have found that meditation is as effective as antidepressants for depression. Moreover, it has also been found that meditation reduces the risk of relapse by 12%. Meditation activates the mind-body connection, where practices like mindful meditation and yoga facilitate a heightened awareness of physical sensations. This awareness helps individuals reconnect with their bodies and promotes a sense of grounding, countering the detachment often associated with depression. The integration of mind and body during meditation improves health and well-being, achieving a balance so that physical and mental behavior do not clash with one another.

The Neurological Benefits of Meditation

Meditation has been shown to induce structural changes in the brain, particularly in areas associated with emotional regulation and self-awareness. Here are some of the benefits of meditation:

Increases grey matter in the hippocampus: Studies have revealed that regular meditation can lead to increased grey matter density in the hippocampus – a region linked to memory and emotional control. Interestingly, studies have also found how depression reduces the size of the hippocampus, so meditation certainly helps.

Stimulates the vagus nerve: The vagus nerve is one of the main nerves of your parasympathetic nervous system. It controls various bodily functions like digestion, heart rate and immunity, which are involuntary. Meditation stimulates the vagus nerve, leads to better emotional regulation, and stabilizes brain activity.

Thickens the prefrontal cortex: Depression leads to damage in brain structure, where prolonged stress causes structural changes in prefrontal dendrites. Meditation has been found to thicken and improve the structure of the prefrontal cortex responsible for social interaction, self-expression, working memory and decision-making.

Reduces stress: Meditation, through practices such as mindfulness and deep breathing, activates the body’s relaxation response, thereby reducing the production of stress hormones like cortisol. The induced sense of calm helps manage depression better.

Emotional Regulation: Meditation techniques can help individuals be more mindful of their emotions, preventing them from being overwhelmed and ultimately fostering emotional balance.

Prevents Relapse: Meditation is particularly helpful in recurring depression, where studies have shown how it helps decrease the possibility of future relapse.

Practical Tips for Getting Started

When suffering from depression, it is always advisable to seek professional help for which there is no substitute. However, along with your medication, if any and therapy, meditation is a powerful accessory for more efficient depression management. Follow these tips on meditation for depression, starting small but gradually progressing to more advanced techniques.

Start Small and Be Consistent

As a beginner, it might not be easy to meditate for long periods of time. Begin with short sessions of 5–10 minutes a day, and gradually extend the duration. Be consistent; regular practice will yield cumulative benefits over time.

Choose a Comfortable Setting

Find a quiet and comfortable space for meditation. Minimize distractions and ensure you won’t be interrupted. A designated meditation corner or cushion can signal to your mind that it’s time for focused introspection.

Experiment with Different Techniques

There are various type of meditation techniques, each catering to different preferences and needs. Explore each one to see what resonates best with you. Some of the best and most result-oriented techniques are:

  • Mindfulness meditation
  • Guided meditation
  • Transcendental meditation
  • Loving-kindness meditation
  • Body Scan meditation
  • Walking meditation
  • Sound bowl meditation


Focus on positive imagery, such as a happy place, that makes you calm. Use your five senses of smell, hearing, seeing, taste, and feeling to enhance the experience. For example, if you visualize yourself on a mountaintop, imagine listening to the sound of the breeze, feeling the breeze on your cheeks, and imagining the mist and the scents of the greenery around you. 


You could use religious mantras or your self-affirmation phrases to chant out loud, repeating it for a length of time. While doing so, practice rhythmic breathing to sync with your chanting.

Focus on Breath Awareness

Focusing on breathing is the foundation of several meditation practices. Concentrate on inhaling and exhaling to anchor your mind in the present moment. This simple yet powerful technique can be practiced anywhere, making it a valuable tool for managing depressive symptoms in daily life.

Positive Self-Talk

Engage in positive self-talk while deep breathing. Reflect on the things you do well or the things you like about yourself. Sometimes, negative thoughts might enter your mind; counter these with positive thoughts and reaffirmation statements. Try recalling all the positive things you did during the day, regardless of how mundane they might seem, like taking a shower, eating a good breakfast, or doing some chores.

Be Patient and Non-Judgmental

In the beginning, it is normal to face difficulties in meditation. This is why you should not try too hard and not criticize yourself if you aren’t successful initially. Treat yourself with kindness instead of self-doubt, and be confident. When negative thoughts wander into your mind, accept them without judgement and coax your focus back to your meditation. Read a beginner’s guide on meditation, and remember, patience and resilience make perfect. Rather than attempt to graduate to higher levels, soak in the calm, relaxation, and peace of the process.

Practice Mindfulness in daily life.

Mindfulness and meditation go hand in hand. But, while meditation is practiced as a fixed routine at some point in the day, mindfulness can extend to every aspect of life. You can integrate mindfulness into your daily routines, being mindful of the little things in life, including what you eat. Mindfulness about moments such as a sunset or sunrise can be extremely relaxing and calming for the brain, bringing into your life a sense of purpose and fulfilment.

Meditation, with its neurobiological impact and stress-reducing qualities, is a valuable tool in healing from depression. As with any therapeutic approach, it is advisable to consult a healthcare professional to determine how best you can combine meditation with your treatment for depression. Since every person’s experience with depression may be unique, different interventions and routines might be required. From a general perspective, consistent practice and an open-minded approach can make meditation a trusted ally in the battle against depression.

Andrew Alpin

Andrew Kevin Alpin is a creative content specialist from Kolkata with several years of experience in content creation focusing on health and wellness. He possesses good insight on psychology and human behavior, including all all aspects of health. Andrew currently works as a Freelance Educational Content Director and Creative head at Enso Integrated Medicine, Bengaluru.