OPINION: Meditation can be used as treatment for depression, anxiety

Mindfulness can prove useful tool for managing stress, overwhelming emotions



Even meditating for 15 minutes a day can improve overall quality of life by increasing focus and reducing tension in the body.

RAINY SHARMA, Evergreen columnist

Stop for a second. Take a deep breath, filling your stomach, not just your chest. Let your shoulders drop, unclench your jaw and exhale.

Even something simple like this can make a big change in your daily life. As human beings, we experience stress every day. One way to help reduce this is therapies like meditation and qigong.

Shallow breathing may increase stress and anxiety. This is when our lungs do not receive enough oxygen. When such a situation arises, we may feel stressed out because our body does not have proper energy.

“Sometimes breath [or] energy gets trapped in some parts of the body like neck or shoulders due to our sitting posture and we do not realize it. This generally happens due to shallow breathing,” said Liz Lee, licensed acupuncturist and traditional East Asian medicine practitioner at Pullman Regional Hospital.

This is where meditation and qigong come in, as both techniques involve deep breathing. Meditation is focusing the mind, breathing normally and letting go of all the other thoughts. This helps a person to stay emotionally calm and can eventually reduce stress.

“Meditation helps you become yourself. It relieves you from the stress and uncertainties that you may be feeling in society, in your life,” said Nitivia Jones, international student adviser at WSU. “I think it can liberate you and free you to be more confident in the knowledge about who [you are] and that’s the best thing you can be.”

Some people find it difficult to focus their mind during meditation. In that case, qigong can be helpful as it involves slow physical movements along with visualization and deep breathing through the abdomen. Visualization means to focus on the flow of energy through body while doing the physical movements. This can help increase concentration.

While both meditation and qigong have many positive aspects, they can harm the body in a negative way if not done properly. Hence, it is always suggested to do it with a group of people that are already doing it and under the guidance of proper instructors.

“The basic qigong exercises like hand movements and breathing need not require much guidance,” Lee said, “but if you are moving towards advanced qigong, it is essential to do it under expert guidance.”

The same applies for meditation as well. There are many health risks associated with meditation if not done properly. It can lead to seizures due to changes in the normal functioning of the body like blood pressure and heart rate. In some cases, it may lead to increased levels of stress and anxiety and even panic attacks.

One thing that needs to be kept in mind is that meditation is a slow process and it takes time to show its effects. It is important to be patient and not expect results very quickly. A casual approach toward meditation can hamper the results. Even the Dalai Lama himself cautions people against a casual approach toward meditation.

Another thing that can be done when you are stressed or do not feel right is to communicate. Sometimes people might feel the signs of stress and anxiety in their body, but they do not share it with anybody and keep it to themselves. This may worsen the situation. It is always better to let go of the thoughts and reach out for help.

“Some people find it harder to reach out as they don’t want to look stupid, especially if they feel it is something very basic,” Jones said. “But this should not be the case. If [you do look] stupid, it’s OK and you should reach out for help.”

While in many cases, meditation and qigong show effective results, in extreme cases of depression and sleeplessness, it may be important to take medication; however, this should only be done following the consultation from a medical professional.

“It’s for a medical professional to decide whether pills are the appropriate choice,” Jones said.

It is also helpful if medication and meditation are done simultaneously as they are not mutually exclusive, but this should not be done without proper consultation.

“Along with pills, people should also think if they are having proper food and proper breathing. They should not only depend on pills,” Lee said.