Mindfulness Therapy: Learning to Sit with Depression

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Online Mindfulness Therapy is an exciting new development in psychotherapy that uses mindfulness to transform and resolve difficult emotional states such as anxiety and depression ...Read More

Living with depression means constantly looking for ways to cope. Here’s why mindfulness may be the answer.

Table of Contents 

  • The Science of Mindfulness 
  • Understanding Depression 
  • Mindfulness Techniques 
  • Personalizing Your Practice 
  • Overcoming Challenges 
  • Mindfulness and Professional Care 
  • Mindfulness Across the Depression Spectrum 
  • Cultivating Self-Compassion 
  • Daily Mindfulness 
  • FAQs 
  • Further Reading 
  • The Bottom Line 

Key Takeaways 

  • Mindfulness can help manage depression by regulating emotions and minimizing rumination. 
  • While mindfulness is not a magic cure, it can be easily integrated into daily life to complement other coping strategies. 
  • When used in tandem with professional guidance, mindfulness can be used to address symptoms associated with various forms of depression. 

If you live with depression, mindfulness may be the key to finding some relief. Mindfulness, or sustained awareness of the present moment, is increasingly thought to mitigate symptoms of depression by assisting emotion regulation and promoting emotional acceptance [1]. 


While mindfulness is not a cure-all for depression, it can be a worthy complement to existing treatments. Here’s how mindfulness may offer you support and how to make it part of your daily life. 

The Science of Mindfulness 

The inability to regulate oncoming emotions may exacerbate depression. Excessive rumination, worry, and emotion suppression can feed into its symptoms, holding you back from relief. 

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Research suggests that mindfulness can improve emotional regulation and strengthen cognitive reappraisal, making it easier to change how you view a given situation [2]. For some, the practice may help them maintain stable emotions when faced with a triggering situation. However, this may not work for those experiencing depression despite strong emotional regulation skills. 

Understanding Depression 

Depression is a mood disorder that influences how a person feels, thinks, and carries out daily activities. It’s often characterized by persistent sadness, a loss of interest in hobbies, and a lack of concentration or energy.

It’s important to seek ways to manage depression and prevent its effects on your relationships and overall well-being. Mindfulness may be a positive addition to your coping strategy, though it is not a magic cure. 

Mindfulness Techniques for Depression 

Mindfulness can be easily incorporated into daily life, often when performing other tasks. Some simple exercises include: 

  • Mindful breathing: With one hand on your stomach, slowly breathe in and out. Pay attention to the way your hand moves. 
  • Body-scan meditation: Lie down and breathe, focusing on a part of your body with each inhale. 
  • Mindful movement: While stretching or walking, pay close attention to the sensation of being in your body. 

Personalizing Your Mindfulness Practice 

The right mindfulness practice depends on your experience with depression. If you find it difficult to stay energized, any of the above exercises can be done lying down. And if you need to recenter yourself during a busy day, you can limit each exercise to just a few minutes. To mitigate the worrying and rumination that often come with depression, try detaching yourself from your thoughts and becoming fully aware of the present moment. 

Overcoming Challenges 

Discomfort or lack of concentration can be barriers to your mindfulness practice. Dr. Peter Strong, a leading proponent of mindfulness as a depression remedy, believes intention is key, urging his clients to “make the emotion, the depression or sadness or anger the very center of our meditation and choose to attend to it with kindness, compassion, and presence.” 

Continued effort may also make it easier to return to your mindfulness practice. Professional guidance can be extremely valuable for developing mindfulness strategies specific to your unique needs, especially if you struggle with severe depression. 

Integrating Mindfulness with Professional Care 

Mindfulness is most effective when coupled with professional mental health care. Qualified support can help you incorporate mindful practices into your daily routine and may offer complementary depression management methods. 

Strong is a proponent of mindfulness-based professional treatment, stating that it may help you “practice the art of inner healing at the core level and learn a totally different way of being with the many challenges of life.” If you think you might have depression or are unable to manage its symptoms alone, it may be time to seek professional help. 

Mindfulness Across the Spectrum of Depression 

Mindfulness is a versatile practice that can be adapted to various types of depression. Those who struggle with seasonal affective disorder experience symptoms about  40% of the year and may only benefit from mindfulness exercises when symptoms flare [4]. 

Those with major depressive disorder have a lifetime recurrence risk of 60%, making them more likely to reencounter depression symptoms after they dissipate [5]. In these cases, a sustained mindfulness practice may reduce their severity. 

Cultivating Self-Compassion Through Mindfulness 

According to Strong, “Our suffering needs our care and attention, our presence and willingness to just sit with it just as much. Our inner emotions need our attention if they are to heal.”

Self-compassion can bridge the gap between mindfulness and depression relief. A positive relationship with yourself can make a mindful moment more potent and thus be more emotionally calming. Try practicing self-compassion now by writing a kind letter to yourself. 

Daily Integration of Mindfulness 

Consistency is key when it comes to mindfulness. To establish a regular practice, it helps to build mindful sessions into your daily routine. Consider reserving time to practice mindfulness first thing in the morning or when you get home from work. 

Keeping your practice simple can make it easier to return to daily. Start by setting aside just five minutes each day, then work up to longer mindfulness periods. At home, try to conduct each session in a quiet space with minimal distractions. 

Frequently Asked Questions 

Need to know more about mindfulness and depression? Here’s what readers want to know. 

Can mindfulness worsen depression? 

Mindfulness is unlikely to exacerbate symptoms of depression. Because it facilitates detachment from worries and ruminations, it’s more common for people to feel greater emotional stability after a mindfulness session. 

Does mindfulness have any adverse effects? 

Negative effects, like anxiety or pain, have occasionally been attributed to mindfulness practices. However, research suggests that these are more likely caused by the mood disorder itself, rather than a person’s attempt to manage it through mindfulness [3]. 

Curated Resources for Continued Learning 

For further understanding of mindfulness for meditation, here are some resources to explore: 

  • The Mindful Way Through Depression by Mark Williams and Jon Zabat Kin 
  • Headspace, a guided meditation app 
  • Mindful, a website and magazine that offers tips for incorporating mindfulness into a busy life [6] 

As always, professional help can be the most effective. When seeking mindfulness-based therapy, look for a therapist who promotes bodily awareness and melds traditional techniques with mindful strategies. 

The Bottom Line 

While not a universal cure, mindfulness is a useful tool that may help you regulate your emotions and reduce negative thoughts, giving you extra strength that can help with depression management. With little time and effort, you can start incorporating mindfulness into your routine today. 

As with any treatment strategy, it’s important to consult with a mental health professional before implementing mindfulness practices. When used complementary to professional treatment, mindfulness can provide some much-needed support. 

  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5605587/ 
  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6418017/ 
  3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC9024164/ 
  4. https://medlineplus.gov/genetics/condition/seasonal-affective-disorder/#:~:text=For%20those%20affected%2C%20it%20is,the%20disorder%20in%20consecutive%20winters
  5. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7082055/ 
  6. https://www.mindful.org/ 
Keep Reading By Author Peter Strong, Ph.D.
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