For people with bipolar disorder, meditation and mindfulness may help with mood, emotional regulation, and stress management over time.
For some people with bipolar disorder, meditation may be recommended as an add-on to their treatment plan.
Some people living with bipolar disorder are known to ruminate more, meaning they may focus on negative experiences while in a depressive episode, or on positive experiences while in a manic episode. Meditation can help with long-term mood symptoms.
There’s no “one-size-fits-all” approach to managing bipolar disorder, so meditation may or may not work for you. But with the possible benefits, it could be worth a try.
The practice of meditation goes back thousands of years and has historically been used in spiritual practice. More recently, meditation has been adapted to promote general mindfulness, with a focus on achieving calm and positivity.
There are many kinds of meditation, but most emphasize four basic elements:
- Environment: Find a calm, quiet location with minimal distractions.
- Posture: Whether you’re sitting, lying down, or even walking, it’s important to be comfortable when meditating.
- Attention: Focus your thoughts on what’s happening in the moment. Focusing on your breathing, feelings (physical or emotional), or repeating a chosen word or set of words can help center your attention.
- Attitude: Specifically, try to create an attitude of openness and acceptance. This involves letting your thoughts and feelings come and go without judging them. Acknowledge your thoughts and let them go.
Meditation can be done on your own or as part of a guided program. These programs may include elements from other mindfulness techniques, such as breathing exercises or yoga.
When used in combination with your regular bipolar disorder treatment plan, meditation may support managing your moods and symptoms in the long term.
The greatest improvements were seen for depressive symptoms, including:
- depressed mood
- a sense of helplessness and hopelessness
The results suggest that structured mindfulness exercises — including meditation — were associated with long-lasting improvements in self-reported symptoms. Even unstructured mindfulness practices, like daily mindful breathing, were associated with preventing depressive episodes and other improvements in daily life.
Research in 2018 suggests that people with bipolar disorder who participated in mindfulness-based interventions, including meditation, had significant improvements in their depression and anxiety symptoms but not manic symptoms.
There’s no “right” way to practice meditation — it’s all about finding components of meditation and mindfulness that work well for you.
Meditation can be attempted on your own by focusing on the key elements described above, or you can try a more guided approach. Meditation classes and support are often available from community resources, including:
- yoga centers
- athletic clubs
- hospitals and clinics
You may also find it helpful to find a therapist who’s trained in the use of mindfulness-based cognitive therapy or mindfulness-based stress reduction, two evidence-based strategies that use many aspects of meditation. A healthcare professional can help provide recommendations for qualified pros in your area.
You could also use online tools or smartphone apps that promote mindfulness. Existing results from…