Case Studies - Mental Health

How yoga practice helps their practitioners manage their mental health

How Meditation Can Help With Mental Illness

If you are suffering from depression or anxiety (or both) a good addition to any other treatment you might be undergoing is meditation.

Can meditation help with mental illness?

Absolutely. Emotional states such as anxiety, depression, phobias and addictions, all represent a dysfunction of the normal relationship between the original mammalian brain the “emotional” – brain (in anatomical terms, the mid-brain of the amygdala and the thalamus and the limbic system) and the thinking or “logical” brain (anatomically the neocortex).

When suffering from anxiety or depression, especially depression, the individual can appear lifeless but the reality is, there is a lot going on inside that person. Their thoughts and worries are racing at 100 miles per hour and in turn all kinds of stress hormones including cortisol and adrenalin are coursing through their body.

Meditation relaxes the person which engages the rational brain instead of the emotional brain. So, by stopping negative/anxious thoughts, we disengage the emotional brain and we get a more rational or logical perspective on our thought patterns and ultimately the life situation we may be faced with. We also therefore reduce the physical effects of these hormones ruminating.

Why is meditation more important than ever?

Emotional illnesses such as anxiety and depression are at a level of epidemic proportions. It is stated that 70 million working days a year are lost to stress-related emotional illnesses such as anxiety. This costs the UK economy more than £1000 per employee every year – almost £30 billion a year overall – through sickness absence or employees under-performing.

In addition, the cost of these illnesses to the health service alone is estimated at billions of pounds per annum. The UK is not alone – there are roughly 40 million Americans thought to be currently suffering from some form of anxiety.

Can you think back to what was going on in the year 2007? It was a year before Apple had launched their App Store, two years before Amazon launched the Kindle and still three years before the iPad. Twitter was handling 100,000 tweets per month (it now handles around 340 million tweets per day) and Facebook was roughly 10% of the size it is today.

Technology is rapidly changing the way we live – or should I say, controlling the way we live. All this technology has opened up great opportunities for us – but it has also created pressures and we cannot under estimate the impact of digital technologies on how we think, live and work.

Email facilities on smart phones mean we can (or are expected to) communicate and work all hours of the day and night, and technology such as video conferencing means we can now meet our colleagues or clients in various different time zones throughout the day and night in all corners of the world. We can also shop, learn and be entertained online at any time –so we try to pack more and more into our 24 hours.

This all comes at a price though, and results in us finding it extremely difficult to “switch off”, because even when we’re “off” we’re “on”. Consequently, because our bodies and brains are designed to take regular breaks in life, our stress hormones go into overdrive to keep us alert, and the price we pay for this can be emotional ill health. So, again we need to create these gaps of no-mind to allow our brains time to rest properly.


Reduces stress

It is thought by many, that stress and stress hormones can have long term physical affects and it is widely believed many cancers are stress related. So by meditating and therefore unblocking the negative energy field in the body, you are having a hugely positive affect on the human body and you are reducing this risk of contracting these diseases.

Improves your sleep

Meditation quietens your mind and when the mind is quiet then we sleep easier, especially when practised before going to sleep. In turn, a good night’s sleep bolsters the immune system and improves overall wellbeing.

Strengthens your immune system

It increases the energy flow around the body, bringing the many ‘good’ cells alive in our body and thus bolstering the immune system.

Lowers blood pressure

Regular meditation is proven to lower your blood pressure. Raised blood pressure is a side effect of the fight or flight response to anxiety and its aim is to keep us ‘alive’ in times of real danger. Unfortunately, most dangers we face in the modern day are ‘perceived’ dangers and so the fight or flight response is activated as a false alarm.

By meditating, you are controlling those anxious thoughts which are translated as ‘danger’ to the brain which in turns reduces the chance of the fight or flight response kicking in, subsequently stopping the unnecessary raising of blood pressure.

Improved circulation which can improve the appearance of your skin and hair.


What stressful situations can meditation help with?

Meditation helps train the mind into a state of alert relaxation and is helpful in all stressful situations. It will greatly help an individual to cope with majorly challenging situations such as; job loss, moving house, marriage, divorce, bereavement, serious illness etc.

And also in dealing with more everyday stressful situations such as: a challenging workload, problematic children, hosting a dinner party, difficult driving conditions etc. It stops that little mind made you, the voice of thought, controlling your day.

What will I notice after a week of doing meditation?

You will see benefit straight away especially in stressful circumstances. After a week you will be well on your way to creating an underlying feeling of calm, allowing you to deal better with whatever a challenging world throws at us. It can be very easy to fall off the wagon when conforming to a meditation routine.

This is the catch 22 situation – you are trying to quieten the mind by meditating yet the noisy mind won’t let you as it tells you that surely there must be something more important to be doing than meditating!

Most people don’t realise that they are plagued by incessant thought because they class it as normal. It is therefore habitual and as we all know, it is by no means simple to break bad habits. So, just like a smoker would struggle to stop smoking immediately, most people find it hard to stop incessant thought. The longer term benefits of meditation will be massive as you train your mind to create these gaps of no-mind.

The Huffington Post UK  | Article Posted: 10/10/2013

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