by Anna Hunt: The combination of meditation and music may be one of the simplest ways to fend off depression…
The two have no unpleasant side-effects. Nearly everyone can enjoy them, and the cost is negligible. They can be used together or stand-alone to reduce stress, regulate mood and reconnect with one’s soul. They are an easy way to actively nurture our mood. As well, they can help mitigate the stressed-out and overwhelmed human condition that has become all too common.
Forces of Modern Life that Lead to Depression
It’s truly no surprise that depression is so prevalent in our society. There are so many expectations, responsibilities, and pressures. As a result, we often find ourselves in pursuit of something seemingly better or greater.
Every little hiccup along these pursuits leaves us frustrated, unsatisfied, and even fearful that we will fail. Failures are treated with criticism, especially from the inner voice that lives inside the mind.
This voice affects our feelings more than anything else, yet we spend little time nurturing it from within. Instead, we allow this voice to be fed by outside influences such as media, pop culture, colleagues and friends. Even when we think we’ve got a handle on life, our inner judge easily fills us with doubt and anxiety.
When we’re not in pursuit of something greater, we’re often withdrawing, hesitating or hiding. The comparative lifestyle of today’s humanity easily leaves us feeling inadequate or lacking. Our withdrawal is further accentuated by fear and trauma, which are like scars on our psyche, created by experiences of deception, violence and malice.
These scars leave us fearful of facing new challenges and scared of experiencing life. Moreover, they can trap us in a permanent state of withdrawal.
Feeling fearful, deficient and lacking, even in the most minuscule way, can make you recoil from life. When you experience this enough, you start to feel empty. You create a disconnect from your true, authentic self. This emptiness, this disconnect, can be called depression.
Pursuit and withdrawal – these are prevalent forces in modern life. Nearly everyone experiences them. Some know how to overcome the internal struggles these forces create. Only few are born or raised in a way so they can ignore them. As such, most of us have to learn to overcome the fallout of these forces or fall victim.
Imbalance of the Mind and Soul
Depression is not just a simple chemical imbalance, not for many people who experience it. Depression is an imbalance of the mind and soul, brought on by outside experience and our inner reaction to this experience. Thus, it can arise even if our physical body is functioning properly. Therefore, it’s impractical to always treat it with pharmaceutical drugs.
If depression was a chemical defect in the brain, then drugs would easily solve it. But they do not. They only mask the problem or root cause and allow it to fester. This is why many people do not find inner joy and contentment when taking antidepressants. They only find short-lived illusions of happiness, with a whole bunch of unpleasant physical side-effects.
The challenge is to fend off depression, or drive it away, by taking control. It means taking personal responsibility to nurture our inner voice and create a self-dialogue that’s in agreement with the soul. This is not the easy way out because it takes practice. But once you’re out, you get to experience true contentment.
Meditation versus Depression
Meditation is one of the best natural ways to prevent and even treat depression. There are numerous scientific studies that prove the benefits of this simple, yet profound, practice. Below are just two examples.
A study out of Oxford University showed that mindfulness meditation has the same effect as mood boosting drugs. Moreover, researchers at the Oxford Mindfulness Centre found that mindfulness can serve as an alternative treatment to depression, as well as suicidal depression, bipolar disorder and serious health anxiety. Finally, it can be a very effective practice to prevent the onset of depression, especially early on in life.
When meditating, we learn how to face the inner harsh voices of fear and judgement, training ourselves to stop reacting to these voices. Over time, we learn to quiet these voices, or even change their tone to be more positive and loving.
Another study from the University of Iowa School of Medicine found that a regular meditation practice can lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol. Therefore, ongoing meditation has the potential to reverse the effects of chronic stress that we create, often involuntarily, through our competitive pursuits and fearful withdrawals.
Meditation and Music
Most of us have experienced first-hand the power of music. It can give you goosebumps, make you burst into tears with joy, and brings back feelings from moments long gone.
The reason why music can give you such a pleasurable high is that it affects your brain’s dopamine release. Many scientists call dopamine the “reward chemical.” It helps regulate moods and feelings of pleasure.
Science has also shown that music affects the regions of the brain involved in internally-focused thought, empathy and self-awareness. It doesn’t matter what music you listen to. As long as it’s something you love then it will impact the neural activity in this region.
Even when music awakens sad or painful memories within us, we often feel better in the long run. The music makes us face our sadness, grief or sorrow. We may not yet know how to overcome these feelings, but we are forced to stop withdrawing and hiding from our fears. At times, letting go of some of the pain, in itself, makes us feel better.
When you combine meditation and music, you’re likely to experience profound effects on your mood and state of mind. Indian spiritual leader and humanitarian Sri Sri Ravi Shankar once stated:
“Meditation can make life musical, and music can bring a deep inner peace.”
Sadly, we are so accustomed to conveniences in our world that we’ve come to consider inner work and self-care a hassle. We are annoyed when told that we must change our diet, allow time for exercise, and start a daily meditation.
It’s almost laughable the way people react when they are told to sit for 30 minutes daily in stillness. They make it seem like it’s so much effort that you would think they are training for a marathon! Even 10 minutes of meditation seems unfeasible to some people.
This is where music comes into play. It is often easy to listen to our favorite tunes for hours. Thus, music may make the practice of mindfulness meditation more attainable.
Meditation is not exclusive to silence and stillness. There is nothing wrong with playing some of your favorite music while you sit and practice being mindful. At times, you will even feel like you need the release of movement and dance, both of which can be quite liberating.
There are many wonderful sound-based meditation methods. Some use binaural beats, while others use gongs, Tibetan bells, and singing bowls. You may also like the world’s first meditation program that uses 3D sounds. They’re all created with the same goal in mind: to help you become present, aware and in tune with your true, authentic self.
Meditation and music may seem like a simple answer to the devastating struggle of depression. On the other hand, they may shine a ray of hope for many who suffer the fallout from life’s relentless pursuits and recoils. You may not witness much change after just one day of meditation. It may take longer than a week. Yet, a regular practice, over a few weeks and then months is guaranteed to make its mark on your mind and soul, healing the scars and patching up the holes we’ve created, so you can once again feel whole and authentic.