The term depression covers several mental health conditions with different root causes but similar symptoms. Major depression, seasonal pattern, postpartum depression, anxious distress, and many other forms of depression all manifest with sadness, guilt, worry about the future, loss of feelings of happiness, changes in appetite, sluggishness, and general low mood.
- Feeling sad, hopeless, or empty
- Irritability, angry outbursts, and frustration, even over otherwise small matters
- Loss of pleasure in normal activities or things that were normally pleasurable
- Sleep disturbances, including insomnia and nightmares
- Physical tiredness, sleepiness, drowsiness, or fatigue
- Changes in appetite and weight, either gaining or losing weight
- Anxiety, restlessness, or agitation
- Slowed thinking, speaking, or body movements
- Feeling worthless or guilty
- Fixating on past failures or blame
- Difficulty thinking, concentrating, or making decisions
- Unexplained physical problems, including headaches, back pain, jaw pain, etc.
- Frequent thoughts of death or suicide
People who struggle with depression may experience any of these symptoms for weeks or months at a time, and may even experience persistent low mood for years. While there is no cure for depression, it can be managed on a long-term basis with a variety of treatments.
Conventional medicine recommends working with a licensed therapist and possibly taking prescription medication like antidepressants to alleviate these symptoms. For some people, adding complementary treatments also eases symptoms, especially when intense symptoms reappear suddenly and need to be managed.
One of the most popular complementary treatments is guided meditation, sometimes called guided imagery.
What Is Guided Meditation for Depression?
This is a form of meditation developed to guide the person through relaxing images and mental experiences. The therapist or meditation specialist guiding the practice may speak about a combination of sights, feelings, textures, smells, sounds, and other sensations to help their client experience full, immersive relaxation.
- Guided meditation is founded on the concept that the mind and body are connected. An individual’s self-perception, how others see them, and the world around them all affect their physical experience. In turn, sensations from the world and input from others can reinforce the mental image a person has created. If that mental image is changed because of depression, forcing an individual to consistently have a negative self-image, then that experience changes their body and how they physically process experiences.
- Relaxing in the moment, changing sensory input, and slowing down the reactions of the brain can alleviate the negative mental and physical impact of depression on the individual. The stress of feeling bad about oneself, worry about the past or the future, the inability to relax or feel safe, and the negative impact of muscle tension and sleep deprivation can all be temporarily alleviated by working with a practitioner of guided meditation, who can lead the person through a series of relaxing images and breathing exercises to stop the immediate stress response.
Guided Meditation Is Complementary, Not Alternative
Working with a trained professional or using prerecorded tracks can be an effective way to reduce tension and stress, which will impact behaviors and can make other symptoms associated with depression worse. However, it is important to know that guided meditation is a complementary treatment, meaning it should not be a substitute for evidence-based treatments. While there are a few small medical studies showing the physical benefits of guided meditation on the body’s response to emotional distress, these studies suggest guided meditation can be beneficial, but not for everyone. It should not be used in place of traditional therapy and taking prescribed medication if necessary.
Depression is a chronic mental health condition, so symptoms can be managed, but like addiction, diabetes, asthma, and other chronic conditions, it cannot be cured. Fortunately, more options like guided meditation are becoming available to help people manage symptoms of depression.