Meditation for Mental Health

Meditation for Mental health

Why is meditation considered such a potent tool for those struggling with mental issues?
Meditation is a powerful tool for anyone struggling with their mental health. We, at Mahakatha, have seen it calm and relieve the load on a person's mind.
With regular practice, you have an antidote to stress and anxiety, as well as a coping tool for depression.
Meditation is a practice by which you focus on one thing, usually your breath, and then observe and acknowledge the thoughts that pass through your mind.
There are various ways to facilitate this state. The popular types of meditation will be discussed later in this article.
The primary aim of this article is to list and explain the physical, emotional, and spiritual benefits of meditation.
Then illustrate how and why meditation for mental health is an excellent alternative for those tired of traditional approaches towards stress, anxiety, and depression.

Mental and emotional benefits of meditation

1. More focus on your emotional health

Our emotional well-being seems to be the first to take a hit whenever there is a lot on our plate.
Putting aside a few minutes aside for meditation, daily, ensure this fragile aspect of our being is not ignored and put aside.

2. Reduce stress

Even a few minutes spent meditating, daily, will show a distinct improvement in your mental stress.
You feel more capable of handling whatever life throws at you, and so take on less stress.
In this video from The Mindful Movement, the narrator tells you how to utilize your breath to bring down accumulated stress, in just 20 minutes.

3. Lower anxiety

The fact that you take on less stress means your anxiety is also drastically reduced.
There's even research suggests that people with an anxiety disorder find a more positive way to talk about themselves and the way they handle daily stressors.

4. Better sleep

Arising from growing stress and anxiety, your sleep patterns are a major casualty.
Meditation before sleep lets you slow down all those runaway thoughts that would've kept you up well after your head hit the pillow.
The meditation lets you acknowledge and put these thoughts to rest.

5. Manage depression

Depression is a tough problem to confront even with medication, therapy, and support from your loved ones.
Meditation can provide a strong coping mechanism when you feel the reins slipping away. After all, it is about acknowledging every thought that passes through your mind, without judgement.
It must be noted that the point of the exercise is not to block out negative thinking. It is to acknowledge the thought itself without judging yourself for having them.
This video for instance makes it possible to have a pleasant, multi-sensory experience to manage depression.

6. Increase patience and tolerance

Some of us struggle with responding appropriately to aggravating situations.
A healthy use of meditation at intervals throughout the day brings us back to our neutral center. This helps us react to surprising or unbalancing events with all our senses.

Spiritual benefits of meditation

1. Let go of the past

One of the cliched benefits attributed to meditation is that of the ability to let go of the past by practicing it regularly.
It would be more accurate to say that by practicing meditation, you allow the free flow of thoughts arising from past events.
By acknowledging the existence of these thoughts, these past events lose the hold they have over you and they are simply experiences you've learned from.
This video here is a great demonstration. The narrator lets you know that you are safe now, here in the present, and works back from there.

2. Self-realization

Most of us are haunted by false and distorted ideas of who we are.
When immersed in meditation, you learn to separate what is real from what is perceived about ourselves. This clarity is manifested in the way we see ourselves and how we talk about ourselves.

3. Empowering experience

With the past being understood for what it is, the past, and a clearer sense of self, you feel empowered to take on the day and the challenges you've set for yourself.

4. Find a higher consciousness

This may seem like a vague statement at first, but that's more from misunderstanding the concept.
A higher consciousness is simply that your understanding of yourself and the events in your life become more evolved and grounded.
Life stops coming across as a stream of bad experiences and chores. They become tough experiences you've overcome and challenges you still have to get past.

Physical benefits of meditation

1. Can control physical pain

The steady use of meditation makes any chronic pain you might have more manageable.
The cause of the pain and the degree of pain will not be affected with meditation, but your ability to cope with it will improve.
In the video below, Jason Stephenson uses strong visualization techniques helps the listener expel pain.

