A new study has confirmed the benefits of mindfulness-based therapy for treating people with recurring depression.
According to a new analysis, mindfulness-based cognitive therapy may be more helpful than other treatments for people with recurring depression. MBCT combines traditional Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) methods with psychological strategies such as mindfulness and mindfulness meditation. Mindfulness is the practice of becoming aware of, and accepting of incoming thoughts without attaching or reacting to them. The practice is common among most meditation practices. MBCT was designed to help those suffering from chronic depression to learn to respond constructively to their emotions.
The new study was conducted by a team with the University of Oxford in the UK. The researchers analyzed data from 1,258 participants from nine randomized controlled trials that compared mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT) to other treatments for recurring depression among people who were fully or partially in remission. Around 31 percent of participants receiving MBCT were less likely to have depression again after 60 weeks, compared to those who had received other treatments.
“It is about choice for patients and adding another choice for people at high risk of depressive relapse to stay well in the long-term,” study leader Willem Kuyken told Reuters Health. “When mindfulness is combined with cognitive therapy, one of the things we see is people being trained to regard their thoughts as just thoughts and not to get ensnared by them,” said Richard Davidson, who wrote an editorial accompanying the study.
The researchers said that MBCT worked equally well regardless of age, sex, education, relationship status, age at onset of depression and previous episodes. In patients with the most severe symptoms of depression, MBCT worked better than other treatments.
Given the popularity of working with a licensed therapist, this is not the first study to recognize the benefits of meditation, specifically MBCT. In April 2015, Anti Media reported on a study published in The Lancet medical journal which found that MBCT may be just as effective as pharmaceuticals when it comes to preventing chronic depression relapse. Researchers at Britain’s Oxford University and Plymouth University Peninsula Schools of Medicine and Dentistry conducted the first large-scale study to compare the treatment of chronic depression with MBCT and anti-depressants. They found very little difference in the results of the two different treatments, including a minimal difference in the cost of the mindfulness training versus the constant use of pharmaceuticals.
The researchers studied 424 adults with recurrent major depression who were on maintenance anti-depressant drugs. The adults were randomly told to either continue taking their medications or to wean off the pills and receive MBCT. The mindfulness group participated in daily home practice as well as eight group therapy sessions. After two years, both groups reported nearly identical relapse rates – 44 percent for the meditators and 47 percent for the pill poppers.
“These results suggest a new choice for the millions of people with recurrent depression on repeat prescriptions,” Willem Kuyken of Oxford University told Reuters.
The study offers some hope for those who suffer from depression yet do not want to become another supporter of the Pharmaceutical Industrial-Complex. With more than 350 million people worldwide diagnosed with depression, we hope that more people will opt for meditation over pills.
In February of 2014, a study conducted by the Maharishi University’s Institute for Natural Medicine and Prevention found that regular meditation may prevent work-related stress and exhaustion. Participants reported falling stress levels, and more energy within days of practicing Transcendental Meditation twice a day for four months. The study, published in the Permanente Journal, observed participants stress levels before and after meditation, as well as patients who did not participate. Those who meditated registered lower levels of stress.
Another study found that long-term meditation can lead to a smaller amount of age-related decreases in brain volume. Typically a brain’s gray matter decreases as a person ages. However, the study published in Frontiers in Psychology found that those who reported meditating for an average of 20 years had higher brain mass than the average person. Lead researcher Dr. Florian Kurth said his team can not say for certain that meditation directly caused patients to lose less brain volume. Still those involved in the study who were long time meditators seemed to have better-preserved brains than the average people of the same age.
Also in February the JAMA Internal Medicine published a study suggesting that mindfulness meditation practice may help older people who have trouble sleeping. Researchers at the University of Southern California examined 49 people who were at least 55 years old and suffered from moderately disturbed sleep. They split the participants into two groups, one underwent six weekly two-hour sessions of a course in Mindfulness Awareness Practices for daily living, and the other attended six weeks of a sleep hygiene and education course. The group that learned mindfulness meditation practices made improvements at a higher rate than the sleep hygiene group.
It seems obvious that the age-old tradition known as meditation still has benefits to offer humankind. If we are to reach our fullest potential and become all that we can be, we must know ourselves as deeply as possible. We must be free in our hearts and minds, as well as the physical world. Meditation offers a powerful path towards knowing yourself and achieving a state of balance.
For more information on meditation practices, check out part 2 of my latest book, “Finding Freedom In An Age of Confusion”.
Derrick is available for interviews.
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