How Meditation May Help Manage Depression and Addiction

People across the world have been practicing meditation as a mental and spiritual discipline for thousands of years. Some use meditation to calm themselves, visualize their personal and professional goals, or clear their minds before beginning their day and before going to bed. According to recent scientific research, meditation can be an effective part of a treatment plan to manage depression and addiction. Keep reading to find out how meditation can be a part of your recovery plan.

Depression and Substance Abuse 

Major depression is a common mental health issue that affects people of all ages, genders, and backgrounds. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, major depression affected 21 million American adults in 2020, or 8.4% of the adult population. Out of the 21 million, 14.8 million experienced a major depressive episode that interfered with their work or relationships.

Depression is also connected to substance misuse, and people who suffer from depression are more likely to experience addiction-related issues. Although depression can be a serious mental health condition, patients can use a wide range of treatment options, like meditation, to manage this disorder effectively.

What Does Meditation Include?

While there are many schools of meditation, most practices involve breathing exercises and mental practices. You might count your breaths, focus on a word or thought, or visualize your goals. Most practitioners meditate while sitting or standing still, but there are other practices that combine mental discipline with movement, like yoga and tai chi. It’s a good idea to consult your doctor before beginning a meditation regimen. You can also ask a coach or meditation group for guidance. These resources can help you develop the most helpful meditation practice for your mental health.

Sunrise House Treatment Center’s “Zen” Roomchairs and couches in zen room

At Sunrise House, the goal of the inpatient drug and alcohol rehab program is to address the various aspects of a person’s life that underlie addiction. With the addition of the “Zen” room, patients can incorporate meditation, yoga, and breathing exercises in a private room. These practices can help to stop the cycle of negative thoughts while developing the more positive and useful ones required to get and stay sober.

Types of Meditation Practices

As meditation is a global practice, there are many schools of thought, each with its own goals and rules. Here are some common meditation practices that might help you manage the symptoms of depression:


Visualization involves creating a mental image of a place or event to shape your thoughts and feelings. The image you create might depend on your goals in the meditation session. For example, if you want to calm yourself, you might imagine a setting that makes you feel tranquil, like an ocean or garden. If you want to prepare for a test or interview, you might imagine yourself succeeding in your task. These visualizations can include sights, smells, and textures.

Mindfulness Meditation

In mindfulness meditation, you focus on becoming aware of your surroundings. You might start with breathing exercises and reflect on how the sensation of oxygen entering and leaving your lungs. After spending time on your breathing, you might become more aware of any surrounding sounds, smells, and textures. For example, you might hear birds chirping, smell coffee brewing, or feel the ground underneath your feet. The goal of mindfulness meditation is to center your consciousness on the present.

Mantra or Word Meditation

You can choose a word or phrase to focus on during your meditation session. When choosing a word or phrase, participants often think about the feeling they want to reinforce during a meditation session. You might focus on a goal, like “serenity,” or a reminder, like “be kind to yourself.” During your own meditation practice, try using the word or phrase to anchor your focus. If you feel yourself getting distracted by other thoughts, you can say or think your mantra to return to your meditative state.

How Can Meditation Help With Depression?

While meditation can’t cure depression, it can help with your symptoms, especially if you use it as one part of a comprehensive treatment plan. Here are some ways meditation can help you manage your depression:

Increasing Emotional Awareness

Meditation eliminates outside noise, allowing you to sit with your thoughts and emotions. This calm environment can allow you to analyze your emotional state and identify what’s causing your mood to plummet. For example, meditating every evening can help you recognize upsetting situations you encountered during the workday and let them go. Morning meditations can allow you to identify negative emotions before the day starts, which can help you deal with situations as they arise. 

Reducing Negative Self-talk

Depression often causes our minds to create negative impressions of ourselves. These impressions can cause sadness, anger, and fatigue. Meditation can help you cope with negative self-talk by allowing the thoughts to occur without judgment or emotion. While meditating, you might feel a difficult emotion or visualize a negative outcome. If you learn how to refocus, you can encourage the negative impression to fade. You might use a mantra or perform a breathing exercise to regain your composure. Allowing your negative thoughts to pass through your mind can help you manage their effects on your mental health.

Relieving Anxiety Symptoms

According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, up to 60% of people with depression or anxiety have symptoms of the other disorder, so you might experience nervousness, panic, or fear during a depressive episode. Meditation can help you manage fear-based reactions and prepare yourself for stressful situations. You can use breathing exercises, contemplative meditation, or visualization before an anxiety-provoking event, like a doctor’s appointment or a work presentation.

Treatment for Co-Occurring Disorders

Starting a regular meditation regimen can help prepare your mind for other parts of a full treatment program. For example, meditation might allow you to stay calm before a therapy session, which can make the session more productive. Sunrise House Treatment Center, our inpatient rehab treatment center in New Jersey, offers multiple levels of care as well as co-occurring disorder treatment for those suffering from substance use and mental health disorders. If you are looking for rehab in New Jersey contact our admissions for help.

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