How effective can meditation be in preventing negative thoughts? In young adults with a depression diagnosis, when meditation was combined with aerobic exercise just 2x per week, there was a 40% reduction in negative thinking patterns and other symptoms related to their diagnosis.
What the findings show is that when mental and physical training is given to people with depression or those who suffer from depression-like symptoms, the skills they learn allow them to prevent negative thinking from overwhelming their consciousness.
It has been widely known that both meditation and exercise on their own have been able to provide people with these benefits. By combining them, researchers have discovered that not only does brain activity begin to synchronize, but there is a striking improvement in their symptoms. These results are even seen with individuals who have been diagnosed with a major depressive disorder.
What Happens When Meditation and Exercise Are Combined?
Participants in the study started with 30 minutes of focused meditation. This was then followed by 30 minutes of exercise. To maintain their focus, participants were instructed to focus on their breathing only if they felt like their mind was drifting to either the past or the future. When practiced over a lifetime, these therapies can therefore improve a person’s mental and cognitive health.
And here’s the best part: it doesn’t cost you anything to meditate or get some exercise.
On a practical level, you won’t be having someone in your ear directing you to refocus your attention. When your mind begins to wander, you’ll have to consciously direct it back to the present so it registers your breathing. If you’ve just started to meditate, you’ll quickly realize this can be difficult to do.
The mind is a rebellious thing. It doesn’t like change. It craves distraction. You will hear sounds, smell things, and even visualize things when you first start meditating when there are no other distractions present. This happens because you are tuning into the rest of the world around you – perhaps for the first time. It’s a lot of information and the mind can refuse.
How To Stay Focused On Your Breathing
If you feel like your mind is wandering, the first thing to do is acknowledge this fact. Give your mind permission to be looking toward the past or the future. Understand that memories or forecasting is a natural part of the human experience. Then direct your attention back to your breathing.
Over a period of 2-3 weeks, you’ll find that it becomes easier to direct your attention back to the present. The mind begins to accept its environment and doesn’t look for distractions. You’ll begin to experience moments of clarity. As the research shows, when you can follow up meditation with aerobic exercise, you’ll be able to take control instead of letting your negative symptoms take control of you.