Meditation and Seasonal Depression
PUBLISHED: Monday, December 7, 2020

Meditation and Seasonal Depression

For millions of individuals across the Northern Hemisphere, the holidays and seasonal affective disorder come as something of a packaged deal. The shorter days, colder weather, and increased time spent indoors—especially pertinent this year—can overwhelm the joy that flows from holiday celebrations. For others, the holidays themselves can inspire more unhappy feelings than happy ones; memories of lost loved ones or prior traumatic events associated with the holiday season can quickly turn into bouts of depression. In either instance or for the people who are unlucky enough to deal with them both, meditation can be a useful tool to help beat back the winter and holiday blues.

Most meditative practices involve some manner of controlled or conscious breathing exercises, and for good reason. Focusing on regulating your breathing during stressful or otherwise overwhelming episodes can stop your mood from spinning further out of control and, in some people, even have a restorative effect. A simple, three-step exercise can be immensely useful in these situations.

First, inhale slowly through your nostrils. Try to visualize the air filling your lungs as you do so. Focus on the rising motion of your chest. Next, exhale slowly out of your mouth. As you do, try to picture the air leaving your body. Pay attention to the falling motion that starts in your chest and ends in your abdomen. Repeat this process for as long as necessary, blocking out as much external stimulation as possible. A quiet place to sit or lie down can help, but it isn’t necessary.

If you find yourself at home (or someplace else conducive) when a bout of seasonal or holiday depression strikes, you can also try a more traditional meditation session—even if it isn’t a normal part of your routine. All you need to do is find someplace quiet where you can sit and focus your thoughts inward. This is especially useful for overcoming feelings of being overwhelmed because a meditative break can serve as a “cooling down” period as much as a time to be proactively mindful. Even if meditation doesn’t help you feel joy more readily, these kinds of breaks can save you from worsening depression.

Whether you choose to engage completely with a meditative routine or pick parts that work for you, the underlying principles and utility of mindful practice remain consistent. For most people, there is no single cure for seasonal affective disorder or holiday depression; instead, the cure is an often-complex routine of professional and self-care that facilitates happiness. Meditative practices can be an integral part of that routine.