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Originally published on https://yourhappinessquest.com. Republished here with permission. Get your blog featured!
Meditation is one of the most critical skills I learned (and am still learning) to overcome my long-term struggle to relieve depression. From 14 to 24 it was an ongoing battle with cycles of marijuana and alcohol abuse thrown in. Despite what some may think, marijuana abuse is a real thing. It may not be physically addictive, but if you are using it for the wrong reasons, like anything, it can be psychologically addictive. In saying that, I am a big advocate for its legalization and medicinal uses; used correctly, it can prove very beneficial. However, that is a story for another day; back to meditation.
Meditation comes in many forms and my first introductions to it came in the form of positive affirmation repetition and yoga.
Traditionally, yoga was used before seated meditation as a way to remove excess energy and prepare the body for seated stillness.
What is a mantra?
Mantras have a wide diversity. The first explanation of a mantra you get on google dictionary states that a mantra is “… a word or sound repeated to aid concentration in meditation.” This could be a hymn, statement, or slogan repeated frequently. Traditionally Hindu and Buddhist mantras don’t have a meaning. Like the classic “om.”
Mantras give us a focus while meditating.
A distraction from your thoughts if you will. Instead of using your breath as a centering point, you use a mantra. Every time you get distracted, you gently guide yourself back to your mantra. A personal mantra is an affirmation of your choice that helps motivate and inspire you.
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Positive affirmations are crucial to changing your mindset and altering your thought patterns from negative to positive.
If you suffer from depression using positive affirmations such as “I am beautiful” may feel fake or uncomfortable to say but in my experience, those that you have the most aversion to are the ones you need to work on the most. With practice, you will incorporate these into your psyche, and they will feel natural.
“I am enough” is a good one to start with.
As Marisa Peers, the famed psychologist explains, our brains are both complex and very simple. They believe what we tell them to believe. The psyche and stories we tell are very powerful. For example, someone can make themselves sick by repeatedly telling themselves they are sick. Similarly, with the placebo effect, you think you are taking medicine to make you well and you can literally make yourself well without any drugs.
What is meditation?
Meditation sounds intimidating for some people. It can be misunderstood as a religious or alternative “hippie” practice. For some reason, it is also often considered a skill you either have or don’t have. People often try it once, struggle and get distracted then say “Oh I am not good at this, it is not for me.” It is important to remember that meditation is a practice for everyone. It is simply about taking time to find stillness and clarity of the mind.
- Mental clarity
- Enhances emotional awareness
- Trains focused-attention
- Brings more attention to our surroundings.
Moreover, it only takes 10 minutes a day to start seeing the benefits. It is also free to learn and practice. So no excuses.
How does meditation help relieve depression?
If you suffer from depression you are most in need of mental clarity and more emotional awareness. The good news is that you can’t experience happiness without also knowing sadness; so you are currently in a prime position to truly appreciate the joy in your life when you find it.
Another word of advice on happiness: it is not a continual state of being. So when it goes away, you’re not broken; there is nothing wrong with you. It will come back. Enjoy the ride.
How to use meditation to relieve depression?
Step 1) Get a personal mantra.
You can make this up yourself or borrow one from the countless sources online. One of my favorites are: “I can and I will,” “I am loved,” and “I am beautiful.” Simple but effective. If you prefer something more, you can write a little poem and learn it by heart.
Step 2) Say your personal mantra at least 3x in a row 3x a day.
Repetition is key.
Step 3) Set aside at least 10 minutes a day to meditate.
You can either use your personal mantra as a focus or your breath. Don’t get too caught up in sitting cross-legged on a pillow with incense blowing. While this is nice, it is not always practical. A comfortable chair with a straight back, or lying down before bed is just as good.
Step 4) Be kind to yourself and be patient.
There is no quick fix to relieve depression. To overcome your depression, you need to look at and address the root cause.
- Is there a traumatic experience you need to address?
- What are your thought patterns like?
- Are your hormones balanced?
- Are you eating a healthy diet?
- How much do you move your body?
Like everything, nothing is ever as simple as having one answer and one solution.
Anti-depressants are one tool in our mental-health toolbox you can use. To relieve depression you need to develop the tools to keep in your toolbox for a rainy day. Meditation is an essential tool to have handy nearby.
Step 5) Remember; while learning the art of meditation keep in mind that it is a practice.
It’s like a muscle; the more you work it, the better you will get. Some days will be easier than others. Don’t stress; it’s all good, my friend.
Step 6) Keep it up and repeat.
Change your mantra or add new ones as you need to. Meditate longer every day as your skill improves. Keep being kind and patient with yourself. Keep working on improving yourself as life becomes a little clearer.
At first, your goal might be to simply:
- Get out of bed
- Get your laundry done.
Later it might be to:
- Write a book
- Ask for that job promotion you want
- Study something new
- Travel the world
I hope this helps you in your happiness quest to relieve depression. Please tweet to us or let us know on Instagram your chosen affirmation(s) and any other ways you have found help to ease depression!
When we share our healing story, we help other people heal as well. You have more power to make a difference than you think.
If you are having suicidal thoughts or really struggling, don’t hesitate to reach out and ask for help. You are not alone. If there is anything I have learned in the last few weeks living in a community in Guatemala, it is that at the end of the day we have a tendency to feel alone, but we are all going through the same sh*t on some level or another. Good luck!
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