Depression and Meditation
Updated: May 13, 2015 by Catharine D. Allado
Can depression be treated with something as simple as meditation and prayer? Several studies indicate, yes! The purpose of this article is to demonstrate how we can use prayer, meditation, and socialization as an alternative to medication. Add exercise to the treatment and you have a threefold treatment.
In This Article:
Depression is physiologically correlated to low levels of Serotonin, Dopamine, and Noradrenalin. Chemical treatments (anti-depressant drugs) are based on this knowledge. The drugs increase the levels of neurotransmitters that relieve depression.
A University of Wisconsin study with Monks showed that meditation and prayer is an effective anti-depressant and that our brain has an optimistic center that works with serotonin and dopamine production- calm, peaceful, anti-addictive neurotransmitters.
The optimistic center promotes production of serotonin and dopamine and, in turn, serotonin and dopamine (Grace-Amine) allows the optimistic center to be easily accessed and turned on. As exercise helps you lose weight, losing weight makes it easier to exercise.
Serotonin is an integral part of the biorhythm sleep cycle. During sleep, especially stage III and IV, serotonin and dopamine are produced in the median raphe, substantia nigra and several other places. As these neurotransmitters, especially serotonin rise, so does our ability to sleep. When sleep is chronically disturbed, by a stressful day or chronic stress, (lasting more than 15 days), it causes a chronic increase in cortisol, our alarm and aging hormone that turns on our alarm sympathetic nervous system.
There really is nothing sympathetic about the sympathetic nervous system. Our ability to sleep worsens. We have difficulty falling asleep (insomnia) and staying asleep (fragmented sleep), which is often due to a combination of physiological problems resulting in a decrease in serotonin and an increase in the hormone cortisol.
As serotonin decreases so does our ability to stay calm and handle everyday stressors. As cortisol increases so does our general alarm to even minor events. The result is anxiety leading to panic disorders, heightened adrenaline and cortisol, which ends in depression when these hormones and neurotransmitters are depleted.
Prayer and meditation can augment both serotonin and dopamine production and your optimistic center. It turns on the vagal system, the optimistic center and suppresses the pessimistic center and the sympathetic nervous system- reversing a downward trend. The same is true about negative thought, such as anger and uncontrolled stress. This turns on cortisol and the pessimistic center that cause further deterioration leading to depression and sleeplessness.
Prayer and meditation also allow one to forgive and let go of negative thoughts, which decreases the production of our aging hormone, cortisol. Dopamine and serotonin aid in forgiveness, but the actual forgiving is freewill (Grace). We give our negative feelings and thoughts to God to handle. We forgive and let go of the very things that will cause us physiologically to destroy ourselves (The poisons that kills us, not those we hate)
I’m often asked, “Doctor, what medications can I take to help sleep?” The answer is a good dose of Prayer and meditation. This is how I recommend it:
- Find a quiet, peaceful place without distractions.
- Start with a slow inspiration that begins from your abdomen. Watch it expand and at its peak fully exhale over a 10-15 second period. Sigh if need be. This will evoke a vagal nervous system response, one that provokes calm, release of serotonin and dopamine and stimulates the optimistic center.
- One’s prayer should be positive for the welfare of others. Visual images such as gardens or a solitary beach help the centering. Repetitious prayer such as a Rosary or a Mantra work for many. Body image relaxation might also be done at the same time. Relaxing one’s jaw, neck, shoulders, etc.
- Be attentive to one’s bodily reaction to meditation and prayer. You will feel your hands become warmer, your muscle relaxing, and a feeling of calm and contentment.
- Allow drowsiness to set in without willing it.
The trio of prayer, exercise, and socialization leads to an extra sensory perception of spirituality and leads to peace and happiness.
About the Author: Dr. Vincent Fortanasce is a renowned bio-ethicist, author, and radio show host with twenty years experience dealing with medical issues on a national and international level. His rehabilitation center was ranked in the top 10 on the West Coast in 2003, and Dr. Fortanasce was selected as in the top 100 physicians in Los Angeles County and Best Physicians in the USA in 1998. Over the past decade, he has treated such notables as the Dali Lama and Pope John Paul II.
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