My grandma used to call it “transcendal medication.” She proved to have foresight.
There is research just out on Transcendental Meditation being shown to reduce depression. Some 40% of the population is said to get depressed. Estimates vary. Anyhow its big news. Especially in the wake of a recent Newsweek article: the depressing news about antidepressants. Its really worth a read a read.
The bottom line is that the placebo effect may account for the bulk of any improvement noted from antidepressants.
So if I was contemplating antidepressants right now I would do some reading first.
What is depression? There are lots of internet resources about. A good one is this Australian site.
Any down patch that lasts more than a fortnight may be diagnosable as depression. And its serious – and treatable. Its normal to feel sad, moody or low from time to time. But if you experience these feelings intensely, over a long time and without reason – maybe you better do something about it. Its hard to function normally and neuroscientist even talk about long-term damage to the brain.
According to Beyondblue.org, depression is a common mental health problem, experienced by one-in-five people at some stage of their lives.
Common behaviour associated with depression includes:
- uncharacteristic moodiness
- increased irritability and frustration
- finding it hard to take minor personal criticisms
- spending less time with friends and family
- loss of interest in food, sex, exercise or other pleasurable activities
- being awake throughout the night
- increased alcohol and drug use
- staying home from work or school
- increased physical health complaints like fatigue or pain
- being reckless or taking unnecessary risks (e.g. driving fast or dangerously)
- slowing down of thoughts and actions.
Most people assume that depression is caused simply by recent personal difficulties. Beyondblue asserts depression is often caused, however, by the mix of recent events and other longer-term or personal risk factors.
Apparently, ongoing difficulties, such as long-term unemployment or living in an abusive or uncaring relationship, are more likely to cause depression than recent life stressors. Depression can also run in families and some people will be at increased genetic risk. However, this doesn’t mean that you will automatically become depressed if a parent or close relative has had the illness. Life circumstances are still likely to have an important influence on your chances of becoming ill.
It’s also common for people to experience depression and anxiety at the same time. Now, it would surely follow that anything that reduced anxiety would help depression? And that is what we find with meditation. There are so many studies out there on the beneficial effects of meditation in general and TM in particular on anxiety, that there are meta-analyses, i.e. studies of studies on the matter. And Transcendental Meditation seems to be the big one, producing a significantly larger anxiety reduction than other techniques. For example, here is a meta analysis by Ken Eppley.
My situation is that I learned TM and depression went away for about thirty years. That’s not a bad outcome at all. And may partly explain why I am so keen on meditation. At the very least – there are no side effects. More here about depression and how TM helps.