Meditation for anxiety and depression is something I highly recommend for everyone suffering from these symptoms. Sometimes some of the most powerful tools to improve your health are built right into your own body and are absolutely free. Most of you are probably in a state of information overload with your mind racing at night, feeling stressed, out of control and you just can’t seem to calm down your mind to a state of happiness, clarity, and well-being. I’ve been meditating almost every day for the last 14 years with many benefits.
Meditation is one of the most powerful tools you can use to reduce anxiety and depression, sleep better, manage stress, eliminate pain, and get clear on what you love to do on a daily basis. And it doesn’t require any fancy or expensive tools to learn how.
Many studies have shown meditation to be helpful for the following:
- Mental focus
- Cardiovascular health
- Improving empathy and concern towards others
- Severe speech and physical impairments
- Improve well-being
Meditation has even been used in cancer care to help individuals deal with the stresses of their disease.
The research on meditation is exploding with over 4,500 published papers indexed on PubMed which is the main hub for peer-reviewed scientific papers that doctors and scientists read to keep up with the latest literature. Some newer studies are showing that meditation actually rewires your brain.
What type of meditation is best?
There really isn’t a “best” form of meditation as there are so many types of meditation out there including:
- Open Heart
- Transcendental Meditation
- Zazen (Zen Buddhist)
- Qi Gong
- Vipassana (Mindfulness)
- Loving Kindness
There are many more types out there but the most important thing is to avoid any teacher who says that their way is the only way. Many meditation practices and teachers use words like “energy” or “becoming one” with everything.
Energy is a very specifically defined term in physics yet it is used loosely in new age circles to describe people or places such as, “She has good energy”, or, “This place has good energy.” Some people will also say that they can feel “energy” moving through their bodies.
It is fine to go along with these terms if they make you feel good with the understanding that they are incompatible with science. The reason why we feel good about other people is because of the way they look, their facial expression, posture, smell, hormone levels (pheromones), and body language. The same goes for places that we visit which feel good because of how things are laid out, the smell etc.
One of the reasons why people feel a subtle sense of euphoria that feels like “energy” is due to the fact that they are finally taking in plenty of oxygen through deep belly breathing.
My personal favorite is vipassana (mindfulness) meditation because there aren’t any religious mantras and it is simply about focusing on your breath and everything that you experience. Vipassana can be used in a secular way so anyone with any belief or non-belief system can use it. After you have been focusing on your breath for a while you begin to become aware of sounds around you, thoughts, sensations etc. and you just go with what you are feeling. If you find your mind thinking about other things like work, then you recognize that thought but let it go like clouds passing in the sky.
Are there any meditation apps?
Meditation is pretty simple to learn how to do on your own. My absolute favorite is the Waking Up meditation app by neuroscientist Sam Harris. The Waking Up app takes you through an entire course on mindfulness meditation guided by Dr. Harris himself.
Another one of my favorite free apps is called Calm at www.calm.com. You can use it in any web browser such as Google Chrome or Firefox and it’s available on all Android devices and the iPhone or iPad. Learning meditation for anxiety and depression should be easy for you with Calm. Another app I recommend is called Headspace at www.headspace.com.
I highly recommend starting with the “7 Steps to Calm” if you have never meditated before or for a refresher if you have meditated in the past. Each step only takes about 5-10 minutes a day and once you have completed the 7 steps I recommend beginning with just 5 minutes a day of guided meditation using the Calm “Guided” option.
Once you have mastered 5 minutes a day try choosing longer times and work your way up to 20-25 minutes a day. It’s not a contest or something you should think you are trying to achieve, however. You have enough on your plate so if you only want to do 5 minutes a day then stay with that.
One of the other cool things about Calm is that you can choose from a variety of different nature scenes and sounds such as ocean waves or the sound of rain to help you relax.
Dr. Sam Harris has also written a great article on how to meditate you can read by clicking here.
UCLA offers free meditation recordings through their Mindfulness Awareness Research Center which you can access by clicking here.
If you really want to do something that you will actually “feel” a difference from doing, then give me just 5 minutes a day of meditation and you’ll be on your way to a healthier and happier you.