Meditation for Depression

How meditation can help to treat the core symptoms of depression

How widespread is depression?

With an estimated 350 million people affected worldwide,
depression is one of the most common mental health conditions.

How depression can impact all areas of life

Depression can affect all areas of life from sleeping to eating. It can also affect your work performance and relationships1. In fact, it can feel like it’s infiltrating your entire life. And worryingly, research suggests that depression and similar mental health conditions are on the rise1.

Depressive symptoms range widely in their severity and treatments vary from person to person. But the most likely treatment approaches involve using either prescription drugs and/or therapy.

However, an increasing amount of research is suggesting mindfulness-based meditation for depression can help treat the core symptoms.

How can mindfulness help with depression?

In a comprehensive meta-analysis of 39 scientific studies, researchers from Boston University examined the effectiveness of mindfulness-based therapies in alleviating anxiety and depression. They found that meditation had a significant effect for those clinically diagnosed, as well as those with everyday anxiety and mood problems2.

Researchers from Cambridge conducted a rigorous, randomised, controlled study to investigate the protective effects of a mindfulness-based therapy on recurrent depression sufferers.

The relapse rates of depressives who were taught mindfulness in addition to their usual treatment, were compared to a control group of participants who only received their usual treatment without meditation training.

In the control group, only 22% didn’t relapse whereas in the mindfulness group 64% didn’t relapse. In fact, mindfulness practitioners were 3 times more likely to avoid depression over the following year3.

Building on these findings, researchers have also looked at the role of mindfulness-based meditation as an alternative to pharmaceutical approaches to treating depressive conditions. A study, found a mindfulness based therapy to be effective in reducing reliance on anti-depressant medication.

One group of participants continued maintenance anti-depression medication while the other group of participants tapered off their use of medication while also being taught mindfulness.

Over a six month period, 75% of the mindfulness group completely discontinued their medication. Furthermore, they had lower rates of relapse and more enhanced quality of life in comparison to those on maintenance anti-depressants4.


  1. World Health Organization. (2013).
  2. Hofmann, S. G., Sawyer, A. T., Witt, A. A., & Oh, D. (2010). The effect of mindfulness-based therapy on anxiety and depression: A meta-analytic review. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 78(2), 169-183.
  1. Kuyken, W., Byford, S., Taylor, R. S., Watkins, E., Holden, E., White, K., et al. (2008). Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy to prevent relapse in recurrent depression. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 76(6), 966-978.
  2. Ma, S. H., & Teasdale, J. D. (2004). Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy for Depression: Replication and Exploration of Differential Relapse Prevention Effects. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 72(1), 31-40.