Depression can be a crippling disease. According to the World Health Organization an estimated 350 million people worldwide may be affected. Even more astonishing and disheartening is that roughly 800,000 people will lose their lives every year as a result of the mood disorder and the majority will be teens and young adults. What makes the fight against depression so challenging is that less than half of the people affected will seek help and in some countries this number can fall to less than 10%. Difficulties in diagnosis, lack of resources, and the social stigma associated with mental disorders amongst other reasons are to blame for lack of treatment. In many cases, due to the difficulty in diagnosing symptoms, sufferers are turned away and non-sufferers are prescribed antidepressants. In the US alone 6.7% of people / roughly 11 million are affected and the majority of those are women.
One should never underestimate the seriousness of the potential onset of depression and should always consult their doctor when symptoms arise. A clinician can discuss numerous treatments ranging from pharmacological through to more holistic and naturopathic lifestyle changes and remedies.
Much has been made of the impact that meditation may have on, not only the brain, but also the way that it affects mood and response to certain environments and stimuli. According to one study mindfulness meditation can actually alter the structure and physiological health of the brain and increase gray matter. This “rewiring” may also be responsible for the way that meditation can affect depression and depression-like symptoms and moods. For example in one study at a secondary school in Belgium students who practiced a program involving mindfulness reported a lower incidence of depression, anxiety and stress for up to six months later. What’s even more profound, the subjects were “less likely to develop pronounced depression-like symptoms.” The positive effects of mindfulness are not limited to adolescents. Moms-to-be also reported, according to a University of Michigan study, a lowered prevalence of depressive symptoms after practicing mindfulness for 10 weeks. Another mindfulness meditation study from the The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine suggested that “the results support the safety and potential efficacy of meditative practices for treating certain illnesses, particularly in non-psychotic mood and anxiety disorders.”
This is by no means an exhaustive list of the benefits that meditation has on the brain, its moods and one’s lifestyle. Meditation has been shown to improve wellness and lifestyle in a number of categories from academic performance, chronic pain and anxiety to self perceived general feelings of health and optimism. Like physical exercise, the fruits of meditation cannot be enjoyed without a continued practice and just like exercise, meditation is not without hard work and determination. It takes time, motivation and practice.
To learn more about Muse: the brain sensing headband and how it can help develop and improve your meditation practice please click here. If you are a mental health professional looking to introduce meditation to your clients please see our Professionals Program.
(If you feel you might be experiencing depression or depression-like symptoms, always consult with a mental health professional.)