Research suggests that mindfulness can help reduce depression and regulate mood.

If you’re experiencing depression, mindfulness might help you feel better.

Mindfulness is the practice of focusing on the present moment. You can practice it through meditation, or when you’re doing everyday tasks by being rooted in the sensations you’re experiencing. For example, you can mindfully peel potatoes, wash dishes, walk, paint, or garden.

Mindfulness might help by helping you focus on the present instead of overthinking past or future events. This can reduce worry and rumination, which can affect your mood.

You might be skeptical about using mindfulness for depression. However, there’s a fair amount of scientific research that supports the argument that mindfulness can soothe depression and regulate your mood.

Although different things work for different people, mindfulness is a science-backed intervention for depression. A significant amount of research suggests mindfulness can help regulate emotions, reducing depressive symptoms.

Much of the research around mindfulness and depression revolves around mindfulness interventions, such as mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR). MBSR is a therapeutic program that was created in 1979 by Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn.

The research on MBSR and depression is promising. For example, a 2020 paper argued that mindfulness and MBSR can be particularly helpful for depression during crises like the COVID-19 pandemic.

But it’s not just MBSR that might help — regular mindfulness can be helpful, too. A 2018 review found that mindfulness reduces both anxiety and depression, even when it’s not combined with talk therapy.

A 2019 study involved looking at the brain structure of people who meditated for the first time. After 40 days of mindfulness meditation training, the participants’ brain structures changed significantly in a way that is associated with lower depression scores.

A questionnaire-based 2019 study looked at how mindfulness could affect depression. Based on a sample of 1151 adults, the study concluded that mindfulness could reduce symptoms of depression by soothing worry and rumination.

Mindful breathing

According to a 2019 study, mindful deep breathing might reduce depressive symptoms as it activates the parasympathetic nervous system.

Mindful breathing can be as simple as paying attention to your breath: notice how it feels and sounds when you inhale and exhale.

You might want to start by trying a deep breathing exercise. This involves breathing deeply from your belly instead of your chest while paying attention to your breath.

Here’s how to do a deep breathing exercise:

  1. Lie down — or sit up — in a comfortable position.
  2. Place one hand on your stomach.
  3. Inhale for 3 seconds, noticing how your hand rises as you breathe in.
  4. Pause.
  5. Exhale for 3 seconds, noticing how your hand falls as you breathe out.
  6. Repeat.

There are many other ways to practice mindful breathing. For example, Pranayama exercises, which are mindful breathing exercises often practiced in yoga.

View Pranayama videos on YouTube and follow the instructor’s directions. You could also try 4-7-8 breathing, which involves breathing in for 4 seconds, holding your breath for 7 seconds, and exhaling for 8 seconds.

Mindful movement

Moving mindfully can be a great way to get some exercise while practicing mindfulness.

An obvious way to move mindfully is to try a little yoga. You can go to an in-person or online yoga class or watch a yoga video on YouTube.

A walk is also a good opportunity to practice mindfulness. While you walk, pay attention to the feeling of your feet hitting the ground, the wind or sun on your skin, and the sounds that surround you. When your thoughts drift, return to your five senses and note what you’re experiencing.

Mindfulness meditation

Meditation is a great way to practice mindfulness. While you can do many activities mindfully, meditation typically involves focusing your body and thoughts on mindfulness.

There are many types of meditation. If you’re new to meditation, you might want to start with a guided meditation online.

The goal of meditation isn’t to “clear your thoughts” or have no thoughts at all, but rather to pay attention to the thoughts that pass through your brain without getting too caught up in them. If thoughts were cars, meditation would be watching them drive along the highway without climbing into one.

One tip is to keep practicing meditation. It gets easier when you do it more often. Plus a 2019 study suggests that meditation can improve depression symptoms over time if you keep at it. In other words, when you continue to meditate, you could benefit even more than if you did it for a short period of time.

Mindfulness-based therapy

You can also try a mindfulness-based therapy or program.

These interventions can help you learn mindfulness and apply it to your everyday life.

Mindfulness is one of many self-care strategies that you can use to help with depression. It gets easier the more you practice it.

Remember that mindfulness is not a silver bullet, and it might not help everyone. However, because mindfulness can be done for free, is completely safe, and can have a variety of benefits, it’s worth giving it a chance.