Depression is one of the main health challenges that older adults are battling. Approximately, it affects 20% of 65 and older age adults.
Continuous depression leads to heart diseases and death if it is not properly handled. Moreover, it affects the daily activities of its victims by causing them to isolate themselves socially. This leads to a cognitive problem like memory loss.
Recently, there have been different studies on the effects of meditation on the changes of the brain. It is a result of providing an alternative way of treating depression.
Psychotherapy and antidepressant are the two major ways of treating depression. These methods are not working with some patients. This warrants the need for an alternative approach to this increasing health challenge.
For the past decades, there is an increase in the public interest to know the effect of meditation, especially, mindfulness meditation on depression. The result of the studies shows positive effects.
The current research suggests that daily meditation can change how the human brain responds to anxiety and stress, the two major causes of depression.
Changes To The Brain
Meditation practice trains the human brain to remain focused for a certain period. It also trains it to return to the same focus whenever negative emotions, thinking, and physical feelings interrupt the mind.
Gaelle Desbordes, a neuroscientist at Massachusetts General Hospital, and Benjamin Shapero, a psychologist at Massachusetts General Hospital and an instructor at Harvard Medical School are working together on mindfulness-based meditation as an alternative approach to depression.
Some findings show the benefits of mindfulness meditation on depression, anxiety, and chronic pains. According to Desbordes, there are some shreds of evidence where the application is obvious and believable. However, the effects are earth-shattering.
Some other studies show meditation changing some brain regions that are particularly linked with depression. For example, the medial prefrontal cortex of a depressed patient becomes hyperactive when depressed.
The medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC) is where one process information about himself. Information like pondering about the past or worrying about the future. The mPFC overdrives when people are stressed about the issues of life.
The amygdala, also known as the “fear center”, is another region of the brain that associates with depression. The amygdala is responsible for the fight-or-flight response. It triggers the adrenal glands to release cortisol, a stress hormone that responds to perceived danger or fear.
Depression happens when the two regions, “me center” and “fear center” work together. The “me center” reacts to anxiety and stress, while the “fear center” response to tackle danger that only exist in the mind.
Meditation breaks the link between the two brain regions. As we all know, when we meditate, we can ignore the negative feelings of anxiety and fear. According to Dr. Denninger, this is why stress level falls.
Scientists are seriously working on the effect of meditation on depression. Desbordes and others in Harvard and affiliate institutes are testing how meditation works on a depressed patient.
Generally, meditation enables you to respond to anxiety and stress positively, without allowing it to degenerate into depression.