Is meditation effective at treating depression? According to a recent study done by Oxford University, the answer is yes. Depression is an overwhelming feeling of unhappiness or sadness. If feelings of sadness and unhappiness last for a week or less, it is unlikely to be depression. This is just “the blues.“ On an interesting side note, in the past, doctors thought meditation could lead to schizophrenia for those who are depressed. Of course, there is no medical evidence to back up this absurd claim.
In Oxford's study, a group of 28 people who had been diagnosed with clinical depression were
broken up into two groups. One group received traditional therapy while the other group did meditation and therapy. Nobody in the therapy group was able to beat their depression, while some in the meditation group did. Professor Mark Williams who was in charge of the study said, "Our aim is to help people to find long-term freedom from the daily battle with their moods. One way that the treatment benefits people is helping them to live more in the moment, rather than be caught up in upsettling memories from the past or worries about the future.”
In her article How to Treat Depression with Meditation, Mary Gevara claims that, “Meditation can give someone a sense of control in their life, which many people with depression so desperately need.” Likewise, in her article Natural Cures for Depression, Andrea Waggener wrote, “Meditation is a natural cure for depression that can help you effect a happiness-inducing change in the way you think and perceive the world.” Research has also shown that meditating can help prevent future bouts of depression. As you can see on a number of levels, meditation has many benefits to offer someone who is depressed.
Another reason meditation is a crucial holistic therapy to look at for the treatment of depression is because antidepressants have a number of unwanted side effects. Meditation is, of course, free and doesn't damage the body or mind in any way—it does quite the opposite! Selective Seratonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs) lead to sexual dysfunction, insomnia, nausea, and nervousness. Prozac, the most widely prescribed antidepressant in the world (also an SSRI), is associated with dry mouth, constipation, urinary retention, sedation, weight gain, skin rashes, headaches, tremors, dizziness, behavioral changes, excessive sweating, bronchitis, an inflammation of the nasal mucous membranes, yawning, muscle pain, back pain, joint pain, painful menstruation, and urinary tract infections.
Whether you believe depression is caused by external circumstances or a chemical imbalance in the brain or both, meditation has many strengths as a holistic treatment option. WildMind.org, an exhaustive meditation website, specifically recommends the Metta Bhavana practice (the development of what is known in the East as “lovingkindness”) for those with depression. It has been scientifically shown to be effective. It has no side effects, and it is easy and affordable.
~ Jillian Avey, purelifemeditation.com