meditation for anxiety and depression

Meditation for Anxiety and Depression: Does It Actually Help?

Meditation is often suggested for anxiety and depression and other mental health struggles, but can such an ancient practice actually help in the modern age? 


Yes – to an extent. While therapy and medication remain crucial components of treatment for many people, meditation can be a powerful, healthy coping mechanism, and a significant body of research proves its effectiveness as a tool to manage symptoms of anxiety and depression.


How meditation for anxiety and depression works


Meditation is a mental exercise that focuses on training the mind to achieve a state of heightened awareness and peace. Contrary to popular misconceptions, meditation is not solely a mystical or esoteric practice; it is firmly grounded in scientific research. Numerous studies have illuminated the profound effects of meditation on mental and emotional well-being.


Research indicates that meditation can bring about substantial changes in the brain. For instance, studies using neuroimaging techniques have shown that regular meditation can increase the density of grey matter in brain regions associated with emotional regulation and self-awareness. 


This suggests that meditation can be an effective tool for managing anxiety and depression. By fostering self-awareness and helping individuals observe their thoughts and feelings without judgement, meditation can break the cycles of rumination and worry that often characterise poor mental health.


For this reason, meditation techniques such as mindfulness and relaxation are also prescribed by clinicians as complements to traditional therapy and (in some cases) medication for managing symptoms of anxiety and depression, much in the same way that physical exercise and a healthy diet are also prescribed as complementary care.


What kind of meditation helps anxiety and depression


Many people respond to their negative thoughts and feelings by suppressing, repressing, and/or judging them as ‘bad.’ As a result, these negative thoughts and feelings persist and grow in intensity, leading to anxious and depressive struggles. Meditation encourages us to recognise and accept our negative thoughts and emotions, which allows them to naturally dissipate.


Practising meditation helps to reset our response and relationship with our emotions and thoughts, disrupt the cycle of negative thinking, and ultimately develop a healthier mindset. 


The most helpful kinds of meditation for anxiety and depression include:

  • Stress reduction meditation: Chronic stress can contribute to the development and exacerbation of anxiety and depression symptoms. Meditation techniques such as deep breathing exercises activate the body’s relaxation response, reducing stress hormones like cortisol.
  • Mindfulness meditation: This technique trains us to stay fully present in the moment, allowing us to become more aware of our thoughts and feelings without reacting to them impulsively. Mindfulness meditation can be particularly effective in managing symptoms of anxiety and depression.
  • Body awareness meditation: Self awareness meditations, particularly practices like progressive muscle relaxation and body scanning, can promote a clearer sense for our bodies, which can improve our quality of sleep.

How to get started meditating


If you’re considering meditation as a part of your coping strategy for managing anxiety and depression, you can get started by:

  1. Exploring different meditation techniques: Take the time to explore various meditation techniques, such as mindfulness meditation, guided meditation, breathing exercises, and even movement-based meditative practices like yoga. Experiment with these options to discover which one resonates with you the most. If this seems overwhelming, a trained therapist can help you narrow the field by advising what kinds of meditation might be most helpful to you.
  2. Setting realistic expectations: Keep in mind that meditation is not a quick fix; it requires consistent practice to yield noticeable results. Begin with short sessions and gradually increase the duration as you become more comfortable and experienced.
  3. Integrating meditation into your daily routine: Make meditation a consistent part of your daily life. Identify a quiet and comfortable space where you can practise, and establish a specific time each day for your meditation session. If needed, consider utilising meditation apps or joining a local meditation group for additional support and guidance along your journey. Finally, start small; adding a five-minute meditation in the morning is a great way to start including meditation into a busy daily routine.

How a mental health professional can help you


While meditation can be a valuable complement to therapy and medication, it is not a standalone solution for everyone. It’s essential to consult with mental health professionals for a comprehensive treatment plan. There are scenarios where meditation may not be suitable or sufficient, especially in severe cases of anxiety and depression that require more intensive interventions.


Meditation holds tremendous promise as a tool for managing anxiety and depression. Its potential to reduce stress, enhance self-awareness, and cultivate inner peace makes it a valuable addition to the mental health toolbox. 


However, meditation should be viewed as part of a holistic approach to mental well-being, in conjunction with professional guidance, therapy, and, when necessary, medication. If you’re considering meditation for anxiety or depression, approach it with an open mind and patience – keeping a similar open mind toward therapy, whether digital or conventional, as well.



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Vidula V Sawant (M.A., M.Phil., CRR No. A80980) is a clinical psychologist with  4+ years of experience and a passion for understanding the complexities of our minds and behaviours.

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