We live in a world of uncertainties, and with many things happening at the same time in our lives, it is quite challenging to have solid control of situations without losing a little bit of our sanity. From family to career, and from relationships to health, we all have, at one point, found life to be an exhausting marathon of ups and downs. Owing to this, anxiety and depression have become very common all over the world.
In 2017, 284.36 million people were diagnosed with anxiety disorders, and 264.46 million people were found to suffer from depression. However, with the rapid increase in awareness over the years, a considerable amount of efforts has been invested into curbing the mesmerising menaces of these mental cankerworms.
Fortunately, viable solutions have continued to emerge, and in recent times, meditation has gotten under the spotlight as one of the most effective ways of achieving freedom from anxiety and depression. However, several people, while signing up for meditation, find it quite challenging to learn. But this challenge is quickly eliminated with the availability of guided meditation.
In this article, you will find out what guided meditation is and how it puts you in fine fettles by demolishing the walls of anxiety and depression.
Guided Meditation is simply the practice through which an individual—or a group—achieves a level of emotional clarity, calm, and stability, with guidance from a qualified practitioner. It serves as the perfect ice breaker for people who wish to embark on the journey of meditation. This is especially because the idea of meditation, in itself, may be overwhelming to those who are just beginning. With the help of a guide, however, it all becomes a cakewalk.
Interestingly, to reap the benefits of guided meditation, you do not necessarily need an expert to be physically present. In fact, guidance can be effectively administered through different mediums such as audio, video, and text. A series of studies conducted by researchers from John Hopkins University, Baltimore, Maryland showed that meditation is effective in improving mental conditions such as anxiety and depression, among several others.
At this point, you might be wondering “exactly how does guided meditation reduce anxiety?”, which is something we will discuss below.
Affecting around 1 in 13 people around the globe, anxiety is the most prevalent mental health condition and if you’re dealing with any form of anxiety disorder right now, you’re definitely not alone.
People with anxiety are forced to deal with powerful, distracting thoughts. They can hardly tell the difference between a problem-solving thought and a pointless thought of gloom and doom. When anxiety strikes, the brain is forced to trigger the release of epinephrine and cortisol—also known as stress hormones. These hormones expose you to several health dangers, including heart attacks. Also, at this point, your brain becomes slightly disoriented and keeps sending warning signals all through your system, worsening the anxiety. If this keeps on happening, your condition may degenerate into depressive disorder.
Guided meditation reduces anxiety by training the mind to counter the production of these stress hormones. Successfully guided meditation shows an apparent reduction in blood pressure, stabilized heart rate, and normalized oxygen consumption, among others. With consistency, you will develop higher levels of mental resilience and your anxiety will begin to decline.
Despite the level of efforts recorded over the years at curbing the effects of depression, it is still a significant cause for concern in the modern world, affecting up to 4.4% of the world’s population. Indeed, 4.4% may sound like a small figure, but when it has to do with the world’s population, 4.4% covers over 300 million people all over the world! Depression goes beyond just the feeling of sadness or joylessness. It is the complete absence of physical, mental, and emotional energy combined with a strong sense of hopelessness, helplessness, and self-criticism.
Depression usually comes along when anxiety has stayed too long. At this point, there is a steady flow of stress hormones in your bloodstream. The brain is also forced to become accustomed to this lingering feeling of fear and danger and does very little to dispel it.
It ultimately leaves you feeling unsafe and sad to the point that you’re no longer willing to fight it. The longer you stay in depression, the harder it becomes to get out of it. However, guided meditation has proven effective in helping depressed people gain relief over time.
As a relief mechanism, guided meditation trains your brain to develop a level of sustained focus, and the ability to shift your thinking from negativity. Indeed, it does not teach your brain to forget or get blind negativity. Instead, it teaches your brain to recognize negativity without getting overwhelmed by it.
The brain has a small portion called the limbic system. This part of the brain is where your emotions, memories, and decisions are regulated. Whenever anxiety or depression strikes, the limbic system is where the battle goes down. Also, when Anxiety or depression invades the limbic system, it heads straight for two essential parts: the prefrontal cortex and the amygdala. Note that the prefrontal cortex is responsible for awareness, motivation, and decision-making while the amygdala is responsible for our emotions.
The prefrontal cortex and the amygdala have some functional connectivity and are thus activated together. This means that once anxiety or depression hits, the two regions quickly react, triggering a flood of stress hormones and warning signals all over our body system. To fight these conditions, guided meditation helps to make the walls of the prefrontal cortex thicker, while shrinking the amygdala. This will ultimately isolate them from each other and make it harder for hormone triggers to occur. By thickening the walls of the prefrontal cortex, your mental resilience is significantly improved. Also, the shrinking of your amygdala makes it a bit harder for your stress hormones to get triggered by anxiety and depression. This ultimately leads to the gradual relief of depression.
Another way guided meditation relieves depression is by protecting the hippocampus—the part of the brain responsible for memory. Studies have shown that people who suffer from depression tend to have a smaller hippocampus. However, when they commence meditation, there is a marked increase in the volume of grey matter around the hippocampus. This translates to better control of your mind, and the things you allow to come into it.
Indeed, complete relief from depression or anxiety is not something you can achieve in just one day. However, while it demands desire, dedication and consistency, you can free yourself from anxiety and depression through guided meditation.