By Editor Mosa Mahlangu
In her 2000 interview with The Times (UK), the world-renowned writer J.K. Rowling described depression as “that absence of being able to envisage that you will ever be cheerful again. The absence of hope. That very deadened feeling, which is so very different from feeling sad. Sad hurts but it’s a healthy feeling. It’s a necessary thing to feel. Depression is very different”. It is a highly complex condition that produces feeling of misery, feebleness, and neuroticism (the tendency to drown in negative feelings). It’s extremely difficult to describe (especially by people who have never experienced it). However, psychologists and psychotherapists that insist there are ways to treat cases of depression (ranging from mild to moderate) that do not require intervention from medication. Is meditation able to take one out of the dark cave of depression?
Meditation has potential to wok against depression
According to Psychology Today, new ways of thinking and habitual changes constitute most of the effort required to get out of the cave of depression.
Meditation is a broad patience. There is mantra meditation, spiritual meditation (which may involve the burning of essential oils), focused mediation (which may involve concentration using any of the senses) and mindfulness meditation to name a few. Commonly known as mindfulness, it is a popular meditation style that emphasises focus on the rhythm of breathing while slowing down racing thoughts. The aim of this mindfulness is to help individuals detach from thoughts so they can choose where to place their attention and therefore be in control of their minds. Mindfulness has been incorporated into cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) resulting in mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT). According to Mind and Life Institute, a study involving 29 patients with depression and anxiety was conducted, subjecting the patients to 60 minutes of acceptance-based behavioural therapy (ABBT which is developed for treating generalised anxiety disorder) and MBCT twice a month. After 19 months, all the patients saw a significant drop in anxiety and depression after just four visits. As a result, mindfulness has been claimed as the most enduring and effective therapeutic cure for depression.
The problem with mindfulness meditation
The practice of mindfulness helps us to silence our wandering minds and maintain a non-judgemental and no-reactive mode of being. However, let us not ignore the possibility of using mindfulness as an escape from critical thinking tasks and sticking with problems long enough to come up with solutions. For example, an intellectually intensive career presents little to no opportunity for one to meditate about problems (lest you are willing to be fired). Also, mindfulness was created to encourage compassion for others, to see things the way they are exactly and to master feelings. Most mindfulness practitioners are into it to feel better and be in a bubble of happiness, invalidating the meaning behind mindfulness. With the things going in the world, the goal of exclusively perusing happiness may result in further negative emotions when things do not go the way you want, or other people are not pursuing the same goals as you. Therefore, if wrongly practiced, mindfulness mediation may place you deeper into the cave of depression. A balanced and critical understanding of the pros and cons of mindfulness practice as the cure of depression is important.
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