Mindfulness Helps Prevent Depression

A little mindfulness a day helps keep depression away. A new study published in JAMA Psychiatry suggests that mindfulness-based cognitive therapy can do just as well, if not better, than traditional forms of therapies to prevent depression. Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy is based on Jon Kabat-Zinn’s Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction program and geared toward people who suffer from depression. The therapy combines principles of cognitive behavioral therapy with meditation and the non-judgmental awareness and open attitude of mindfulness.

The new study analyzed data across nine trials from 2010 to 2014 and found that 62 percent of people in mindfulness-based cognitive therapy remained free of depression 2 months later, compared to 51 percent who used traditional therapies, such as antidepressants. This study suggests that mindfulness-based cognitive therapy has equal, if not more, power to heal and prevent the return of depression. The study also found that mindfulness-based cognitive therapy helped particularly people experiencing more severe depression.

Even after depression is treated, symptoms commonly come back for many people. So it really helps to have healthy skills in place to help prevent depression. Along with maintaining strong social supports and a healthy lifestyle, including regular exercise and a balanced diet, mindfulness is a useful tool to have in place to help keep depression at bay.

The good news it that mindfulness is something you can incorporate into your daily life on your own. Mindfulness comes in so many varieties that you can explore many different techniques to find what works best for you, whether it’s yoga, meditation, tai chi, or small daily exercises that you can do at your desk. Here are a couple ideas for your mindfulness starter kit:

  • Focus on your breath on your commute and breathe with full attention for 2 minutes.
  • Listen to simple guided meditations for 5 or 10 minutes a day, with UCLA free guided meditation or with apps like Headspace or Meditation Oasis.
  • Put away your smartphone for 2 minutes and notice 3 things in the room that provide you a sense of comfort or groundedness.
  • Take a 5-minute quiet, observational walk during a work lunch break.
  • Try a relaxing hour-long restorative yoga class at the end of your week.

Sometimes it’s easier to learn many of these techniques with a therapist who integrates mindfulness into their treatment therapy. You can also learn more about mindfulness for depression in books like The Mindful Way Workbook for an 8-week program or The Mindful Way Through Depression.

Marlynn Wei, MD, PLLC © 2016

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