Research has shown that mindfulness-based cognitive therapy and meditation help fight and prevent depression, anger, agitation, and anxiety. The mindfulness approach uses meditation, yoga, and breathing exercises to focus awareness on the present moment and break negative thinking patterns.
Meditation won’t cure bipolar disorder, but it can help to stabilize mood. Bipolar disorder can be complicated by stress, and is stressful itself. Relaxation techniques can be a useful part of an overall treatment plan for managing the disorder.
This study shows that medications can help people with bipolar disorder in the short term, and that meditation is helpful in the long term for a more balanced mood over a longer period of time. Meditation helps develop an awareness of distressing thoughts and feelings, and this awareness helps you disengage from those thoughts, rather than try to change or fix them.
People who meditate using a supervised mindfulness-based cognitive therapy approach may see a reduction in depression that directly correlates to how many days they meditate. The more they meditated, the fewer symptoms they had, according to a study published in 2013 in Behaviour Research and Therapy.
6 Ways Meditation Affects the Brain
- Meditation naturally boost Serotonin
- Meditation enables a serotonin-abundant neuroparadise, ideal for the growth of fresh brain cells, both preventing and reversing Bipolar disorder and all of its’ negative effects.
- Meditation’s powerful neuron bathing effect makes the brain incredibly resilient to the effects of stress, installing a permanently effective Bipolar “shield,” smoothing out the manic, while deactivating the depression. (Source: EOC Institute)
- Meditation is the best natural, healthy Endorphin & Dopamine booster
- Proven by countless studies, including a 1995 (Harte et al – Biological Psychology Journal) study which found meditation to be even superior to running for naturally boosting Endorphins & Dopamine, meditation is the very best tool to get feel-good brain chemicals coming and going in the healthiest way possible, training your brain-juice capacity to modulate anything and everything.
- For the Bipolar sufferer, this means a highly resilient brain, preventing any potential manic episode.
- Meditation Calms the Amygdala
- Harvard neuroscientist Dr. Sara Lazar brain scanned meditation participants before and after an 8 week mindfulness study. She found that the meditators’ amygdalae, or “fear center,” were less active and physically transformed. The amygdala is also the primary brain region linked to bipolar disorder, and thus this finding has highly significant implications, proving that meditation makes the brain essentially “bulletproof” to the debilitating effects of bipolar disorder.
- Meditation Strengthens The Prefrontal Cortex
- A landmark 2005 study by neuroscientists from the University of Massachusetts discovered that the brains of meditation practitioners had much more thickness, density, and activity within their prefrontal cortex.
- Building up this region through meditation means dramatically less anxiety & depression, more brainpower, better decision making, super mental & emotional health, and many other positive effects.
- Meditation Transforms The Mind Of The Bipolar Disorder Sufferer
- Once the practice of meditation becomes habitual, the bipolar patient will develop an internal toolkit of skills, such as quickly and easily moving from a state of confusion and anxiety to one of inner peace and calm.
- Meditation will lead you to a state of advanced mental awareness, never getting too high or too low, constantly maintaining a well balanced, clear, calm, focused, and creative state of mind.
- Meditation “Balances” The Bipolar Disorder Brain
- Through a process called “neurogenesis,” meditation’s fresh brain cell generation effectively paves a foundation of well-fortified neural pathways between your left and right brain hemispheres, enabling what doctors call “whole brain synchronization.”
- This highly advanced mind-state is incredibly beneficial for anyone suffering anxiety, depression, and especially Bipolar disorder.
TM AND BIPOLAR DISORDER
Transcendental Meditation is a specific form of mantra meditation. Maharishi Mahesh Yogi (1918–2008) introduced the TM technique and TM movement in India, in the mid-1950s. The TM technique involves the use of a sound or mantra, and is practiced for 15–20 minutes twice per day. According to the Transcendental Meditation movement, it is a method for relaxation, stress reduction, and self-development.
Hundreds of published research studies on the TM technique have documented its effectiveness on stress and anxiety, brain function, cardiovascular health, and more.
