If you suffer from severe mental illness (i.e depression or bipolar disorder), how do you handle very depressed feelings during meditation? Sometimes I feel like I am being sucked into a vortex of depression, guilt and shame during meditation because I am alone with my thoughts and feelings during that time. It is so painful 😢

Audrey C.
I understand, I too have depression and struggled with mediation pulling me down. What I learned from my experience was that meditating while I was in a down, self critical, or well … Depressed state, was that it was the wrong time to be doing mediation. Being alone, reflecting on the past or my problems only made things worse. It sent me down self hate spirals or just left me feeling hollow. So I made a change of when I allowed myself meditation. I added more physical activity, got more time outside and spent more time with my one friend(yes, only one friend I know). Then and only then I would allow myself meditation when my mood was better and chose to meditate on neutral or positive things. No mental walks down memory lane or unpacking of year of depression for a while. I chose to meditate on my breathing mostly, and reminded myself that if I start to think negative thoughts I could stop and do something else like read a book or color in a drawing book. Meditation is only one of the many tools you can use when coping with depression and sometimes it just isn't the best tool to use. Hope you are in a better place mentally very soon!
Daniel F.
One of the best meditation mind clearing techniques that works for me is that imagine putting a thought in a balloon and watching it float away. Focus on the balloon. Then it's gone, released. Not to say you shouldn't address whatever the issue is, just not during meditation.
Augustin Z.
The point of meditation is simply to observe your mind. You rest yourself and simply watch this TV, which is your thoughts at play. So let's try that out: you're sitting, and as you sit, your mind unveils a huge mountain of negativity. A giant collection of all the things you regret! So stupid! Why did you do that!! So now, what do you do? Answer: NOTHING. Turn your heart towards yourself. First tell yourself, I love you and it's okay that you have negative thoughts. And then, allow yourself to not take ownership. Say, oh look, what a huge pile of thoughts! Thank goodness they are not reality but just a bunch of nonsense! Maybe you can even learn to laugh at your mind. Ohhhh silly mind! What are you up to now? Just like a naughty little dog, dumping the trash can in the kitchen! Over time you will learn to regard all your thoughts and feelings with compassion and let them go right away.
Noham S.
When I meditate I'm constantly shifting my attention to all the positives in my life that I can. Depression is a large hurdle for me and time alone can be hard because my mind can be my biggest enemy, so to focus on the positive changes that I am making in my life really helps during meditation and gives me a better mindset.
Zoey T.
I would seriously consider doing cognitive behavioral therapy if you depression is that severe. It works extremely well when combined with the right medication for depression, anxiety and bipolar disorders.

As for meditation, recognizing negative thoughts and feelings is a normal, important part of mindfulness. Mindfulness isn't about not ever having negative thoughts or emotions, it's about being able to recognize those negative thoughts and emotions without letting them take over the moment for you. The analogy I've heard many Mindfulness experts use is your mind is the blue sky and your thoughts/emotions are the clouds. Light fluffy clouds are happy thoughts, dark clouds are negative ones and sometimes there are so many dark clouds a storm forms so we can no longer see the blue sky, but it's always there. It's just waiting on us to be able to recognize those negative thoughts and emotions without ruminating on them.

Mindfulness is a skill and it needs to be practiced in order for it to work. It's normal to struggle with drifting off into thought at first, you just have to keep practicing until you begin to learn how to recognize thoughts and emotions without ruminating on them. It's also important to note that "peace and quiet" isn't the goal of meditation. It can be a nice byproduct of meditation, but the ultimate goal of meditation is to live in the present the rest of the day. If you are worried about the past or the future then you can't be aware of the present and the present is all we have when you think about it. The more you are able to live in the present the easier it will be for you to experience moments of happiness when they come along and deal with problems when they inevitably arise because you aren't held hostage by your emotions.

When you are meditating and you find yourself drifting off into thought then focus on your breathing. Breathe in your nose and out of your mouth counting each breathe. Count one as you inhale deeply through your nose then count two as you exhale completely through your mouth. Do this up to a count of ten then start over. If you find yourself drifting away in thought again (positive or negative) then simply return to counting your breath again.

However, if you are so clinically depressed that you can't do this because your brain chemistry is making you ruminate on unhealthy thoughts then meditation isn't going to be very helpful until you address your mental health with a professional. Again, I would highly recommend Cognitive Behavioral Therapy in conjunction with a combination of medications. Studies have shown that a combination of medications works better than a single medication for practically all mood disorders and cognitive behavioral therapy is the most studied form of treatment for a variety of mental health issues and it works if you are willing to to put in the time and effort.

