Doctors and psychiatrists are well-versed in the science of antidepressants. They’ve established a body of research showing how levels of certain brain chemicals fluctuate to affect mood, and they can chemically stabilize someone’s mood with pills.
But truly healing from depression involves many intangible factors such as diet, the support of family and friends, belief systems, self-identity, frustration with work, resolving or coming to terms with childhood trauma or past events, and so on. There really is no one-pill-chemical solution to heal people from depression.
In an article entitled, The Real Cause of Depression Has Been Completely Overlooked, Christina Sarich looks at some of these intangibles.
“Many of us with depression can think back to multiple instances of child abuse, negligence, and abandonment. We were likely raised by narcissistic parents who themselves, were abused. If our parents happened to be fairy-tale perfect, society did its own number on us, either bullying the innocent, exposing us to broken families and rampant poverty, or simply mind-controlling the heck out of us into thinking that because we don’t fit the images paraded before us, we are somehow lacking or inferior.
Our brains are trying to help us live. They become depressed and anxious because they are calling those wounds to the surface so that they can be healed. If we keep medicating them, the wounds will only crash to shore with more vengeance, until we finally understand the Higher Purpose of pain. Just as food can be toxic to our bodies, so can stress. Adverse childhood experiences coupled with real depression-instilling societal norms upheld today have created an epidemic of depression.” ~Christina Sarich
What we do know is that depression takes place in the brain. Some amalgam of thoughts, memories, and brain chemicals combine to cause it. And since it is somehow a function of the brain, then we can employ the tools at our disposal to manipulate how the brain works.
Of course the drug companies have their stake in recommending pills, but the simple (and free) act of meditation can go along way in recovering from depression.
For starters, meditation is an act that increases connection. It allows us to see clearly just how much control we have, or don’t have, over the thoughts and emotions running through the mind. It allows us to identify patterns and programs at work in the mind, by allowing us to isolate the inner happenings of the mind from the external influences inundating us each day.
Furthermore, scientific studies have demonstrated that meditation can be highly effective. In a 2016 article entitled, How Running and Meditation Changes the Brains of the Depressed, Melissa Dahl reports on one such study:
“To test this, Alderman and his colleagues recruited 52 young adults, 22 of whom had been diagnosed with major depressive disorder and referred by a university counseling clinic. (The rest of the participants were “typically healthy” individuals.) Twice a week for eight weeks, all of the study volunteers reported to the lab for MAP training sessions, during which they spent 30 minutes in “focused-attention meditation” and 30 minutes running on a treadmill. At the start of the study, they all took surveys measuring their depression symptoms, as well as a test designed to measure their cognitive control — that is, their ability to harness their own attention. They repeated these tasks at the study’s conclusion, and the researchers’ analysis shows a decrease in self-reported depressive symptoms for both groups — but especially for the group with major depressive disorder. Both groups improved their performance on the cognitive-control test, too.” [Source]
Furthermore, according to Reset.me,
Amazingly, a slew of recent studies have found that meditation does actually “shape” the brain; it corrects damage from stress, enhances connectivity between the two lobes and even promotes cell growth in key regions that are underdeveloped in depressed people, like the hippocampus. This means that meditators are changing the actual structure of their brains (see video above), thereby rewiring their emotional reactions and thought patterns to a calmer baseline on a physical level. This makes them more resilient to depression permanently.” [Source]
Although it is difficult to explain in strict scientific terms, meditation is indeed a powerful tool for overcoming depression. It can positively impact the regulation of thoughts and emotions. We even see it working in schools and prisons to help reduce troublesome behavior and violence. And we see it working to create peace in our world, and we know that with dedicated practice it can create peace in the troubled mind of those suffering through depression.
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