Beyond Blue

Beyond Blue

Mindful Meditation and Depression: Some Lotus Therapy

mindful meditation2.jpg

Has your therapist recommended mindful meditation?

If she hasn’t already, she very well might try to integrate it into your cognitive behavioral therapy by the time you graduate from counseling.

The New York Times ran an interesting piece about the movement of mindful meditation among psychologists, counselors, and (I shall add) life coaches. The research is inconclusive. The article chronicles success stories but also includes studies showing that, in some cases, mindful meditation can be damaging.


My take on this is that mindful meditation and all meditative practices (tai chi, transcendental meditation, and yoga) are very positive and constructive techniques to augment your treatment. However, when suicidal or severely depressed, they can be damaging to recovery. Can be. Not always. Some severely depressed people are helped. But I, for one, was a case where my attempts worsened my depression, because I failed miserably at mastering my thoughts, and that failure in turn made me feel more depressed.

Here are some excerpts of the article. To read the entire piece click here.

This exercise in focused awareness and mental catch-and-release of emotions has become perhaps the most popular new psychotherapy technique of the past decade. Mindfulness meditation, as it is called, is rooted in the teachings of a fifth-century B.C. Indian prince, Siddhartha Gautama, later known as the Buddha. It is catching the attention of talk therapists of all stripes, including academic researchers, Freudian analysts in private practice and skeptics who see all the hallmarks of another fad.


For years, psychotherapists have worked to relieve suffering by reframing the content of patients’ thoughts, directly altering behavior or helping people gain insight into the subconscious sources of their despair and anxiety. The promise of mindfulness meditation is that it can help patients endure flash floods of emotion during the therapeutic process — and ultimately alter reactions to daily experience at a level that words cannot reach. “The interest in this has just taken off,” said Zindel Segal, a psychologist at the Center of Addiction and Mental Health in Toronto, where the above group therapy session was taped. “And I think a big part of it is that more and more therapists are practicing some form of contemplation themselves and want to bring that into therapy.”


At workshops and conferences across the country, students, counselors and psychologists in private practice throng lectures on mindfulness. The National Institutes of Health is financing more than 50 studies testing mindfulness techniques, up from 3 in 2000, to help relieve stress, soothe addictive cravings, improve attention, lift despair and reduce hot flashes.

Some proponents say Buddha’s arrival in psychotherapy signals a broader opening in the culture at large — a way to access deeper healing, a hidden path revealed.

Yet so far, the evidence that mindfulness meditation helps relieve psychiatric symptoms is thin, and in some cases, it may make people worse, some studies suggest. Many researchers now worry that the enthusiasm for Buddhist practice will run so far ahead of the science that this promising psychological tool could turn into another fad.


For all these hopeful signs, the science behind mindfulness is in its infancy. The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, which researches health practices, last year published a comprehensive review of meditation studies, including T.M., Zen and mindfulness practice, for a wide variety of physical and mental problems. The study found that over all, the research was too sketchy to draw conclusions.

A recent review by Canadian researchers, focusing specifically on mindfulness meditation, concluded that it did “not have a reliable effect on depression and anxiety.”

Therapists who incorporate mindfulness practices do not agree when the meditation is most useful, either. Some say Buddhist meditation is most useful for patients with moderate emotional problems. Others, like Dr. Linehan, insist that patients in severe mental distress are the best candidates for mindfulness.


A case in point is mindfulness-based therapy to prevent a relapse into depression. The treatment significantly reduced the risk of relapse in people who have had three or more episodes of depression. But it may have had the opposite effect on people who had one or two previous episodes, two studies suggest.

The mindfulness treatment “may be contraindicated for this group of patients,” S. Helen Ma and Dr. Teasdale of the Medical Research Council concluded in a 2004 study of the therapy.

Since mindfulness meditation may have different effects on different mental struggles, the challenge for its proponents will be to specify where it is most effective — and soon, given how popular the practice is becoming.


The question, said Linda Barnes, an associate professor of family medicine and pediatrics at the Boston University School of Medicine, is not whether mindfulness meditation will become a sophisticated therapeutic technique or lapse into self-help cliché.

“The answer to that question is yes to both,” Dr. Barnes said.
The real issue, most researchers agree, is whether the science will keep pace and help people distinguish the mindful variety from the mindless.

To read the rest of the article, click here.

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  • Melzoom

    For me, meditating in large is being aware of my breath. Breathing in one nostril and out the other (It’s harder than you think…) This is especially helpful in my recovery because of the anxiety being the root cause of my depression.
    But I have had the days where I think, “Man! If I can’t even sit still and breathe, what can I do right???” So I can see where this may be a trouble spot for dealing with depression only.
    What an interesting article.

  • marylou marques

    hi my name is marylou i live in cibilo tx with my bobfriend for 3yrs .we have 5month baby we have no comunicatino what so ever.we dont do nothing togater. i always home with the baby i have no family,and no money to go any where.ever since the baby got here, every thing got really weir.heis been going hunting every week, he wount have sex, he hate it when im tring to love him. please help me.? do you thing he is seening somone eles?