2. Keep away memory loss

Age and lack of stimulating mental activities can lead to deterioration of your memory. Meditation can be an early solution to this problem.
Starting the practice of meditation earlier in you life can offset this memory decline to a great degree.

3. Ride out headaches

You may get sudden headaches for no apparent reason. The frequency and severity of these episodes will be reduced by the use of meditation.

4. Lowers blood pressure

Meditation has been shown to help manage and reduce blood pressure in regular practitioners, especially older practitioners.
The video below is a short 10-minute guided exercise you can try out to see how it helps your blood pressure levels.


Types of meditation

There are several types of meditation based on how you reach the stage where you can watch your thoughts.

1. Mantra meditation

This type of meditation involves listening to or chanting a mantra as you meditate.
This mantra can be an ancient chant sourced from various faiths like Hinduism or Buddhism, or they can be a personal affirmation that resonates with you.
With Vedic chants, you get the added benefit of the power of these spiritual sounds hold and the benefits they give.

2. Mindfulness meditation

This form of meditation is probably the most popular form of meditation. It involves observing the stream of thoughts passing through your mind and acknowledging each one.
The core thought is that these thoughts do not identify you as a person and are simply your thoughts.

3. Movement meditation

This section of meditation practices has gained popularity in recent times. It is a non-traditional type where you perform daily tasks or walk as a type of meditation.
You can do something like gardening or take a leisurely walk while you let your mind wander at its pace.
This works for people who find comfort in movement. This can also work with a more structured format like Qigong.

4. Loving-kindness meditation

A meditation style where you actively lean into your compassionate side.
This can be thought of as exercising your benevolent side by deliberately sending warm and positive wishes to your friends and family.
This is then said to open you to receiving love and kindness from those around you. This can be particularly effective for people who find themselves in the grip of anger and resentment.

5. Visualization meditation

Think of this form of meditation as time you spend focusing on a goal. It can be a person, an event you'd like to see happen, or an achievement in your personal or professional life.
This can seem counter-intuitive at first, as meditation is primarily about letting your mind do its thing without you directing it.
But it works for people who are more at ease with a goal in mind, for instance athletes.

How do you meditate for mental health?

Meditating to better your mental health is the most organic use of this practice.
Meditating, as mentioned earlier, is about focusing on the breath until your mind is allowed to go through its stream of thoughts without obstacles.
In this state, depending on the style of meditation, you can address your mental struggles either by committing to a chant (mantra meditation), idea (visualization meditation), action (movement meditation), emotion (loving-kindness) or by observing the thoughts (mindfulness).
Irrespective of your chosen style, the negative emotions and thoughts that cause you emotional distress lose their power over you.
This can be better illustrated with an exercise that you can try out.

A meditation exercise for mental health

We came across a study that explored the various benefits yoga had on women suffering with stress, anxiety, and depression.
This gave us an idea that a systemized exercise which anyone can follow would be the best way to demonstrate the benefits of meditation for coping with mental issues.

1. Find a comfortable position

To ensure your meditation is about your thoughts, you need to remove any external distractions.
This means finding a space where your mind is not pulled out by any loud or distracting sounds. This will involve taking time away from your chores and responsibilities.
There is no requirement as to how you should be seated or how your legs must be kept. Sitting cross-legged on the floor, with your palms on your knees is simply the position of choice for most. If a chair suits you better, go with that.
The only requirement is that be stable and comfortable so you don't shift your weight constantly to alleviate pain or discomfort.

2. Set a time

There is no hard and fast rule saying 15 minutes is what you need to overcome anxiety.
This will be based on how early you can wake up, the daily chores and responsibilities you have, and your experience with meditation. Start small and then work your way up if you feel you can and you feel it will benefit you.
The point is to commit to a general timeframe so you know how long you'll be sitting for, in advance.

3. Play the 15-minute mantra version

This would be exclusive to mantra meditation, but you would play the version of the mantra that fits your timeframe.

4. Focus on your breath

Initially, you will take deep breaths and breathe out slowly until your body achieves its natural rhythm. This will vary from person to person.

