Mindfulness holds promise for treating depression - Happy + Well : Happy + Well

Mindfulness holds promise for treating depression

Written by on July 20, 2015 in Happiness, Wellness with 0 Comments

UnknownNumerous studies now confirm the myriad benefits of mindfulness when it comes to our physical and mental health. Every other day it seems like there’s yet another article describing the positive effects of this age-old practice rooted most notably in Buddhism and other Eastern wisdom traditions. Perhaps due to growing enthusiasm in therapeutic circles about mindfulness-based treatments, some proponents are even occasionally tempted to overstate the evidence where the evidence doesn’t yet exist.

Bearing this in mind, Professor Willem Kuyken, the director of the Mindfulness Centre at the University of Oxford, who’s being interviewed here about the efficacy of mindfulness as a therapy for depression, makes the point straight away that the evidence for mindfulness-based cognitive therapy for recurrent depression is now very strong. “There have been at least 10 randomised trials and that is considered the gold standard in the evidence world, suggesting that mindfulness-based cognitive therapy does better than usual care; it really helps people with a history of recurrent depression stay well in the long term.”

Here “usual care” means taking anti-depressants although Kuyken is at pains to point out that mindfulness-based cognitive therapy “certainly doesn’t do better than antidepressants”; rather it offers an equally effective alternative.

In describing how mindfulness-based cognitive therapy works, Kuyken says it differs from the stress reduction approach, which has also been shown to build emotional strength, in that it “uses a sort of theoretical formulation. It has an idea about what is it that tips people with a history of depression into another episode of depression. And then it takes that understanding and really tries to support people in learning the skills at those precise moments, those exact moments when somebody tips into a depressive relapse.”

Essentially it enables people to recognise, step back from and respond in a more skilful way to whatever negative and ruminative thoughts are threatening to sabotage their mental wellbeing. “So what mindfulness-based cognitive therapy does,” says Kuyken, “is absolutely teach mindfulness and meditation skills to enable people to train their attentional muscle, to train their awareness, to be able to see patterns of mind, patterns of thinking, and learn the skills to step back from them.”

But like any discipline we undertake for the purpose of self-improvement, such as exercising to get fit, or dieting to lose weight, Kuyken says that “to train the mind out of very ingrained and old habits, as is often the case with recurrent depression, it takes effort, it takes time, it takes repetition.”

It also most likely requires from us a lifelong commitment if we wish to sustain the benefits. Although he can’t be sure as a scientist, as someone who’s practised mindfulness himself for more than 20 years and has worked clinically with many people, Kuyken’s sense is “we need to engage in some ongoing practice to keep those skills alive, to keep that learning alive, to keep that sense of interest alive.”

 

You can learn more about the power of meditation at Mind & Its Potential 2015. Visit the website here.

Visit The Wellness Show Expo 1-3 April 2016, Hordern Pavilion & Royal Hall of Industries, Sydney – a free showcase of the innovation and technology that are transforming the way we stay fit and healthy. For more information and to register for your free visitor pass click here.

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