Meditation for mental health

The mind is a complex thing: it brings a different mood, thought or emotion with every day that passes. It can be hard trying to navigate around it, but becoming mindful can bring that 3D type of dimension into life with more ease and understanding.

Mental disorders account for nearly one-half of the diseases that burden young adults in the United States, according to the Journal of Adolescent Health, which is the official publication of the Society for Adolescent Health and Medicine. The college years represent a developmentally challenging transition to adulthood, and untreated mental illness may have significant impacts on academic success, productivity, substance use and social relationships. Mindfulness meditation has been known to help with mental health — anxiety, stress, depression — and it can be done in many ways. A study published in JAMA Internal Medicine suggested that mindful meditation can help with psychological stresses such as anxiety and depression.

“Meditation — in particular, mindfulness meditation — can be integrated into psychotherapy as a technique to help address anxiety, depression, mood dysregulation and other conditions,” said Orson Morrison, the director of DePaul University Family and Community Services. “It helps by helping people be in the present, to observe instead of judge and allow difficult emotions to pass instead of escalate. As a psychologist, I find meditation very helpful in being present with my clients while I’m doing psychotherapy.”

Meditation teaches the mind to be present and in the moment — to embrace the feelings that may be surfacing, rather than straying from them.

“I believe I’ve come to know myself better through meditation,” said DePaul senior Alainna Plut. “It also makes me appreciate life more, and appreciate the ability for myself to feel these intense emotions.”

There is no specific form of meditation that ensures mindfulness. For some, it can mean walking and embracing bright colors in passing, washing the dishes, writing in a journal or simply sitting in silence and focusing on breathing. Meditation is about being aware. It may sound scary to embrace the pain and suffering life causes, but it creates a focus that wasn’t there before.

“Meditation has been extremely helpful just on a day-to-day basis to and being able to refocus,” said DePaul senior Brian Rhinehart.

When it comes to being mindful, the four noble truths are helpful in trying this form of meditation. The Buddha’s teachings discuss the four noble truths — the truth of suffering, the truth of why you’re suffering, the truth of the cessation of suffering and the truth of the path that leads to the end of suffering. In short version it means to embrace, let go, stop and act. Embrace the feelings of joy and pain, let go of the cause, stop and be aware of it, and act in a way that brings more understanding.

“When I started meditating, I found it really difficult initially, because sitting in that silence with myself was a perfect time for my fears and anxiety to come in screaming,” said DePaul senior Lauren McGrath. “I eventually found that I was able to calm down and feel real peace that I haven’t felt from doing anything else.”

Becoming mindful will bring more clarity to the things in life that may affect the long list of never-ending emotions. It means noticing things that may have not been visible before, but embracing them will bring acceptance to them. Showing the simplest of pleasures that life has to offer.

“By meditating, I can pay closer attention to the goodness and warmth inside of me that was being clouded by anxious thoughts,” Plut said. “And since realizing that, allows me to see that everybody has an innate goodness inside of them, too.”

Becoming mindful helps to cultivate a deeper meaning and more appreciative awareness of your body and mind. It’s all about using that awareness to further delve into mindful meditation. Take a walk and just simply listen to the wind against the trees. Make your favorite meal and just enjoy that meal — no TV, no music — take each bite with an awareness of flavor and spice. Life will never be a walk in the park, but it couldn’t hurt to do just that.

“I think that it goes beyond just being able to function every day. I think that it goes on a much deeper level,” Rhinehart said. “To understand the bigger questions in life, like who are we? Who am I? Why are we here? What purpose do we serve? What purpose is there in life? And I think meditation helps you kind of work through those questions and it kind of centers you. You don’t feel as uncomfortable about some of the unknowns. It kind of just starts to put some of the pieces together, and I think it’s a beautiful thing.”