How Meditation Can Help Treat Bipolar Disorder

Medically reviewed by Timothy J. Legg, PhD, PMHNP-BC on March 21, 2016Written by Anthony Watt


The extreme highs and lows of bipolar disorder can be difficult to cope with, and difficult for those around you. The disorder causes anxiety at one end and depression at the other. Meditation is an easy and natural method for relaxing and reducing stress in anyone, and particularly in people with bipolar disorder.


Meditation is an ancient technique involving deep contemplation to help you better understand your inner self. It relaxes your mind, helps you cope with the stresses of daily life, and gives you a more enlightened view of the human experience and existence.

There are many different kinds of meditation, but they all usually focus on:

  • posture
  • breathing
  • attention
  • relaxation

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Bipolar Disorder

Bipolar disorder is a mental illness that causes extreme mood swings between mania and depression. Characteristics of manic episodes, or “highs,” can include:

  • high energy
  • elation
  • happiness
  • impulsive
  • euphoric
  • risky or unhealthy behavior, such as drug use, spending sprees, and unprotected sex

Characteristics of episodes of depression, or “lows,” can include:

  • lack of energy
  • lack of interest in activities once enjoyed
  • hopelessness
  • sadness
  • too little or too much sleep
  • suicide

People who have “rapid cycling” bipolar might also experience quick shifts in mood. Everyday life can become difficult for people with bipolar, and it can be hard to perform well in school or at a job. Personal relationships can also become strained.

Treatment for bipolar disorder aims to help you control your mood by keeping it balanced and minimizing the ups and downs.


When during the ups and downs of bipolar is the best time to practice meditation?


Once mania has resolved, meditation is extremely useful. Learning how to sit quietly and experience your breathing is a powerful sense of self that can elude people with bipolar disorder, particularly if they have been ill for a long time.

Dr. Soroya BacchusAnswers represent the opinions of our medical experts. All content is strictly informational and should not be considered medical advice.

Using Meditation to Treat Bipolar Disorder

Meditation won't cure bipolar disorder, but it can help to stabilize your mood. Bipolar disorder can be complicated by stress, and is stressful itself. Relaxation techniques can be a useful part of an overall treatment plan for managing the disorder.

This shows that medications can help people with bipolar disorder in the short term, and that meditation is helpful in the long term for a more balanced mood over a longer period of time. Meditation helps develop an awareness of distressing thoughts and feelings, and this awareness helps you disengage from those thoughts, rather than try to change or fix them.


Meditation helps strengthen the connection between your body and mind and is free and easy to practice. It can be done in formal classes or practiced at home, making it accessible to anyone willing to give it a try. There are many different levels, from beginner to experienced, so you can push yourself if you want the challenge.

One simple technique requires you to sit quietly and concentrate on your breathing. Focus on the natural rhythm of your breath as you slowly inhale and then slowly exhale.

Other techniques involve:

  • focusing on a pleasurable moment, and then try to recreate it in your mind, as realistically as possible
  • repeating a soothing mantra, such as “om”
  • slowly focusing on different parts of your body for different sensations, such as heat, tightness, or soreness
  • taking a walk and focusing on the sensation of walking

Guided meditation is another option, and is usually done in a group setting with someone providing cues and guidance. Classes are widely available from trained instructors.


Although not a cure for bipolar disorder, meditation can help you relax, reduce stress, and even help manage your moods. It can help you disengage from stressful or anxious thoughts and better control your mood. However, it cannot replace traditional therapy, so check with your doctor about other treatments you may need, such as medication or psychotherapy. Anyone can practice meditation, at home or in a class. For people with bipolar disorder, meditation can be very helpful.

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