Anna W.
I would highly recommend talking with a therapist about what strategies might work best for your particular needs. However, here are a few strategies that can be helpful for me:
1. Find a positive (but real) mantra to focus your meditation: Something like "I am strong" or "I am relentless" or "I am willing to find happiness".
2. Try guided meditations. There are lots of apps for that, but also consider guided meditations in a group setting like yoga class to practice your meditation skills and not feel so alone.
3. Try movement focused meditation, like walking mediation.
4. Don't be too hard on yourself if meditation isn't working for you at this point in your life.
Otac Lia N.
I use the Insight Timer app, the free version. It has both a meditation timer and guided meditations specific to our goals and conditions.
Carol E.
These feelings are shared by all of us as humans at some point or another. You are not alone in feeling this way, in the same way that we can feel happiness, regret, disgust, anxiety, joy etc. What is best to do, which you are currently already doing, is to notice, and then name it. As best as you can, to perceive your thoughts as you would like a guard 💂 outside of city gates watching people coming in and out. Something like "I am feeling sadness", "my thoughts are racing" and after you have noticed, and
named what is coming up for you, then focusing your attention back to your breath. Every time this happens, being kind to yourself, knowing it is a natural thing to feel, and coming back to the focus of the meditation. Also, in realising that the words "I am sad", "I am depressed" means that you associate your identity with the emotion. Here, you have very little control to change things. However, when you can make the mental shift to: "I am experiencing sadness", "this emotion is that I feel depressed", you can know that these are states that can change, as our emotions and thoughts change all the time. In understanding this, you can more easily make the shift to regulating and processing these emotions, to change mental states or deal better with the situation.
Cassandra U.
you should talk to a therapist about these feelings. I believe one of the powers of meditation is the ability to disarm your thoughts and learn to let them go, but meditation should be a supplement to, not a replacement for, conventional mental health treatment. with the help of professional guidance and maybe a guided meditation app to help you stay focussed, you might be able to start to benefit more positively from meditation. i believe in you.
Troy J.
Try to focus on your breathing. Inhale for 4, hold for 4, and exhale for 8. Do that a few times and then return to your regular breath. Try to focus on the sensation of the air going in and out of your nostrils. When you notice a thought start, notice it and then watch it float away. Try not to use judgement when you notice the thought. For instance, you start thinking about something and instead of feeling irritated that your mind has wandered, just notice it as if it’s just a thought. Like a cloud in the sky floating away. One thing that seems to always work when I want to quiet my mind is relaxing my facial muscles, particularly the ones around my eyes. Good luck and don’t give up!
Gene U.
I can relate to what you’re asking about. I too suffered from depression and anxiety/self-esteem (emotional) problems for many, many years and started meditating because of that. I needed to find the answers for it all first so I began to see a psychologist about three years ago when after researching and finding out that my anxiety/self-esteem problems were rooted in my childhood, and the depression was just the mind acting as it would when not built or nurtured to properly handle typical emotional problems. That was all a little extra but wanted to include it in case you too are questioning the reasons for your troubles. If you are though dealing with bipolar disorder, I can only direct you towards doctors that know about that. To answer your question if it relates to depression, it was always helpful for me to remember that there is the mind I was given, and there is me. Meditation allows you to step back and observe that mind. That is not to dismiss the feelings you’re feeling but it’s important to understand that thoughts strengthen those emotions and the more you redirect those thoughts by forming new, positive, gratifying thoughts and separate yourself from those thoughts by changing your focus to other people, your breath, the environment that surrounds you, over time and through a lot of daily work your mind will change for the better. Neuroplasticity is not a myth and your brain can and will be restructured:) I’d also suggest Sam Harris’s Waking Up Meditation app. I’ve been using it myself twice a day since it came out and his perspective and insight has been very helpful for me.
No Lia C.
I would focus on my body especially on my breath. Inhale and exhale, only those two things. My mind would go crazy, but I would try to return to meditation, over and over again
Darrell Q.
A lot of different schools of meditation say that if you feel depressed during depression, that you could make that your focus. Be with your depression. Where do you feel it in your body? How does it make you feel? What thoughts enter and leave your mind as you focus on your breath? It will be very difficult at first, so easy yourself into this practice slowly. Shoot for 5 minutes daily, then 6, then 7, etc. The aim of the practice will be to desensitize you to the feelings of discomfort and pain you have in your mind and give you power over them. Try reading “Start Here Now” by Susan Piver and “Zen Path through Depression” by Phillip Martin. Good luck on your journey.
Johanne P.
That's the beauty of meditation. It encourages you to note the thoughts and feelings that arise as just that – thoughts and feelings. Just note that you are having them and gently bring your mind back to your breath and your physical body. There will be plenty of time to get back to those thoughts later, but while in meditation, notice the thoughts as a journalist and bring your attention back to the breath. Over time, the more you do this, the more you realize that the thoughts and feelings are your body's reactions to what's happening in the world, but those reactions can change.
Soan P.
Hello. Not to worry. I know exactly what you mean. I suffer from Borderline personality disorder and I have to deal with depression, anxiety and mood swings a lot. There have been times I didn't meditate for a while because I was so depressed however when I did do it I felt my mind shift on to something else and relaxed. I try to remind myself that if I'm depressed it sucks but it's ok and that meditation will hopefully help me to eventually come to a place of calm, I also continue even when it's difficult to rewire my mind towards doing something different so next time then depression doesn't longer so long to the point that I am stuck in it. The other day I she'd tears during my meditation because the holidays are hard for me but I didn't let that deter me and kept right on breathing and attempting the focus because I knew the reward was greater than the struggle. Also when I feel that I am sucked into feelings I sit and try to focus on my breath, visualize my thoughts on a conveyor belt moving away from me and detach myself from them for a time watching them go and letting them go for a time. Meditation has helped me to be more aware of root causes and symptoms before they overwhelm me and helps me to profess my feelings and thoughts so they don't get overwhelming and out of hand. This is my hope for you as well. Keep keeping on and remember you are fabulous even in the struggle because you have cared enough to try. Happy Holidays!
