Tackling Depression with Meditation

Researchers continue to explore the therapeutic benefits of meditation, and one new study on depression touts mindfulness exercises as viable alternatives to anti-depressants.  

Just two months of Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) prevented relapses better than traditional treatments, according to researchers at the University of Exeter. Forty-seven percent of patients relapsed after MBCT, compared with sixty percent who relied on traditional treatment methods, and the MBCT test groups reported higher levels of satisfaction with their physical well-being and in their day-to-day activities.

In the MBCT trials, a therapist led small groups in focusing exercises, inspired in part by Buddhist meditation techniques. The exercises encouraged participants to concentrate on the present rather than past or future events. The therapy was designed for simplicity, allowing patients to practice independently after the study ended. According to Professor Willem Kuyken, who led the study, MBCT works because it “teaches skills for life.”

Interest in the therapeutic applications of meditation isn’t particularly new–Utne Reader recently covered the issue here and here. MBCT seems promising, though, as a realistic way to integrate mindfulness practices with more conventional forms of psychological treatments. MBCT is a potentially cost-effective option for treating depression on a large scale because it’s led by a single therapist in groups of eight to fifteen, patients learn to practice the techniques without oversight, and it appears to stave off relapses. The Exeter team, encouraged by the findings, has already announced plans for further study on MBCT techniques.

(Thanks, Shambala Sun.)

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