Mindfulness Over Matter: Cognitive Therapy for Anxiety, Depression, and More

Mindfulness Over Matter: Cognitive Therapy for Anxiety, Depression, and More

In the search for nontoxic therapies that can enhance standard disease treatments, combat side effects and, in some cases, prevent things from happening in the first place, many health practitioners and institutions — from holistic healers to hospitals — have made mindfulness meditation a part of patients’ integrative treatment.

What is mindfulness?

While most of us spend a good deal of time worrying about the past or future, mindfulness brings our attention to the present.

“Mindfulness has been conceptualized as paying attention to present moment experience in a non-judgmental manner, and the practice of developing that skill,” according to Á. I. Langer and colleagues.1

For people who have undergone pain or trauma, focusing on the moment and experiencing the pleasure it may bring can be a welcome relief. Meditators begin by focusing on the breath, various areas of the body, or any other aspect of the present moment. Practitioners are advised to start with a short period each day and to gradually increase the experience of being in the now.

Mindfulness can benefit psychological as well as physical conditions. It’s been used by everyone from children to aging members of VA home.

Focus on your food! Give your meal your full attention. This can help with portion control, satiety, and digestion.

Research Findings on Practicing Mindfulness

In adolescents, a cognitive-behavioral and mindfulness-based sleep intervention improved social problems, attention problems, and aggressive behaviors by improving self-reported sleep quality on school nights.2 Another study, which involved 88 teenagers, found a significant reduction in anxiety, depression, and general symptomology after eight weekly, 45-minute mindfulness intervention sessions.1 The authors of the report suggest that a mindfulness intervention could be utilized as a strategy to decrease negative emotional states and reduce risk factors in adolescent population groups.

In elderly women with major depressive disorders, symptoms of depression and anxiety declined significantly after completion of a four-week detached mindfulness program and four weeks later at a follow-up assessment.3 The improvement was in stark contrast to a control group treated with a standard antidepressant medication who experienced no significant improvement.

Among patients with a lifetime history of chronic or recurrent depression, a mindfulness-based intervention resulted in a significantly greater reduction in symptoms, increased mindfulness, and a decrease in ruminative tendencies and cognitive reactivity in comparison with a control group.4

While the success rate of rehabilitation programs for alcohol and drug abuse has been dismal, the outcome of two randomized trials suggests that mindfulness-based relapse prevention could be an optimal therapy for preventing relapses.5 The researchers found the technique was successful among patients with severe levels of substance abuse disorder symptoms with or without anxiety and depression.

Even a brief 11-minute supervised mindfulness instruction has been association with a reduction in alcohol consumption by at-risk drinkers after seven days, in comparison with a control group that received instruction concerning relaxation.6 A meta-analysis of mindfulness-based interventions in alcohol and drug use disorders that included 37 studies found large effect sizes for mindfulness in levels of perceived craving, negative affectivity, and post-traumatic symptoms.7

Among patients with headache pain who completed a Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy program, significant reductions in pain intensity, pain interference, and pain catastrophizing occurred, accompanied by increases in activity engagement and self-efficacy.8 These benefits were maintained six months after the end of the course.

Mindfulness is helpful not only to patients, but also to those who care for them. In an article titled “Happier Healers” that appeared in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, E. Yang and colleagues report the findings of a study that included 88 medical students who participated in a month-long audio-guided mindfulness meditation program.9 Participants experienced a significant increase in general well-being at the program’s conclusion and a decrease in perceived stress 30 days after the end of the intervention. In undergraduate nursing students, mindfulness was more effective against depression than physical exercise, whose mood-enhancing benefits are well-established.10

In another study involving medical and psychology students, participating in a 15-hour mindfulness course was associated with increased well-being along with improved problem-focused coping after six years of follow-up. The researchers involved in the study suggest that these improvements could contribute to quality of patient care and health care professional resilience.11

It has been said that mindfulness teaches us to respond, not react. In such a way, the technique can improve job performance and lower damaging stress reactions. In one study, an eight-week mindfulness-based stress reduction course reduced workplace cognitive failures and increased safety compliance among hospital health care workers.12 The authors of the study, which was published in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, suggest that mindfulness training could decrease occupational injuries among health care personnel.

The Bottom Line

It’s pleasurable to reminisce or to daydream. And consulting one’s memory, planning for the future, and working out problems in one’s mind are all essential parts of life. Nevertheless, try taking a few minutes or more to “be in the moment.” It just may result in a better mood, improved performance, and greater enjoyment of life.

References

1. Langer ÁI et al. Rev Med Chil. 2017 Apr;145(4):476-482.
2. Blake MJ et al. Behav Res Ther. 2017 Dec;99:147-156.
3. Ahmadpanah M et al. Psychiatry Res. 2017 Nov;257:87-94.
4. Winnebeck E et al. Behav Res Ther. 2017 Dec;99:124-130.
5. Roos CR et al. J Consult Clin Psychol. 2017 Nov;85(11):1041-1051.
6. Kamboi SK et al. Int J Neuropsychopharmacol. 2017 Nov 1;20(11):936-947.
7. Cavicchioli M et al. Eur Addict Res. 2018;24(3):137-162.
8. Day MA et al. Complement Ther Med. 2017 Aug;33:94-98.
9. Yang E et al. J Altern Complement Med. 2018 May;24(5):505-513.
10. Alsaraireh FA et al. J Nurs Educ. 2017 Oct 1;56(10):599-604.
11. de Vibe M et al. PLoS One. 2018 Apr 24;13(4):e0196053.
12. Valley MA et al. J Occup Environ Med. 2017 Oct;59(10):935-941.

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