Is Mindfulness Really Effective in Depression?
Mindfulness is being proved beneficial to mental and physical health through more and more studies and is being seriously considered as a treatment option for a disease like depression. A new Swedish research has offered a more convincing evidence for the efficacy of practices based on mindfulness in treating depression and anxiety.
The research was conducted by the Lund University researchers who found that group mindfulness therapy was as useful as individual CBT (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy) in patients suffering from depression, anxiety and severe stress responses; and it is also being considered as a more convenient and affordable treatment option.
16 healthcare institutions in Southern Sweden were involved in the study with 215 patients of depression, anxiety or severe stress reactions. The subjects were randomly sorted in either a standard treatment group, wherein they went through individual sessions of CBT or 10-patient group who were given mindfulness training. The study lasted for eight weeks.
No Difference between CBT and Mindfulness Therapy
The subjects were asked to fill questionnaires before and after the treatments to decide the severity of their symptoms of depression and anxiety. Both the groups showed reduced self-reported depression and anxiety symptoms. It was observed by the researchers that no statistical difference occurred between the mindfulness group and CBT group.
While an increasing amount of research has revealed mindfulness treatment to be useful in alleviating symptoms of depression and anxiety, the new Lund University study is the first to prove mindfulness to be as helpful as traditional therapies.
Earlier in 2014, an analysis of 47 researches showed that effectiveness of mindfulness in depression, anxiety and pain has been proven through lots of clinical trials.
In a report published in the JAMA Internal Medicine, the researchers wrote that clinicians have to be prepared to discuss with their patients regarding a meditation program’s role in managing psychological stress.
Changes in Brain
It is also being believed that reduction in symptoms is perhaps rooted in the changes in the brain. In a 2011 study conducted by Harvard researchers, it was found that an eight-week mindfulness program created remarkable changes in participants’ brain areas associated to the sense of empathy, self, memory and stress. MRI data showed that there was an increase in the density of gray matter in the hippocampus, an area associated to memory and learning, and reduction in the density in the amygdala, a region associated to depression, anxiety and stress.
60% of people who undergo a single depression episode are vulnerable to undergo the second. 90% people who experience three depression episodes have all chances to experience the fourth. But if these individuals undertake the mindfulness meditation program, this can be prevented.
Researchers in the UK interviewed eleven individuals who had undergone three or more severe depression episodes and taken mindfulness meditation program within the earlier three years. The researchers created a model by analyzing the interviews and published in the journal Mindfulness, to show how mindfulness meditation allows people to connect to the self and with others mindfully. It seems that mindfulness improves relationships; less stress in relationships in turn helps prevent depression episodes in the future. The study gave rise to three specific themes:
1. Being Aware of Present Moment: Learn to Pause, Recognize and Respond
The mindfulness meditation allowed people to be purposefully more aware of the present moment, which offered them a space to pause before automatically reacting to others. Rather than being troubled by criticism or rejection, they held back to understand their own automatic responses and to be more familiar with others’ emotions and needs. This awareness offered them more alternatives for how to react, instead of being carried away in a growing negative emotion.
2. Confronting Fears: It’s Alright to Say “No”
It was also reported by the participants that they turned more confident in saying “no” to others so as to reduce their burden of responsibility, enabling them to become more reasonable in acknowledging the needs of their own and others. The authors think that being mindfully aware of uncomfortable experiences helped these individuals to face situations that they would earlier avoid and this fostered assertiveness and self-confidence.
3. Being Present to Others
This allowed these people to give more attention to relationships and to value their time spent with others. They told about how being with others helped them come out of distressing histories, enabling them to connect to others in new senses. Even disagreements became more assertive, as they could understand their communication problems and became able to accept others’ perspective and tried to find out potential solutions.
The participants of the study even experienced that they had more energy, felt less overwhelmed by negative thoughts and were in a better position to deal with and support others. The participants who had problems with their spouses could overcome the difficulties through mindfulness communication which helped them come closer and have emotional stamina and energy to spend more time with family.
Some participants told that they experienced that with time, the advantages of mindfulness meditation infused through their entire life. The authors wrote that by relating to their own experiences as well as others mindfully, the participants felt more confident and were engaged with an improved range of social involvement and activity.
New Alternative to Millions of Recurrent Depression Patients
A Lancet report has also pointed out that mindfulness-based therapy could give a new alternative to millions of patients of recurrent depression. The report has said that the therapy was tested against anti-depressant pills in individuals at risk of relapse and was found to work equally well.
Because the therapy trains to focus on and understand one’s negative thoughts which may come and go, it is so effective in overcoming depression and anxiety.
Mindfulnessmavericks.co.uk is a website dedicated to mindfulness-based meditation and its benefits in depression and anxiety. Here you can get lots of information on the benefits of mindfulness meditation, why this meditation is becoming so popular in the West, easy mindfulness exercises to relieve an anxiety attack, easy meditation methods for stress relief, reasons why you should start meditating, how to start it quickly and easily, meditation tips, meditation for beginners, and more. They offer courses on mindfulness meditation for depression treatment, stress reduction, health and wellbeing, for busy lifestyle and so on.