April 23, 2015
(ANTIMEDIA) A new study published in The Lancet medical journal has found that Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (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.
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 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 of 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.
Meditation is Medicine
This new study is only the latest in a long line of research that has established the benefits of meditation. In February of 2015 a study was 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.
Studies also suggest that meditation can also be used to treat addiction. Researchers with the Center for the Study of Health and Risk Behaviors at the University of Washington in Seattle found that mindfulness meditation may be a better long-term treatment for substance abuse than traditional approaches. The study found that one year after patients experienced substance abuse treatment that included mindfulness training they were more likely to stay sober than those who had undergone traditional therapy or a 12 step program.
All meditation “requires” is a willingness to open one’s heart and mind. To be still, in the moment and listen. Sometimes messages of extreme importance find their way to your awareness, other times the simple quiet is enough to bring your mind, body, and spirit back into balance.
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