Meditation is depression medicine

written by The WellBeing Team

Meditation for depression

Depression is spiralling out of control in modern society. One of the things not always spoken about is that major depression is recurrent: it comes back. That is, it will come back if you do not take steps to prevent it. Now, a new study has shown that meditation for depression can be a powerful ally.

Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT) is an increasingly popular approach in treating stress reduction, pain management, and now self-management of depression symptoms. MBCT uses mindfulness based meditation for depression and teaches awareness of emotions so people can recognise the early signs of relapse into depression. It also goes the extra step and offers ways to make lifestyle changes that will restore a balance in mood. Drugs are not used in MBCT.

A new study has enlisted people who were in remission from depression at the beginning of the study but who had previously been diagnosed with a major depressive disorder having had at least two past episodes and using antidepressant drugs. These people were then split into three groups.

One group stopped their medication and was put on MBCT, the second group maintained their medication for 18 months, and the third group also maintained their medication except it was a placebo.

The MBCT treatment involved group sessions once a week for eight weeks. In these sessions the people learned how to observe their thoughts and emotions and how to change their thought patterns from rumination to being able to reflect without judgement. They consolidated this at home by doing “mindfulness” practice: they noticed their minute-to minute thoughts, were compassionate to themselves, accepted difficulties, and made plans for responding to warning signs of a relapse.

All three groups were followed for the eighteen month period and were monitored for signs of a relapse. The results showed that the mindfulness meditative practises of MBCT were as effective as the pharmaceutical drugs. Both of these groups showed a 30 per cent relapse rate compared to a 70 per cent relapse in the placebo group.

The researchers concluded that the mindfulness approach was as effective at preventing relapse as pharmaceutical drugs.

Given the reduction in side-effects and the increased personal control and power that mindfulness meditative practices offer, they must be an option in future management of depressive conditions.

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depression meditation medicine