surviving depression

How Meditation Can Help Cope With Depression And Addiction

Meditation has changed my life. Some people start meditating for self-development; others see it as a way to relax.  For me, it was my state of mind which pushed me to start the practice: I was suffering from panic attacks and depression.

When I started out I really had no idea how meditation worked, and I didn’t think that it would have such a profound impact on me. At first, I saw it solely as a relaxation technique. I thought that when I started to meditate, positive emotions and peace would appear of their own accord and my depression would pass.

But it didn’t turn out like that. Over time I came to realise that meditation isn’t simply a relaxation technique or ‘benign antidepressant’ – it is much more than that, and my attempt to use it to cope with depression and panic attacks ultimately gave me results that I never imagined.

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I will refer to my own experience, but I believe that this experience is universal and can therefore be applied to anyone with similar problems.

Depression

I used to believe that depression was some kind of curse by which I had been struck. I would think, ‘I’m a normal, intelligent guy. I don’t know why I’m suffering; I don’t deserve this.’

I had absolutely no idea why I had depression, and therefore I didn’t know how to combat it. I didn’t want to take antidepressants, and so, at the advice of a friend, I started to practice meditation.

Meditation gave me the opportunity to have a look at myself, my thoughts and my emotions extrinsically – because meditation is observation! Observing your emotions without becoming involved in them!  All my shortcomings and weaknesses were laid bare before me! I can’t say that this was a completely painless experience, for I began to see that I wasn’t as great and clever as I thought.

And, most importantly, I began to understand the link between my character traits, my emotional habits and my depression. I realized that depression isn’t a curse. It is telling me that something within is out of whack – in the same way that physical pain signals the body isn’t working properly.

And it hadn’t come from nowhere! I was very emotional, sensitive, vulnerable, touchy, lazy, shy, egotistical and withdrawn. My depression had grown from these characteristics!  I realized that in order to escape it, I myself must change. Meditation offered me the chance to do this!  I realized that my thoughts and emotions were not me, and therefore I could control them.

This can apply to anyone! You are not your emotions! The practice will help you get to know yourself more deeply and give you insight into the reasons for your problems.

Panic attacks

Panic attacks are sudden bouts of panic accompanied by increased heart rate, shallow breathing, feelings of fear and intrusive thoughts. All in all, they are very unpleasant.

Meditation taught me not to identify myself with my fear. I stopped thinking of it as part of me. Yes, it will appear, but why should I succumb to it? It is nothing more than my body’s response to an adrenaline rush, which is what happens during a panic attack. Why should I fear the fear?

On one occasion I tried to observe the sense of fear, to see how it developed.  I observed it along with my emotions during meditation, without associating myself with them. I realized that there is nothing to fear in them; after all, I can’t die or lose my mind because of fear!

I became interested in what would happen if I tried to increase the sense of fear. I wouldn’t fight it, like I normally did; I wouldn’t think, ‘I’m going to die, I’m losing my mind, my heart’s going to stop’. I would try to fully absorb myself in thinking, ‘what happens, happens’.

At first the fear actually did increase, but I continued to monitor it and wasn’t afraid. And the panic attack passed! I realized that I could control everything, and it is meditation that taught me this.

Thanks to this, I stopped being afraid of the panic attacks, and they passed.

Meditation teaches you to observe your emotions and thoughts. It teaches you to accept everything that is happening to you and not fight it. If you learn to accept, your fear will disappear.

Smoking

My mind used to always be wondering, jumping from subject to subject, never giving my brain a rest.  I didn’t notice that my mind had this habit; or rather, I didn’t see it as a problem. Meditation gave my consciousness the chance to settle down, stay in one place, relax…

I realized just how much this strong internal anxiety was determining all my behavior and habits.  I couldn’t be by myself for any length of time because I became bored. And so to escape the boredom, I would browse the internet, play computer games, drink and smoke…

I realized that my dependency on cigarettes was not just due to a physical addiction to nicotine, but my psychological need to constantly be twiddling something between my fingers, to stimulate the pleasure centers in my brain, soothing my troubled psyche…

And if I never got rid of this need, I would never be able to give up smoking! It was as plain as day.

Meditation calms the nervous system, making you more relaxed. It is time a person spends alone with themselves. Therefore they learn how to overcome their fear of loneliness, of quiet, of boredom. These are some of the fears that propel people towards all kinds of harmful pursuits.

Meditation helps to remove the psychological preconditions of any addiction – loneliness, boredom, anxiety, nervousness, self-doubt, etc. So why do you smoke (if indeed you do)? Think hard about what’s stopping you from giving up.

Alcohol

As I’ve written above, I drank and smoked out of boredom.  I would drink alcohol in total excess.

I’ll add one more thing that has allowed me to easily part ways with my harmful habits:  meditation has given me a feeling of happiness and self-sufficiency; I almost always feel good, so I don’t need to use alcohol to make myself feel better.

In whatever way people justify their use of alcohol, the fact is that they drink or take drugs because they need them! They need them to be cheerful, to deal with stress, to block out their fears, to suppress unwelcome emotions, to forget.

But if people had an effective way of dealing with their stress and fears, one which let them be happy and upbeat and wasn’t harmful or addictive, why would they need anything else?

Nowadays I never use alcohol or nicotine.  I also virtually never drink caffeine.  I’m happy to spend time by myself, and I’m always in a state of comfort and joy – so why would I drink?

You will stop drinking and smoking only when you stop needing to! When you can find the source of joy and peace within yourself! Meditation may be the way to access this source!

Conclusion

Meditation has helped me not just in my battle with harmful habits and depression, but also to increase my willpower, improve my intellect and physical health, and become more sociable and confident. It has helped me gain insight into myself, and into my relationships with friends and life.  Thanks to this practice, I’ve got rid of my shortcomings and weaknesses (of which I had very, very many).

Meditation isn’t just a relaxation technique, like many people think. It is an effective instrument for self-knowledge and self-control; an instrument with whose help you can change your identity and become the kind of person you want to be!

My name is Nikolay Perov. I am an author of the blog Nperov.com – Personal Developmen Step by Step. I write about coping with personal problems like depression, anxiety, bad habits, and developing your personal skills. Many of articles on my site are devoted to meditation. Meditation has changed my life and I want to share this experience with you!