Soeiro Q.
Meditation is a tool you can use to be aware of your self. You should use this opportunity to understand yourself. Being alone hard and only strong people can handle it. Having depression is a challange strong people can take. Whether you face it or not its going to be hard. Face it now and live your life as a legend. Legend have to go through what others cant handle. Legends are those who fed up and refuse to live an average life. Legends take it all or none it all.
Bernarda P.
I have never suffered from depression, so I don't know what I could tell you to make your pain go away. I can tell you about being stuck, Because I feel like that most of the time. I think you are on the right path of getting yourself back together by doing meditation. Speaking to yourself daily is a good thing to do. Loving on yourself is also good, because at the end of the day nobody will love you more than you love yourself. Keep positive spirit and be kind to yourself it will all fall into place.
Pearl F.
I don’t suffer from severe mental illness, but I have situational depression as a result of a breakup.
The only internal solution I found was to concentrate on the physical feeling and understand and live with that feeling but disconnect that feeling from any mental association. This process is described in the book called the happiness trap. Also faking it till you make it can be applied to happiness. Laughing makes you happier
Tilde A.
Meditation doesn't mean that you are alone it's a great and very important part of our lifestyle it will give us strength to tackle a difficult situations so never think that it's a burden of something you have to do forcefully just sit comfortabaly and start observing your thoughts slowly you will get clarity about yourself in a deeper way and you will like to spent daily 20min with yourself
Lina Y.
Instead focusing on your thoughts, focus on your breath. Breathing is the current, present, the real thing, and thoughts are not real, it’s something that passes by. When you focus on breathing, you still will notice your thoughts but it will be easier to let go because youre already focused on your breathing. Don’t try to fight not to have any thoughts during meditation, which will worsen it, instead let the thoughts be and focus on your breathing.
Alexandra P.
I think that is probably one of the things you need to be supported with by a professional but for what it’s worth I’ve got a little habit of documenting my little wins of the day in a gratitude habit before I do the meditation. I list 3 things I’m grateful for, three things that made me smile, a lesson from the days challenges and a character strength of mine. It took a while a lot of nights early on when I was not doing well to find the things especially the smiles but now it’s easier and I note the positives in my head during the day too.
Then I meditate though I need guided meditation because my attention is so hard to control I need the external prompt or I find myself waaaaay off on my mental garden path.
My instinct with the sadness would be to get support with engaging with it. Best of luck x
Fredy Q.
I know exactly what you mean and go through. It took daily practice and routine for me to eventually let go of those bad thoughts. I found guided meditation worked best bc I could focus on their voice rather than mine. And if my mind started to wonder I would pick a mantra or repeat "Positive thoughts" when I breathed in and "Negative thoughts" when I breathed out. It truly helped me to shift my wandering thoughts
Edwin P.
I can relate to these emotions that you describe, totally. There was a time that I wrestled like this and these emotions want to come back, but thes emotions/ feelings stay afar off. I did not understand back then what was going on. The knowledge of my dilemma came knocking on the door of my understanding while I found myself locked up in prison on a wrong choice I foolishly made. An answer came in that I was deviod of having rest from within. I'm not perfect at all so don't think I am,please. My help came from above. Nowadays I'm greatful, very thankful that I understand and rest on the fact that I'm comfortable having my "Faith, Trust"etc……….in the higher power called, wait for it, called God, the Lord, Jesus the Christ. Do I still struggle today, yes. I'm a wee bit older now (younger in ❤,😂). I'm very thankful, grateful that awake each day ( awakeing each day "is not promised")! Each day is always learing and awarding within itself. What is God's plan for me, I don't know, but I give thanks to the Higher Power, Loveing one for my life. I can see more clearly now and understand that life does involve having God in my life, totally, fact 4 fold. Learning is very groovy and way cool for me now. I'm in my early 60's now and I understand there will be stumbling along the way but I'll grasp the knowledge of these stumbles and learn. I have 2 choices, sit on duff and cry, moan, complain etc…….., or get up, brush the dirt off my knees and walk on in the understanding that I God cares, has empathy for all his children. Prefect, not by a loooooong shot. More at ease, comfortable, by far, YES. Each day is lovely and beautiful etc…….. One day I want waked up and the journey of my life will end. What have I learned thus far? Am I complete? No! But I now know "Whom" is in control( it is not me). Life is very beautiful and it has been rough and very bumpy. I've came through scratch and bruised etc………. But came thru with better understanding. Whatever is remaining of my life I do not know, but the journey will be marvelous, beautiful knowing that my higher power is with me along the way. Knowledge is way cool. Have a very "BLESSED, GROOVY LIFE". Give thanksgiving where it does belong. PEACE TO ALL!!!
Eden T.
I have never went through that, but being on Iraq when I was told my grandma died, was the worst thing I have ever been through. I had to go to see therapist. It took me years to get over what I was going through. I did take medication but through out the years, I have leaned heavily on lifting and running.
Severin E.
Thank you for sharing with me. I too have had trouble with anxiety and depression, and when I began meditating it was as if I had 'turned up the volume' on these feelings. I found a meditation on the subject on the 'mindfulness' app. The app is free, I'm not trying to market it 🙂 the meditation is by Paige Williar and it's called 'connecting to the force behind anxiety'. In it she helps you to see why the mind is producing these feelings. If you enjoy that one I also recommend Sarah Blondins meditation, titled 'loving and listening to yourself'. That one was very powerful for me.