5. Observe your thoughts

Once your breathing becomes slow and rhythmic, you can then begin to observe the negative thoughts in your mind.
You are not analyzing them, merely listening to your stream of thoughts when your mind is left unencumbered. Do not set a point in the timeframe you set earlier, when you have to start observing your thoughts.
Only do so, once your breath is settled. If it happens to occur towards the end, that's fine too. You will achieve optimal breathing quicker, the more you practice.

6. Actively listen to or chant the mantra

Once the thoughts slow and settled, you can chant along with the mantra or listen to the words actively.
The mantra is to be thought of as a sequence of sounds or syllables, each of which activates a part of your psyche or body.
The mantra recommended in the exercise is to raise the listener's or chanter's mental and physical stamina. When you chant or actively listen, the sounds will wash over you, rejuvenating your mind and body.

7. Close out the session

Close out the session with a short duration of conscious breathing. This is to return to your emotional center again.
Guided meditations for anxiety or stress, or emotion-specific ones like those for anger and resentment might be more to your liking, if you want the structure of your session defined for you.

Can meditation help mental illness?

Meditation does help suffering from mental illness. But it is crucial that it not confused with a cure for mental illness or as an alternative to medical advice.
Meditation is another tool in your belt to help manage your mental health issues. It is a mechanism by which you can return to a place of emotional neutrality and something resembling a stable foundation.
A lot of mental issues have to do with an unchecked stream of negative and unwanted thoughts. Meditation puts these on pause and gives an air of objectivity to the way you perceive these thoughts.
Your thoughts are not runaway trains that take you wherever they please. They are your thoughts which you can observe and trace back to the events that caused them to occur in the first place.
So someone suffering from stress and anxiety is able to see the root cause of the stressors in their life and cope with them.
Someone with depression can observe negative and unwanted thoughts, without confusing them with their identity as a person.

How do I get better mentally?

There is no single fix to mental health issues. It comes from a combination of medication, physical well-being, rest, and emotional support.
Due to circumstances, you may be denied one or more of these basic needs. You will need coping mechanisms to deal with the added stress and turmoil.
This is where a practice like meditation comes in. It provides a grounding and enriching experience with nothing more than a quiet space and time that you put aside.
Do this regularly, and you no longer feel helpless when your mind seems to be running away from you.
You have access to a tool that you know will bring calmness and peace of mind to you, if and when you choose to practice it.

Can meditation relieve stress?

Reduced stress is one of the first benefits you will experience firsthand when you practice meditation.
The mental state that you enter into meditation with and the one you leave with, are worlds apart.
Problems that seemed apocalyptic a while back, will seem more manageable. This key difference in your thinking will reduce the frequency and severity of your stressors.

Is meditation good for depression?

Meditation is good for managing depression. It cannot be held up as a cure for this affliction.
It is a powerful, effective tool to rein in your mind when it seems to be pulling you into a vortex of negativity.
It is a counter-weight, to the heavy load of negative thoughts depression puts you under.
It is an affirmation that you are not your thoughts and that you do not need to identify yourself as a product of these thoughts.

Closing thoughts

We, at Mahakatha, have leant heavily on the healing effects of our mantras, once we realized our subscribers are gaining genuine benefits in their mindset and healing.
This post was an attempt at sharing this powerful way to manage stress, anxiety, and depression with nothing more than a half-hour a day and the intent to heal.
This was precisely why we opted to make a detailed write-up of how meditation can help in any situation where you may be struggling to cope.
Try out the exercises we’ve suggested for a few days, and experience the healing effects first-hand.

Resources - Scientific & authority sources

  1. Mindfulness meditation and stress reduction
  1. Use of meditation for anxiety disorder
  1. Effects of Transcendental meditation on blood pressure
  1. Effects of meditation on age-related cognitive decline
  1. Effects of yoga on stress, anxiety & depression in women
  1. Mindfulness-based intervention for anxiety & depression
  1. Benefits of slow breathing