Depression and anxiety continue to be a major health issue, especially for older adults. Depressive disorders affect about twenty percent of adults between sixty-five years and older, and regular depression is a risk factor for heart diseases and possibly death from a wide range of associated illnesses. It also affects people’s daily lives by making them more socially isolated and affecting cognitive function, especially memory.
It has been shown that stress and anxiety are major triggers of depression, and it is possible for meditation to alter your reaction to those feelings. This is because meditation trains the brain to achieve sustained focus, and to return to that focus when negative thinking, emotions, and physical sensations affect your balance. It has been shown that it is possible for certain regions of the brain to be affected during depressive episodes. For instance, certain regions of the brains including the medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC) and amygdala have been linked to depression. Researchers have shown that the medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC) becomes hyperactive during depressive episodes. The mPFC is otherwise referred to as the “me center” since this is where all the information about yourself is processed, such as worrying about the future, family and thoughts about the past which might include disappointments. Hence, when people get stressed about life, the mPFC goes into overdrive and depression sets in. The amygdala on the other hand is the brain region that is associated with the fight-or-flight response, which triggers the adrenal glands to release the stress hormone cortisol in response to fear and perceived danger. These two brain region are associated to cause depression.
Meditation fights depression by reducing stress which allows the body to cure and restore the body to the normal state. The function by stimulating the “awareness” muscle which prevents the reinforcement of depression by the mind looping negative thoughts which then provides space between the body, and the mind that perceives it, to allow the body to what it needs to.
Studies have shown that behavioral activation with mindfulness (BAM) is effective in the management of moderate to severe depression. That is, Mindfulness meditation along with behavioral activation reduced depressive symptoms in patients with subthreshold depression within a primary care setting (Wong et al. (2018)
The study included 231 adult patients from 16 general outpatient clinics who had subthreshold depression, determined on the basis of the patient’s having a score of 5 to 9 on the 9-item Patient Health Questionnaire depression scale. The criteria for inclusion was for patients had not had a major depressive episode in the last 6 months. The researchers randomly assigned these patients to receive either BAM (n = 115) or usual care (n = 116). At the end of the intervention, the BAM group demonstrated a significantly greater reduction in depressive symptoms.
Hence, meditations can help prepare the brain for stressful situations and help reduce depression.