*Thank you to Trevor for submitting this post. I struggle with both depression and anxiety and this is a great reminder why I need to bring yoga back into my life**
Depression and anxiety are two of the most difficult mental illnesses to overcome. While they do not have a physical form, they are an invisible reality that many people continue to face each day. However, their symptoms can be combatted with yoga and meditation. This is how to use yoga and meditation overcome depression and anxiety:
Implement as a coping mechanism for stress
Stress is triggered by multiple external factors, more so when depression and anxiety come into the picture. With yoga and meditation, you can learn to manage your reactions to these elements better. When you participate in both practices simultaneously, you learn to automatically ease tension with slow, deep breaths and manifest a safe mental space in the midst of an emotional episode.
Improve awareness of triggers and symptoms
When one meditates, they direct their complete attention themselves. As a person with either depression or anxiety, meditating can help you identify why an episode or trigger occurs. Because of this, you can analyze and understand the source of their issues and establish a sense of control over your future reactions to them. Furthermore, both yoga and meditation reduce the stress responses that were specifically natural to you when your fight response goes into overdrive.
Strengthen cognitive function
The brain reaps incredible benefits from yoga and meditation. The practices sharpen memory and critical thinking ability, heighten general awareness, as well as promote better attention span – all of which are difficult to sustain when enduring depression or anxiety. Despite the fact, the combination of yoga and meditation diminishes the effects of overwhelming stress that affect these functions of the brain and even reduces inflammation.
Stimulate the production of dopamine, serotonin, and endorphins
Despite being a series of slow movements, yoga is still an exercise, meaning it can challenge your current physical limitations, tone the body, and help you gain muscle. Evidently, self-confidence increases since you’ll look great too! Moreover, the production of dopamine, serotonin, and endorphins are stimulated during yoga. These hormones are natural painkillers of the body which lowers levels of cortisol and adrenaline.
Provide structure to your schedule
Depressive episodes can make you feel unmotivated, or an anxiety attack can be induced by an overwhelming list of things to do in one day. However, yoga and meditation assist in providing structure to your daily life. If you set aside a moment strictly for yoga and meditation, there’s a purpose and event to look forward to every day. You can’t help but feel relief or excitement at the idea of knowing a part of your busy schedule is dedicated solely to improving well-being.
Encourage self-care and love
This initially may not come to mind, but did you know yoga and meditation are actually forms of self-care? Regardless if you partake in the practices for five minutes or an hour, you are taking a part of your day to focus on yourself. With daily yoga and meditation, you begin to develop a relationship with yourself over time, bridge a connection between the state of your mind and body, and manifest a sense of compassion, empathy, and understanding for your struggles.
Help you focus on the present moment
Meditation helps you slow down from the fast-paced speed of life, rushing thoughts, and break the cycle of any worry pattern. Therefore, during meditation, you can see what tasks or actions should be prioritized in your life. This establishes a clear direction of a path you can take to accomplish goals as well. Lastly, you cannot help but realize the impermanence of situations and events as well. Since thoughts and emotions come and go, isn’t that true for pain and discomfort?
The next time you find yourself experiencing a depressive episode or a moment of anxiety, turn to yoga and any style of meditation to help calm and center yourself. While they are not the ultimate treatments for depression and anxiety, they unquestionably alleviate the symptoms just like medication or therapy. At the end of the day, while there are moments when you feel held back from living life and moving forward, remember you always have the ability to take control of your mind and body. You are never your depression or anxiety and never will be.