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I Want to Start Meditating, but My Mental Health Keeps Getting in the Way

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Photography by Amor Burakova/Stocksy United

Photography by Amor Burakova/Stocksy United

by Maya Capasso

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Medically Reviewed by:

Joslyn Jelinek, LCSW

•••••

by Maya Capasso

•••••

Medically Reviewed by:

Joslyn Jelinek, LCSW

•••••

Depression plays a cruel joke on you when it zaps you of the motivation you need to help your mental health. If that’s how you’re feeling, you’re not alone.

Everywhere I look, people tell me about the wonderful benefits of mindfulness and meditation for my mental health. They’re not wrong — research suggests that meditation practices can decrease stress and anxiety levels, which contribute to depression.

Don’t get me wrong, I love the idea of waking up every morning, finding a relaxing space to sit, and experiencing a peaceful moment of meditation. The problem is that no matter how hard I try, I can’t find the motivation to start a mindfulness practice.

I love crafting helpful essays full of advice and inspiration about overcoming depression. I wish this piece was a reflection on my successful jaunt into the world of mindfulness and that I felt less depressed and proud of myself.

But sometimes, I have no advice to give. Sometimes, like right now, my depression feels like it’s on the downswing, and all I want to do is lie down. I can’t give others advice because I don’t have any advice for myself.

Instead, I want to remind those struggling to meditate or to seek out a practice that could benefit their mental health: You’re not alone. Many of us feel stuck sometimes. That’s a part of living with depression.

This reminder can help us be kinder to ourselves rather than tear ourselves down for struggling. Here are some honest reasons why I find starting a new meditation practice so daunting. Maybe you can relate.

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Lacking the motivation

A lack of motivation is a common symptom of depression. When I’m particularly depressed, I struggle to accomplish everyday tasks, let alone try something new.

Starting a meditation practice to help me overcome a depressive episode would be great, but I don’t feel motivated to get started. This catch-22 haunts many people living with depression as bleak thoughts and dulled emotions move to the forefront of our minds.

It’s hard to try something new when your brain tells you it’s not worth trying and to give up while you’re ahead.

A lot of my lack of motivation can be related to thoughts like these: “What’s the purpose?” “Why waste the effort?” But it can also be related to the lethargy of depression.

Thinking painful thoughts and experiencing higher levels of shame, dread, and sadness doesn’t exactly make me feel peppy and ready to take on whatever life throws at me.

By the end of the day, I’m completely drained, and the last thing I want to do is commit to sitting in silence for minutes on end with my roiling thoughts.

It’s not like I’m full of energy when I wake up, either. At my most depressed moments, I dread getting out of bed the moment my alarm goes off. Instead of using my energy to meditate, I must drag myself out of bed to accomplish basic hygiene tasks like brushing my teeth.

Finding motivation to do the simple things that those without depression or mental health issues take for granted is hard enough, let alone committing to a daily meditation practice.

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Feeling overwhelmed by the options

I’ve had moments at my lowest lows where I desperately search for something to help me claw my way out of the pit of depression.

I’ll pull out my laptop and Google “meditation practice for depression,” hoping to find something to help. And yes — I do find something — over 58 million somethings, in fact.

The endless Google results provide promise, but only if I’m willing to sort through the millions of options.

When I’m depressed, I get easily overwhelmed by seemingly minor problems like a change in lunch plans or an uncomfortable social situation with a neighbor. The last thing I feel capable of is using my critical thinking to research all of the meditation options for depression and find the right one for me.

The sheer number of options is just too much in those moments. I do appreciate that there’s so much out there about meditation and the different practices that can help treat depression. However, narrowing down my options sometimes feels too difficult when I most need to find a practice.

Worrying about negative outcomes

While many negative, painful thoughts spawned by depression impact my motivation, others encourage me to reject meditation entirely.

Some research suggests that people with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or individuals who deal with flashbacks and rumination may not be the best fit for mindfulness practices, which can increase the likelihood of these symptoms.

It’s not easy to sit still and watch your thoughts float by like clouds when you’re used to constantly searching for distractions to keep rumination and flashbacks at bay.

Logically, I know this isn’t the complete picture. Other studies suggest yoga and mindfulness can help reduce painful symptoms of PTSD. Yet, in my most depressed moments, my mind gets stuck on the negative side, and the fears become overwhelming.

Logically, I know I can choose a mindfulness practice that involves walking or stretching rather than simply sitting down to battle my thoughts with zero distractions.

Logically, I know I need to give it a try before I give up on meditation entirely.

But in my lowest moments, the depressed thoughts that tell me to fear meditation win, and it stops me dead in my tracks.

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Continue to be kind to yourself

Living with depression is one of the hardest things I’ve had to do. It impacts my life every single day.

For me, the worst part of depression isn’t the depression itself but the stigma around depression that further isolates and shames us for not “trying harder” or “doing better.”

It’s easy to internalize these beliefs, especially when I fail to pick up meditation. I must constantly remind myself that depression isn’t my fault, and it makes sense that starting a daunting new activity may not be in the cards for me right now.

I try my best to be kind to myself in the face of failure, and I hope you can, too.

The takeaway

Meditation and mindfulness have many healing benefits for depression, anxiety, and other mental health conditions.

I personally struggle to begin a meditation practice because of my depression symptoms, like a lack of motivation, a lack of energy, anxiety, and emotional overwhelm.

It’s OK if things are hard, despite how crappy it can feel. Remember to stay kind to yourself. You deserve it.

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Medically reviewed on May 03, 2024

2 Sources

Join the free Depression community!
Connect with thousands of members and find support through daily live chats, curated resources, and one-to-one messaging.

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About the author

Maya Capasso

Maya Capasso (she/they) is a writer, entertainment journalist, and mental health advocate who hopes to raise awareness and help others feel less alone with their writing. She believes being open about her life-long struggle with depression works to break stigmas around mental health conditions and validates others with similar experiences. When they’re not writing, Maya’s typically binging TV shows, creating pottery at their local studio, or playing with her pup, Turnip. You can find her on Twitter or LinkedIn.

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