18 May Your Prescription for Getting Well: The Healing Power of Mindfulness, Backed by Science
If there’s anything that can bring anyone down, it is fear and trauma – and there’s no need for any scientific research to prove that. We all know it; we’ve all been through that.
Before heading on into the subject, I’m going to tell you a story many of you might strongly relate with – the story of John Nash. John was the kind of person no one in the world would imagine as fearful – how could a champion in karate be afraid of anything? But one day, the impossible happened: John got bullied by a group of students. It wasn’t the physical injuries that hurt the most, but the anxiety and fear that followed. John fell, unknowingly, into a deep depression that kept him on the bridge of not wanting to go on with what life looked like to be: a horrible, scary place. He lost his friends, his girlfriend, his taste for life – everything. He never imagined he would get to this point, and yet there he was, paralyzed with fear and not being able to go and ask for professional help.
If only John would have known back then that he could have indeed helped himself. That depression doesn’t have to be a sentence to a life-long misery. One of the most amazing self-help tools for all those who find themselves struggling with depression and anxiety is Mindfulness meditation. Mindfulness meditation has long been used to achieve spiritual growth in many oriental cultures and is now one of psychotherapy researcher’s favorite interests.
- The Power of Mindfulness Meditation
So what is Mindfulness Meditation and how can we start embracing it into our lives?
Mindfulness Meditation is, first and foremost, a lifestyle, a wide bouquet of techniques through which we can reach change by working directly or indirectly with our mental state and feelings.
It’s all about awareness and intention, where you set an intention to be aware of your negative emotional reactions, to accept them, to let them go and release the need for them and to replace them with more positive, healthy emotional perspectives. It is, therefore, a way of shifting our mental states and our self-imposed perspective of helplessness into an empowered one, where one can choose a different, more enjoyable experience.
While mindfulness meditation might not be a cure-all resort, it has definitely proven its high effectiveness when it comes to treating depression and to preventing depression relapse as well. Since it consists mostly of empowering the individual to shift its mental and emotional state without relying on any external factors such as an antidepressant medication might be, Mindfulness Meditation comes as a truly profound, long-term approach to ditching depression and feeling that joy and trust of life again.
For those who are sick (literally!) of being on antidepressant treatment, this is the best alternative therapy there is – and the most empowering.
- The Scientific Power of Mindfulness
It is exactly what studies have continuously shown, such as the one published by the Lancet Journal in 2015. With depression having a strong relapsing course, many individuals, especially those under no ongoing treatment, suffer a high risk of falling back into the arms of depression. This study aimed at understanding the difference regarding effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of antidepressant treatment and mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT) in the prevention of depressive relapse or recurrence.
During a 24-month study period, researchers have followed the evolution of depression in the 424 participants, carefully recruited adult patients who have had until that time at least three major depressive episodes. They have all been randomly assigned to either antidepressants or MBCT treatment. The findings of the study have shown, at the end of the two years period of follow up that MBCT practices were just as effective as antidepressants, being thus associated with lasting positive outcomes regarding depression recurrence, quality of life and residual depressive symptoms.
Another great scientific study backing up the effectiveness of self-management power when it comes to MBCT is the one approved by the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, Toronto and by St Joseph’s Healthcare, Hamilton. The study aimed at testing the efficacy of MBCT vs. placebo or antidepressant treatment in 160 patients aged 18-65 years old with major depressive disorder and a minimum of 2 past episodes. Out of these, 82 of them achieved remission and have subsequently gone under three different treatment plans. Part of them continued only antidepressant medication and with another part of the group undergoing eight weekly group sessions of MBCT, split into a group continuing antidepressant treatment at the same time and another group discontinuing it and being switched to a placebo.
The conclusion of this research? For those patients who have been under a strong episode of depression but have achieved clinical remission, MBCT offers solid protection against relapse and recurrence on a par with that of maintenance antidepressant pharmacotherapy. As a significant plus when compared to medication, MBCT have proven to have a stronger, more beneficial effect as it relies on daily practices of health-enhancing behaviors, such as mindfulness meditation is - a practice that serves as a very strong positive incentive for the type of long-term engagement required by any maintenance therapy.
Feeling empowered by the choices you make daily and choosing a commitment to implement such daily practices as mindfulness meditation can carry strong impact in that mental and emotional shift so many depressive individuals are craving for.
Many other studies have been carried on to research the effectiveness of meditation therapy and have proven it to the point. A 2011 meta-analysis published in Clinical Psychology Review and undergone by Jacob Piet, Ph.D., and EsbenHougaard, Ph.D., of the University of Aarhus in Denmark concluded that MBCT was more effective than antidepressant treatment in preventing relapse among people with three or more episodes. The analysis also showed that it reduced risks by 43 percent versus 34 percent for participants overall.
- In a Nutshell
If many have been looking for real scientific evidence that meditation works, these studies are here to show exactly that.
I am grateful to be able to showcase the scientifically proven efficiency behind meditation, to make you taste it and to take you through the wonder and empowerment of practicing Mindfulness, of cultivating awareness and of leaving behind and letting go of depression, negative emotions.
Here’s to a new (re)found joy of life, peace of mind!