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The Latin root of meditate is "meditatum" meaning "to ponder." Meditation is therefore the act of focusing one's mind in some internal and specific way. There are hundreds of forms of meditation many of which are directly or loosely associated with a religious practice. Generally speaking, those who practice meditation can calm and relax their mind and physiological state such that healing occurs.
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Effect of Meditation on Depression
Some ancient cultures have a way of slowing the mind to help curb the circular and obsessive thinking patterns that often accompany depression. Meditation can be used to focus your mind, quiet the 'chatter', and observe your own thought process, if done properly. Done incorrectly, it could cause you to amplify the depressive cognitive self-talk, overly focus on it, and lead to more entrenched depression. Depression, by it's nature, lends to a clouded view of the world and oneself, and I would posit meditation asks one to set one's entire ego-self aside, which is one of the biggest difficulties of depression--one's own thoughts and emotions are negatively locked into themselves when depressed.
Most of us use our minds at work (and not our bodies), we never let our minds rest (since we feel that 'haste makes waste'), we 'relax' by watching TV (which actually drains us of mental energy instead of building us up after a day of constant thinking), we move our bodies much less than our ancestors, we find it uncomfortable to just 'be' with someone without 'doing' something, and then - to top it all off - we try to THINK our way out of our sadness through so-called 'rationalization'.
It takes work - in the form of mental-training - to help our minds stop obsessing. Many people find that a daily meditation practice helps to quiet the mind.
Over time you will build a capacity to be aware of all that happens in your mind allowing you to relax from focusing on specific (often negative) thoughts. Instead, you'll simply observe the stream of thoughts from a place in consciousness outside of your immediate ego. Practiced meditation can help treat depression along with sleep, exercise, diet, rituals, herbal supplements, professional help, and if necessary, possibly prescription drugs
Also, the treatment for depression called Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction includes some meditation.
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How to Use Meditation
Meditation has been practiced for thousands of years by many different cultures. A personal meditation practice therefore, can take many forms; you may want to look into having a practitioner help you set up a personal daily practice that is tailored for you. Or, you can take some meditation classes where the meditative experience is led by an instructor. If you practice a more ancient form of yoga, your practice will include a meditative component as yoga was initally created as a "moving meditation." Asana, is a specific cross-legged and sitting body position used in yoga for meditation.
When you first start meditating, you'll want to work on developing full and focused awareness while your stream of thoughts (mental chatter) goes on without you dwelling on individual thoughts. Many people simply observing their breath.
Working with an expert in the field of meditation, or preferably a mental health specialist who has such credentials or background would be ideal.
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