Norman E. Rosenthal, M.D. is a celebrated author and professor of psychiatry at Georgetown University Medical School. For 20 years he was a senior researcher at the National Institutes of Health (NIH). He has spent three decades conducting medical research, first at Columbia University and then at NIH. Dr. Rosenthal has written the book “Transcendence: Healing and Transformation Through Transcendental Meditation.” In addition to exploring the scientific documentation of healing and transformation through TM practice, the book features case studies and interviews with meditators — including Paul McCartney, Russell Brand, Martin Scorsese, Moby, Laura Dern and David Lynch — who share their life-changing experiences.
Rosenthal during an interview with Huffington Post:
“Experiments on people practicing TM show that brain waves change during transcendence in a highly significant way. TM practice increases brain wave coherence, which is an area of growing interest among neuroscientists. Brain wave coherence is generally a good thing. It correlates with high levels of intelligence and competence.
The potential clinical power of this technique is amazing. It offers the promise to transform the lives of millions who suffer. ”
MINDFULNESS AND BIPOLAR DISORDER
The cultivation of mindfulness has roots in Buddhism, but most religions include some type of prayer or meditation technique that helps shift thoughts away from the usual preoccupations toward an appreciation of the moment and a larger perspective on life. Mindfulness refers to the act of present moment awareness, helping people to actively work through feelings of depression, anxiety, and stress in order to improve the quality of life. Attention is highly trainable through various mindfulness practices like meditation, Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) and Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT).
Professor emeritus Jon Kabat-Zinn, founder and former director of the Stress Reduction Clinic at the University of Massachusetts Medical Center, helped to bring the practice of mindfulness meditation into mainstream medicine and demonstrated that practicing mindfulness can bring improvements in both physical and psychological symptoms as well as positive changes in health attitudes and behaviors.
In recent years, psychotherapists have turned to mindfulness meditation as an important element in the treatment of a number of problems, including:
- substance abuse
- eating disorders
- couples’ conflicts
- anxiety disorders
- obsessive-compulsive disorder
Some experts believe that mindfulness works by helping people to accept their experiences, including negative or painful ones, rather than react to them with avoidance and denial.
It’s become more common for mindfulness meditation to be combined with psychotherapy, especially cognitive behavioral therapy, which makes sense since both meditation and cognitive behavioral therapy share the objective of giving people more clear perspectives on irrational and self-defeating thoughts.
A landmark recent study from researchers at Lund University showed a group mindfulness treatment to be as effective as traditional talk therapy for treating anxiety and depression. Evidence of the efficacy of mindfulness-based treatments continues to grow. According to Insel, there are now nearly 500 scientific studies on mindfulness meditation and the brain in the National Institute of Health’s PubMed database.
Mindfulness research pioneer and founder of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction, Jon Kabat-Zinn, has explained that research and testimonials from patients and clinicians suggest that we can turn “the medication down and the meditation up”:
“We’ve seen this in the clinical domain for many years. People, in concert with their physicians… actually going off their medications for pain, for anxiety, for depression, as they begin to learn the self-regulatory elements of mindfulness. They discover that the things that used to be symptomatically problematic for them are no longer arising at the same level.”
Mindfulness Meditation & Its Effects on The Brain
New research from Carnegie Mellon University provides a window into the brain changes that link mindfulness meditation training with health in stressed adults. Published in Biological Psychiatry, the study shows that mindfulness meditation training, compared to relaxation training, reduces Interleukin-6, an inflammatory health biomarker, in high-stress, unemployed adults.
The biological health-related benefits occur because mindfulness meditation training fundamentally alters brain network functional connectivity patterns and the brain changes statistically explain the improvements in inflammation.
Research has shown mindfulness to increase activity in brain areas associated with attention and emotion regulation. Mindfulness also facilitates neuroplasticity — the creation of new connections and neural pathways in the brain.
Here are some additional resources regarding meditation as it relates to bipolar disorder treatment: