How Meditation Helped Me Fight Depression and Improved My Self-Esteem
Depression and low self-esteem can be debilitating. I know this first hand because I have suffered from low self-esteem and depression all my life. From rejection by school peers, to verbal abuse at home, to divorce. Unfortunately, it wasn’t until after my divorce that I began to dig deep and start the healing process because I realized that I was repeating unhealthy patterns and making poor choices. Unhealthy patterns? Poor choices? Suffering from low self esteem and depression turned me into a people pleaser, the girl who couldn’t say no for fear of disappointing someone else and hurting their feelings. I valued everyone else’s needs and wants before my own because I was STARVED for love and attention. It was never about me, it was always about them and their happiness, not mine. I had very little self-worth, that dwindled into hopelessness and this impacted my ability to excel and find any joy in my life.
Unfortunately, we as women are known to question our self-worth more than men; whether we are conflicted about how we look, or fearful of expressing our opinions. I had to take charge of my life and make a deliberate attempt to fight depression and boost my self esteem to prevent repeated patterns. I turned inward to my faith in God and meditation to connect with my true inner self.
Fortunately, research has shown that meditation can act as a powerful tool to help you regain confidence and build self-esteem.
I read an excellent book by Ed and Deb Shapiro, “Be the Change: How Meditation Can Transform You and the World”. They describe two ways that meditation can help build self-confidence.
First, it allows you to rediscover and rekindle a friendship with yourself. As genuine good friends do, you’ll learn to accept yourself, flaws and all, for who you truly are. Granted sitting in silence isn’t easy, but after sometime I got to connect with my true self, and realized that many of my self-doubts were not valid. They were just stories that I’ve been telling myself for years, the voices in my head that wouldn’t go away. It took a long time to free myself from this negative chatter, but soon after, this realization allowed me to be more mindful in my thoughts and help regain my confidence and believe in my own abilities and worthiness.
Secondly, meditation helps build self confidence when you discover your connection between yourself and others. We are all fragile human beings. Nobody’s perfect and we all have our struggles, whether we choose to share them or not. Reminding myself that I’m not alone in my trials, gives me the strength to keep going and has helped me shift my focus away from my own shortcomings. My focus, instead, shifted from my own thoughts of negativity and hopelessness, to the trials that others were struggling with. Extending this kindness to others meant that I was no longer bogged down with my own self-centered thoughts because I was focused on being compassionate towards others.
Most people are under the impression that you need to sit cross-legged in a quiet place to meditate. While finding a quiet location does help, you don’t necessarily have to limit yourself to a specific meditation location. In fact, many therapists recommend meditating anywhere; in a crowded metro while commuting to work, at work during a coffee break, or in a conference room just before an important meeting. I actually meditate best when there’s sound and life around me; birds chirping outside my window.
Once you’ve found your ideal meditation space, get comfortable, and try to sit upright, whether you’re seated on a chair or cross-legged on the floor. Doing this will allow for comfortable meditation without joint or body pain distractions. I have lower back problems, so it’s helpful for me to place a memory foam pillow beneath my lower back.
To begin meditation, I close my eyes, relax my shoulders and slowly take deep breaths. I focus on the breath and the sounds around me. When I first started meditating, I spent a great deal of time falling back into my distractive thoughts. I had to learn compassionate towards myself, let the thoughts go, and come back to the breath.
People focus on different things in their state of meditation. Some people focus on positive self-affirmations or positive self-talk. Others visualize a peaceful environment or chant mantras that help quiet the mind. Everybody is different. Find what works best for you. What works best for me is focusing on the sounds around me.
Repetition is key. Start by doing 5 to 10 minute durations, daily, before working your way up.
Researchers at Stanford University found that mindfulness meditation can help people with social anxiety disorders improve their self-views and cause them to feel less anxiety and/or depression. A number of studies, in general, have shown that meditation is extremely effective in improving self-confidence in both men and women.
In summary, regular meditation, if done regularly, can help quiet the mind and increase feelings of self worth. The feelings of inadequacy that I carried for so many years are disappearing. Self healing in general is a long journey that takes time, dedication, and patience. I know that I will continue to meditate daily for the rest of my life because there will always be challenges that I will need to overcome and face.