I think your mind is simply wanting to be heard, and wrestling with it is like trying to pull a stick from a dog, the tug of war is telling your mind that this feeling is worth worrying about, and that it is a true reflection of danger in the outside world… I think the meditationa can explain much better than me. I hope you give them a listen and they help you. Remember: you're not alone, many people suffer with these problems. If you need to vent, my email is [email protected] take care!

Julie C.
Depressed thoughts are the hardest thing about meditation and I understand. Meditation is about redirecting thoughts, so when you notice that you are starting to spiral into sadness, just focus back on your breath. What I do is just pretend that I wasn’t thinking about that, and that the sad thoughts don’t exist. Doing this repeatedly makes it easier, and eventually you’ll be able to do this when you’re not meditating as well.
Andreas W.
One of the guided helps suggests that is our mind "wandering". At the moment I recognize this I acknowledge it and reach for a mental happy image, a flower or nature memory that is uplifting. I "forgive" myself. I release myself from the feeling of guilt or shame by reminding myself that those feelings are "not me".
Reni X.
I understand those feelings. They are very real and powerful. I try to reach a spiritual energy that is greater than me and therefore more powerful than my depressed thoughts. I then try to flip my thought. That is, I try to think of the opposite. For example, "I didn't get a Michelle Obama book for Christmas. …Or a Barnes & Noble gift card." …"but, I did get 2 reflection journals and a Half Price Books gc. People know me and love me and recognize my interests. They got me things they thought I would enjoy and be happy with."
I think of how I am valued by others and how they express it. I can then think of how I value myself and how I express it. Those two may be different, but they are both valid. I have to actively think positively and over power rhe negative. I hope some of this helps.
Christina T.
First is to realise that thoughts like this occur for everyone during meditation. Sure the strength of those thoughts will differ but every person will have their own battles during meditation. Not every session is a serene experience but if we're able to address or quiet down the volume of some of those thoughts, bit by bit, over the long term, those thoughts begin to lose their power as we begin to create our own.
Secondly, joining a meditation group or course will help learn more about the intricacies of your practice & how normal it is for our brains to constantly have thoughts good or bad during our practice.
Hansj Rgen U.
So I actually just had this happen right now. And one thing that came up thanks to using headspace, is the idea of noting. noting is a technique that asks us to categorize our distraction while we meditate into two buckets a physical feeling or a mental thought. When you find yourself distracted during meditation, you're only job is to categorize that distraction into 1 of those two buckets and then return to meditation. A negative, self-loathing thought is still just a thought in this categorization. And in the majority of the time back in sound dismissive, put for 10 minutes a day the only thing you have to think about that thought is that it's a thought.

I found that really freeing today and thank all keep doing that during my meditation. Hopefully this helped.

something else that helps me with these thoughts is asking the little inside voice what they're trying to protect me from with these mean thoughts

Jim Q.
I am so sorry to hear this. The fact that you have written it down though, is a very brave step. I don’t have the answer, but I know how you feel. My way of dealing with it was to embrace the pain until it passed. The ultimate solutions for me were more exercise and being outdoors more often. This might not be as easy for everyone though. I wish you well.