Mindfulness as a Therapy for Reducing Depression
How This Helps
Major depression disorder (MDD) is one of the most common psychiatric disorders (Langlois et al., 2012). There are a range of treatment options available however, MDD still present a high rate of relapse or recurrence after remission or recovery (Raedt et al., 2011). Individuals struggling with depression may experience recurring episodes that drastically interfere with their quality of life. Mindfulness teaches acceptance, self-compassion, and being in the moment.
Individuals struggling with depression experience a depressed mood or a loss of interested or pleasure in most activities for a period of at least two consecutive weeks. They also experience a least four additional symptoms such as changes in appetite or weight, sleep, decreased energy, feelings of worthlessness or guilt, difficulty thinking, concentrating or making decisions or recurrent thoughts of death or suicidal behaviour (Langlois et al., 2012).
There is no single cause but contributing factors include genetic predisposition, the presence of other chronic or sever medical conditions, a serious loss or stressful life event, financial problems or low self esteem (Langlois et al., 2012).
Antidepressant medication and psychotherapy are the most common treatments of depression but mindfulness has shown promising results as a supportive treatment and therapy in the management of remission (Batink et al., 2013).
Science and Research
Mindfulness therapy takes roots in Buddhist traditions dating back thousands of years. It can be described as “…the awareness that emerges thought paying attention on purpose, in the present moment, and non judgmentally to things as they are” (Sipe & Eisendrath, 2012, p. 63).
Mindfulness therapy is characterized by acceptance and ‘being’ and practicing one’s ability to pay “attention to the present moment, non-judgmentally, and being open and accepting to all experiences (Coelho, Canter & Ernst, 2013; Raedt et al., 2011, p. 612). Mindfulness pushes people to focuses on getting to a place where one can identify a thought, feeling or belief as a mental event instead of as aspect of self or a direct reflection of truth. Mindfulness encouraged people to appreciate the moment and let go of past regrets and future worries to help them overcome depression.
It has been empirically supported that as individuals with recurrent depression experience cognitive reactivity, which are negative modes of thinking, they are more vulnerable to developing an episode of depression (Huijbers et al., 2012). Mindfulness therapy is meant to help individuals recognize their cognitive reactions to low mood and life stressors and teaches acceptance, self-compassion and being in the moment.
Meta-analysis has shown that individuals who move through 8 weeks of mindfulness-based cognitive therapy, participating in psychological education, mindfulness meditation, and mindful movement and breathing exercises (yoga) experience a reduced risk of relapse in major depression disorder (Shawyer et al., 2012). The mechanisms that contribute to the successfulness of mindfulness are still being uncovered but research suggests that breaking the cycle of cognitive reactivity and rumination as well as promotion self-compassion and self-regulation of attention may play a role.