  • Mary Anne

    ok at the risk of being burned at the stake I am going to respond to THIS article.
    I am a recovering christian. I now walk a pagan path which has me more in touch with God and Spirit than ever before! Some people call alot of what I practice NEW AGE but it includes meditation. I have always heard that praying is talking to God and meditation is listening. That has always worked for me. Just getting quiet, quieting the mind. It is amazing what relief it has brought me in times of anxiety and depression.
    There are other things too that can really calm you, Therese being a Catholic you too probably burn candles as a sign of prayers going up to God. I do this often, along with burning incense and using natural herbs and oils.
    I walk a Native American path which is Earth based. I study and practice the “OLD WAYS” which have been on this Earth longer than most all man made religions.
    If any of you are interested check out the White Bison website on the Internet. It has daily prayers to Great Spirit and a line of thinking that may be eye opening to you.
    Do not judge a brother or sister until you have walked a mile in thier moccassins.
    love and blessings, SilverMoon aka Mary Anne

  • Jerry

    No burning at the stake here. 😉
    I fully understand how mindfulness meditation can be a problem when you are in depression. I think in those cases a better form of meditation would be somehing called Guided Imagery. That is something I practice and am trained in as well. I have found that when my own thoughts seem out of control that if I have someone else’s voice guiding the meditation/imagery I can stay on the path most of the time. I like what was posted about breathing as well as Native American paths. Therese, thank you so much for thiws post. It was timely and a wonerful reminder of the gift of meditation.

  • Larry Parker

    Great method of meditation for relaxation if you are physically stressed/anxious — I call it “meditation for dummies” (an amateur yoga instructor still in grad school taught me), because that’s about all I can do.
    Sit upright in a chair and put your hands on your knees as if you are playing a childhood game. Keep your eyes half-open as well as your lips (i.e., pursed, neither open nor closed).
    DON’T concentrate on your breathing coming in. You can suck air as crazily as a mountain climber on Everest if that’s what you need to do. Just concentrate on your breathing going out as you S-T-R-E-T-C-H the air going out, gently blowing through your lips like whistling.
    I’ve never ceased to be rubber-limbed loose and virtually asleep doing this (it’s very tough to keep your eyes open) within 5 minutes.
    PS — You can actually do this on a subway — I have …

  • Be

    I have been meditating for almost 3 years, and dont see why people would say meditation can be dangerous to certain types of mental health?… In this article they dont even give you the ‘whys’ they just post the question, as to question the validity of meditation, and leave you in doubt… probably those people dont meditate.

  • Anonymous

    I would guess that meditation might be contraindicated in some cases because your functional abilities are already in slow mode when you’re depressed…and meditating only further exacerbates the process. ? I find at least personally I need to energize rather than submerge to feel better. Right now I need a whopping dose of energy!

  • Lynne

    Sorry forgot to post my name for above comment…new format and all.

  • Lauri

    This is an off-topic question, but it’s something I need to know. I take 50mg of generic Zoloft (Sertraline) every day. I’ve used this medication off-and-on for years without any problems. Within the past month, I’ve been dealing with emotional issues that only crop up when I’m not taking my medication. The questions I’ve been asking myself range from, could this be happening because of job stress, to a possible
    drug reaction because I recently started taking an amped-up multi vitamin/mineral and calcium citrate in addition to my anti-depressant. Could I need a stronger dose? Is hot, humid weather a factor? Could I have a bad batch of pills? I really need your help on this. My job is on the line. I’m trapped in it until I, a. screw up again, b. manage to hold on to it until I’m forced to retire, or c. die. I’m 52 years old. I’ve been employed in my industry for 25 years. I’m a good worker, even though I’ve shafted myself. I take responsibilty for my actions and accept that I’ve done this to myself. I haven’t spoken to my doctor, sought out a therapist, or brought my concerns to HR. I don’t feel I can present myself well at this time. I have to feel prepared, ready to present my case and concerns in a calm, rational manner before I do so. It may be nothing more than an illusion. I need that illusion. Any help, in any form, will be appreciated. Thank you

  • Nanette

    I dont think the multi vitamin or calcium is the culprit. However you could be having a hormonal imbalance. not sure- I would recommend checking it out , doing some tests for vitamin deficiencies, or TOO high a supplement. Calcium/magnesium can only be absorbed by the body so much at a time. you may need to split it. Assuming everything else is ok- I would try doing something like More exercise, if you can, yoga, etc., It is also QUITE possible after a long time using one SSRI they can become in effective. I had this occur with paxil I believe. Also when stopping the meds the withdrawal effect can occur depending on how much you are stopping, if not tapering correctly.
    good luck. hope it works out ok.

  • Ollivia – Music For Meditation

    Mindfulness Meditation will have many benefits, the most i got was positive thinking atitude.usually i think negative before geeting into a work, so maximum of the time i can’t succeed in the work, i become very much depressed so one of my friend adviced me to follow mindfulnes meditation. when i got depressed i simply sit in a quite place close my eyes and meditate for 10-15 minutes and become relaxed. I got good result on practicing such technique.

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