Meditation helps ease depression in seniors, London psychiatrist finds

Dr. Akshya Vasudev said the patients in his study who meditated fared much better than those who only took anti-depressants.

London doctor says 50 per cent of patients in study saw improvements after 1 week

Dr. Akshya Vasudev conducted a study of elderly patients suffering with depression. (Kate Dubinski/CBC News)

Dr. Akshya Vasudev calls meditation a beautiful technique. 

"If you are thinking badly, your brain literally shrinks, your heart aches, not just emotionally, but it actually hurts. So it makes sense to improve the circuitry between the brain and the heart and that's what this technique does."

Vasudev is an associate professor of psychiatry at Western University who's been using mediation as a way to treat patients with late-life mental health problems, including depression.

His particular technique is called sahaj samadhi in Sanskrit. It means be yourself, naturally, said Vasudev.

Vasudev studied two groups of elderly patients. The members in the first group received anti-depressants. The second group also received medication, but in addition, were offered meditation sessions. Vasudev says half of the meditators saw their symptoms disappear, while just nine per cent in the other group saw the same success.

And it didn't take long for the meditation to start working. Within a week, Vasudev said the patients started noticing a difference.

Adopt a mantra

He admitted the technique can seem abstract. "You need a teacher to teach you how to train. You can't just YouTube a meditation technique and become an expert meditator," and added London has two full-time trainers.

"Become thoughtless so that your innate nature, which is peaceful, calm and serene in a complete relaxed state comes forward."

Yoga's growing popularity has help spur more people to try meditation. (Getty Images/Hero Images)

But Vasudev said it's tough to turn off your thoughts. "But when it gets too much, just use a mantra, which is special to you, given to you by your teacher. And that allows you to go in a state where this thoughtlessness comes and stays."

One important reminder. Don't stop taking your medication. "Please don't. Medications help. Medications act on the brain, but we don't talk about the mind at all. The thinking part, and that's what this is. Depression is not just the brain. It is the mind and it's both of them."

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