Student Thoughts: Meditation and exercise to combat depression

Maytinee Kramer/Staff Writer


Photos provided by Maytinee Kramer

College is an exciting time, but it can also be very challenging and demanding, so Panthers are bound to feel stressed throughout the semester. Stress can be good as it keeps you alert, motivated and primed to respond to danger. However, too much stress or chronic stress could lead to depression.

Depression comes in many different forms. In a 2013 survey conducted by the Association for University and College Counseling Center Directors, 36.4 percent of college students reported to have experienced some level of depression. Depression can leave a student feeling detached from everyone and helpless, making it difficult to work, sleep, study and eat.

While there are treatments and medicine to fight depression, sometimes, the best way to get back in gear is to go back to the basics.

Two natural ways to combat stress and depression are meditation and exercise. Meditation allows one to embrace their natural capacity in order to heal, while exercising has many benefits from weight loss to improving mood and a boost in energy. A new study from Rutgers University in New Jersey revealed that when meditation and exercise are combined, they can act as an active weapon to fight depression.

Two groups of students, one mentally healthy and one suffering from depression, went through an eight-week training course in Rutger University’s study that included a fitness routine of focused attention meditation for 30 minutes and 30 minutes of aerobic exercise. By the end of two months, researchers found a 40 percent drop in depressive symptoms among the group suffering from depression while all of the participants were reported to spend less time having negative thoughts.

The researchers found that the secret behind the success of combining exercise and meditation to combat depression was in practicing the ability to manipulate attention. The meditation part of the routine had the participants focus on their breathing and redirecting their focus to the present moment when their thoughts would wander. This process encourages people to make a conscious effort to move away from their feelings and experiences, enabling those suffering with depression to learn and control present changes in attention.

The aerobic exercise encouraged the growth of new brain cells while increasing the brain-derived neurotrophic factor. Sometimes called a “fertilizer for the brain,” BDNF is a protein that promotes the survival of nerve cells and neurons by aiding in growth, differentiation and maintenance of these cells. Clinical psychologist, Alicia H. Clark, explained that this protein promoted neural growth and new learning.

“This is important when combating depression, or any mental health problem, since building coping strategies requires new learning and new habits,” said Clark.

While some drugs have established their place in the management options for depression, it’s better to find natural ways to fight depression because it reinforces self-awareness and a deeper understanding of what is going on.

Students need to recognize that life comes with obstacles, but rather than succumbing to the pressure and emotions that in excess can lead to depression, Panthers should find a healthy approach to manage their mental health. Along with meditation and exercise, students should also maintain a healthy diet and lifestyle. Everything from spending some time outdoors, writing in a journal or listening to music can help students relieve themselves. In addition, the Student Health Center offers many programs including Counseling and Psychological Services. This program facilitates and enhances students’ personal learning, emotional well-being and academic skills development. Good health is essential to a student’s success.



The opinions presented within this page do not represent the views of FIU Student Media Editorial Board. These views are separate from editorials and reflect individual perspectives of contributing writers and/or members of the University community.

About the Author

Maytinee Kramer
Call me May. I’m a senior double majoring in Asian studies and broadcast media and minoring in international relations. I’m a K-pop and Disney junkie, but I also enjoy watching anime and cosplaying. Some of my favorite shows are “Once Upon a Time,” “Supernatural,” and “Food Wars!: Shokugeki no Soma” while my favorite music artists are 2PM, GOT7, DEAN and Eddy Kim. After college, I hope to work as a news anchor, but I’d eventually like to host a show/segment that focuses on traveling. I am fluent in Thai and currently learning Japanese and Korean.

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