Lift Depression With Meditation

By Ziba Kashef

With summer coming to a close and shorter, darker days ahead, you might be wondering how to cope with the negative thoughts that often accompany the season’s change and can lead to depression. A recent study found that age-old meditative techniques and more modern cognitive therapy can help alleviate symptoms. Anil Coumar, a psychotherapist and director of the mental health clinic at the University of Washington, Seattle, offers these do-it-yourself mood-lifting meditations:

Get moving. For many people, meditation is a remote, Eastern technique that involves sitting with your legs crossed on a cushion. But almost any activity can be mindful and healing, says Coumar. “Through a practice of mindfulness, we can see how our thoughts are not facts—they come and go.” To slow down your thinking and realize that you can release negative thoughts as quickly as they come, try this eating meditation: Hold a raisin in your hand and intentionally look at it as if you’ve never seen one before. Roll it between your fingers and notice each crease. Pay attention to your thoughts about it—maybe you’ll think, This is ugly or I’ve never noticed the true color of a raisin before. Then put it in your mouth and observe how your saliva flows as you chew.

Uncover your unconscious. Imagine you’re walking down the street and see a good friend walking in the opposite direction. You nod and smile, but your pal just looks ahead and keeps going. How do you respond? “Someone might say, ‘Oh, she probably didn’t see me.’ Another might think, ‘What did I do wrong now?’ Depending on how you interpret that event, you’re going to feel good or bad,” says Coumar. This kind of cognitive exercise can teach us how we unconsciously have these thoughts. The point? To make the normally unconscious thoughts that fuel depression conscious so you can acknowledge them—and then more easily let them go.