Recently a social media group I belong to brought up how to self medicate with meditation, and how meditation is like medicine. I was frustrated that my fellow professionals hadn’t put more thought into it and realized they may not be aware of the dangers that could happen if they portray meditation as medicine or a way to self medicate. While meditation is one of the best practices you can pursue, it can put you at risk of more harm than good if you don’t know how to meditate properly for the benefits you personally need.
Please do not try to self medicate with meditation, unless you are under the watchful eye of someone that can guide you through the process in a way that does not exacerbate your symptoms.
While meditation IS powerful and there are definite benefits to be gained, if you are seeking to meditate to get relief from depression or anxiety, it could backfire on you. The reason for this is that meditation brings about a reflective state. Chances are if you are depressed or anxious, you are already in a reflective state and many of those thoughts are adding to your depression and anxiety. I still suggest meditating as a way to support your healing process, but it needs to be done in a way that is specific to your needs.
How to Meditate When You are Depressed or Anxious
If you are feeling depressed or anxious, sitting meditation will not be helpful to you as far as feeling better quickly and could make matters worse. In sitting meditation, two things happen. One thing is that meditation acts like an emotional detox in some levels. If you have been distracting yourself from feelings you prefer not to feel, they will come up and you will not feel great about that. For another thing, if you are all ready having problems relaxing, trying to force yourself to sit is going to make you more stressed. With this in mind, it is better to start with a more active form of meditation. You will get the same benefits as you do with sitting meditation, only without the risk.
The active forms of meditation to try instead of sitting and breathing depends on what you feel most comfortable with. My suggestion is to try them all and see what works. Walking meditation gives you plenty to focus on, so does creative meditation or mantra meditation. While I rarely suggest guided meditations, they can help in a way that they give you something other to focus on than your own mind. I would caution you not to get attached to guided meditations as the only form you pursue though because it won’t offer as much of a benefit, only a nice break that could segue into true meditation.
Mantra meditation can be especially beneficial. For this type of meditation you can still sit, still breath, but you are focusing your mind on something specific which will keep it from hammering you with all the depressed or worry thoughts. A mantra can be anything you want it to be and ideally words that bring you a sense of calm. Om works great for many people, while others need a phrase instead of just one word. Here is one to try, but certainly, feel free to make up your own as you see fit.
- Get comfortable in a way that is most relaxing for you that you won’t be tempted to fall sleep.
- On your in breath, think or say “Where there is breath”
- On your out breath, think or say “There is hope”
Repeat for one to three minutes to start with. If your mind wanders, just notice that it did and continue back to the mantra. As you practice, you can extend the time you do this, but one to three minutes is much more realistic to start with if you are not used to meditating.
Eventually as you are feeling better, you can include sitting meditation in your practice. Do avoid trying to self medicate with meditation using sitting meditation alone though until you are quite sure you can handle what comes up. In the meantime the other forms of meditation will give you excellent benefits. For more information about them, download the free eBook The Art of Meditation.