In a fast-paced world filled with constant stressors, the search for effective strategies to enhance mood and alleviate depression has become increasingly paramount. One of the main reasons we developed the HeyHappy app. Meditation has garnered substantial attention from researchers and practitioners in the mental health field. Rooted in ancient traditions, meditation has transcended its spiritual origins to emerge as a scientifically-proven method for improving emotional well-being and combating depression.
Meditation is a practice of focusing your concentration while connecting your mind and body. Meditation is where you practice returning to the present moment again and again and again, while focusing on what simply is, right now, without attaching any labels (“this is good/bad/sad/terrible/difficult”) to the present moment. Meditation aims to achieve a mental state of calm concentration and positive emotions. There are many different meditation techniques such as mindfulness meditation or loving kindness meditation where you count your breaths or focusing on a specific word or phrase. You will need to experiment with a couple of techniques to see which meditation technique feels good to you.
There exists a wealth of research demonstrating the positive influence meditation has on mood regulation. Mindfulness meditation, in particular, has been associated with reduced negative affect and increased positive emotions. Research conducted by Keng, Smoski and Robins showed that participants who underwent an 8-week mindfulness meditation program exhibited significant reductions in rumination—an often-debilitating thought pattern linked to mood disorders. By encouraging individuals to focus on the present moment without judgment, meditation enhances emotional awareness and cultivates emotional resilience, leading to an overall more balanced mood.
From a neurological perspective, MRI studies have shown that meditation alters certain brain regions linked to depression, specifically the prefrontal cortex and amygdala. Dr. Denniger (Director of Research at the Benson-Henry Institute for Mind Body Medicine at Harvard-affiliated Massachusetts General Hospital) explains that when you meditate your stress levels fall and you learn to better ignore the negative sensations of stress and anxiety. The results suggest that meditation can potentially recalibrate neural networks to foster emotional balance.
So how do you start meditating?
The beauty of starting is that you can start small. Our heads are filled with thousands of thoughts on a daily basis as we rush through our busy lives. Meditation asks us to be still and calm our minds and believe me, that is tough! You can follow the instructions below to enter the world of meditation:
Begin your mindfulness meditation journey by finding a quiet space. Sit or lie down comfortably, closing your eyes. Focus on your breath—observe its natural rhythm without trying to change it. When your mind drifts to thoughts, gently guide your attention back to your breath. Notice sensations, sounds, and feelings without judgment. Gradually expand your awareness to your body and surroundings. Start with just a few minutes daily, gradually increasing. Remember, it’s okay for your mind to wander; the essence is to bring it back with kindness. Through consistent practice, you’ll cultivate present-moment awareness, nurturing inner calm and clarity.
There are also many apps that can help you get started if you prefer to be guided in your meditation practice. We recommend Insight Timer or Headspace. Both these apps have free versions you can use as a starting point.
Happy meditating to a better mood!
written by Megan Stapelberg, Counselling psychologist