September 6, 2020 | David F. Coppedge

Object of Meditation Matters

People with depression who have been taught mindfulness and meditation do not always get better. Why not?

Depression is skyrocketing among young adults during the pandemic, Live Science reports. It is essential, therefore, to learn what kinds of therapy work, and which do not. Some commonly-prescribed cures may be worse than the disease.

Photos: Illustra Media, “In the Image of God”

Mindfulness is the art of paying close attention to your thoughts. Meditation, as taught by secular psychologists, often includes mindfulness. Clare Wilson at New Scientist announced, “Mindfulness and meditation can worsen depression and anxiety.

About one in 12 people who try meditation experience an unwanted negative effect, usually a worsening in depression or anxiety, or even the onset of these conditions for the first time, according to the first systematic review of the evidence. “For most people it works fine but it has undoubtedly been overhyped and it’s not universally benevolent,” says Miguel Farias at Coventry University in the UK, one of the researchers behind the work.

Negative effects can include panic attacks, psychosis and suicidal thoughts. The percentage experiencing negative effects can be even higher than measured by a research team in the UK.

The figure of 8 per cent may be an underestimate, as many studies of meditation record only serious negative effects or don’t record them at all, says Farias.

In fact, paying close attention to your own thoughts when depressed may pour fuel on the fire. The majority who did not report negative effects may not have been cured. A proper study should have measured how many were about the same as before the exercises, and should have considered factors that may have improved their condition, such as a change in diet, health, friendships, jobs, or other things unrelated to the meditation practices.

The key to successful meditation is having an object worth meditating on. If you meditate on your own troubles and bad circumstances, no wonder you will get depressed! Or if you empty your mind, like eastern religions teach, you open your mind to demonic oppression; no wonder you will have panic attacks, psychosis and suicidal thoughts!

In the Bible, peace comes to those who meditate on God’s word and His promises. The Creator of our minds and bodies knows our needs. He is loving and kind by nature. He wants us to have a full and abundant life. But He is also just and holy, and judges evil. We need first to have the right diagnosis: sin, and then have the right cure: being born again by repentance from our sin and faith in the Lord Jesus. Then we can have new, regenerated minds, with God’s law written on our hearts. We can read His word. We can talk to Him directly in prayer. Now that is effective!

Exercises: Meditate on these passages to try the effectiveness of Biblical meditation: Psalm 37, Psalm 119, Matthew 6, Philippians 4. Also, try “Thankfulness Therapy.” Meditate on the specific things you have been given by God that are marvelous and amazing: your body, the senses, family and friends, love, freedom, and much more.

 

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