Anxiety and depression are serious mental health conditions that can affect all aspects of life. Symptoms include withdrawing from family and friends, the inability to function at work and even struggling to complete basic day-to-day tasks.
With the pressures of our modern day, fast-paced life, the number of people suffering from depression and anxiety has exploded, with an estimated 45% of Australians likely to suffer from a mental illness in their lifetime.
The feelings of sadness, dread, overwhelm, fear and worry that sufferers of depression and anxiety face daily are crippling, so it is crucial that we empower ourselves with ways to help us overcome these conditions.
Mindfulness and meditation have become increasingly popular tools to help relieve and overcome anxiety and depression and here we will share with you the ways that these practises can help.
Brings Us Back To The Present Moment
Depression and anxiety are rooted in fears and worries about the future and regrets about the past. Focusing on the present moment, not the past or the future, is the secret behind the power of meditation.
Scientists estimate that humans have around 50,000 thoughts per day, which means that a negative, depressed mind can literally generate dozens of pessimistic thoughts per minute. During meditation, instead of getting swept up in every little thought, the mind simply watches the thoughts come and then lets them go without attaching to them.
Watching our thoughts come and go helps us to realise that they are not reality and have no power over us. This observation and awareness of the mind during meditation helps to weaken both the frequency and strength that our destructive thoughts have on us.
Meditation Boosts Your Serotonin Levels
Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that sends messages throughout your body and is considered to be a natural mood stabiliser. It is thought to regulate anxiety and happiness and low levels of serotonin have been associated with depression.
Countless studies have shown that with meditation, you can boost the serotonin levels in your body to healthy depression-resistant levels.
Meditation Creates Alpha And Theta Brainwaves
Day and night, every area of your brain fires directly measurable electrical signals which, when combined, form what are called brainwave patterns. Depending on what a person is doing at the time, a particular brain wave will be dominant over the others.
When brainwaves are not balanced properly, a person may experience both emotional and neuro-physical health concerns. For example, too many Beta waves can cause a person to become anxious and agitated.
Alpha waves are associated with a sense of inner peacefulness, while Theta waves instigate the release of GABA which is the calming or peacemaker chemical in the brain. Meditation heavily increases both Theta and Alpha brainwaves, which helps to relieve the symptoms of anxiety and depression.
Meditation Shrinks The Brain’s Fear Centre
Anxiety and panic attacks occur when environmental or emotional stressors convince your amygdala that you are in danger. The amygdala is a set of small, almond-shaped clusters of nuclei near the base of your brain and is responsible for triggering the body’s fight or flight response.
The amygdala is a ‘reacting’ part of your brain rather than a ‘thinking’ part. Its role is not to figure out why you are afraid, but to alert you if bad memories or situations support a fight or flight reaction, and, if they do, to cause that fight or flight reaction to take place. An overactive amygdala can increase anxiety and depression.
Harvard neuroscientists examined the brains of individuals before and after an 8 week mindfulness program. They found that the amygdala had actually managed to shrink in size, while also being far less electrically active.
Mindfulness and meditation can have amazing benefits for a person’s overall physical and mental health and are both 100% natural. If you are suffering from anxiety or depression these practices can help you immensely, but be sure to seek help from a professional therapist to support you with your healing.