Meditation and mindfulness methods best suited for depression and anxiety.

Meditation and mindfulness research has been making major headlines in 2017. Across the scientific literature you can generally find a similar definition for the meditative state: present-centred, non-judgemental awareness. Sounds pretty peaceful doesn’t it? We knew the wellness trend would continue but we Westerners didn’t quite foresee how much this ancient practice could shift our emotional experience, our overall perspective, and our physical well being. Thank goodness for some good news!

Now that we’re open to the idea of meditation and mindfulness the first question is often how do I begin? Home practice – especially guided practice – can be a great way to begin one’s relationship with meditation. I often see beginners make a common assumption after their first attempt with meditation; they try one style of guided meditation and sometimes assume the whole field of meditation and mindfulness isn’t for them. As teachers in the sector we could be doing a better job of promoting a personalized approach to meditation and mindfulness, informing meditators of all the styles and methods available and helping to guide students towards their own intuitive nature. Perhaps humans are far too interesting and complex for a one-size-fits-all perspective? For now, let’s focus on methods of meditation and mindfulness that are best suited towards students in some mental distress, namely depression and anxiety.

Some methods of meditation are better suited for those struggling with anxiety and/or depression than others. Generally speaking methods that are categorized in the literature as focused-attention (FA) are best suited to reduce anxiety and aid in disrupting depressive thinking habits. Those techniques include: 

a) Mindful breathing (as long as this doesn’t exacerbate things for individuals who may be triggered by focusing on breathing)

b) guided visualization

c) body-scanning techniques including ones found in Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR), progressive relaxation, and the practice of yoga Nidra.

Generally my guidance to those beginning their practice is as follows; some methods will work well for you while others, much less so. Try at least one meditation in each style and then choose a method that you feel works best with the nature of your own mind. Choosing a partner or finding a therapist we relate to easily is a highly individualized pursuit, and the same is true for finding a method of meditation best suited to the nature of your own mind.

Here are two meditations in each of the methods I mentioned above:

Body Awareness Meditation


Breathing Exercises (watching the breath, not manipulating the breath – as that method is not best suited for those with a tendency towards anxiety)


Guided Visualizations (can be done seated or laying down):


Before you begin let me say that the best way to enter a meditation practice is in a state of deep readiness. If you feel like you should be doing it or you’re strongly resisting the process, try giving yourself 20 minutes to relax before attempting to sit down. Remember the big picture and your desire to move towards health, happiness and peace, and start small. Even 5 minutes counts! Wellness is a lifelong strategy – be patient and enjoy!

Emily Squirrell, Founder, The Present Centre for Meditation & Mindfulness