Updated: Aug 16, 2021
Practicing mindfulness reduces symptoms of depression and increases overall well-being.
Depression is a global pandemic effecting 322 million people. In the United States alone 15.7 million people over the age of 18 experienced one symptom of Major Depression in the year 2015 according to Anxiety and Depression Association of America. Although Cognitive Behavior Therapy and antidepressants are effective first lines of treatment, not all patients benefit from them. Therefore, alternative methods of treatment are needed. One method that is getting a lot of attention recently is mindfulness. It is organic, something every one of us is in possession of, we just need to access it.
What is mindfulness? “Mindfulness is the basic human ability to be fully present, aware of where we are and what we’re doing, and not overly reactive or overwhelmed by what’s going on around us” (Staff, 2014). It is an evidence-based practice that helps to reduce stress, gain insight into our own minds, release judgments and experience kindness towards ourselves and others. “The number of randomized controlled trials — the gold standard for clinical study — involving mindfulness has jumped from one in the period from 1995‒1997 to 11 from 2004‒2006, to a whopping 216 from 2013‒2015, according to a recent article summarizing scientific findings on the subject” (Powell, 2018). These studies according to Powell (2018), have shown the benefits of mindfulness for both physical and mental health conditions including depression, anxiety, and PTSD.
People suffering from depression tend to experience their days on autopilot or disassociated from what is going on around them. They are not fully engaged in the present moment and their minds are foggy. Practicing mindfulness helps the person pay attention to the present moment allowing them to let go, of lingering negative thoughts and ruminations that cause depression. They also begin to become more aware of their bodies and start to identify stressors that trigger depression beforehand. According to Powell (2018), the moment the client identifies these triggers is called interoception, which, by focusing on the present moment arms the person to break the cycle of rumination, and therefore prevent depression.
The benefits of mindfulness do not end with depression. A study done on happiness at the University of Rochester by Kirk Warren Brown and Richard M. Ryan shows that people high on mindfulness are models of flourishing and positive mental health. A few more notable benefits are that mindfulness:
Conserves energy by decreasing anxiety
Trains and strengthens the mind
It creates intimacy, decreases isolation
Stops our struggling and conquers our fears
Supports our spiritual life (Bays, 2014)
Simple exercised that can be done through out the day are diaphragmatic breathing, using your weaker hand to write or use a utensil or just stop for a moment to appreciate all that you are grateful for. Before you fall asleep at night put on some meditation music to quite you mind.
Bays, J. C. (2014). Mindfulness on the Go. Boulder: Shambhala.
Borchard, T. (2015, April 22). Mindfulness Isn’t a Depression Cure-All. Retrieved from Everyday Health: https://www.everydayhealth.com/columns/therese-borchard-sanity-break/mindfulness-isnt-depression-cure-all/
Depression. (n.d.). Retrieved from Anxiety and depression Association of America: https://adaa.org/understanding-anxiety/depression
Powell, A. (2018, April 19). How Mindfulness May Change the Brain in Depressed Patients. Retrieved from Mindful.org: https://www.mindful.org/how-mindfulness-may-change-the-brain-in-depressed-patients/
Staff, M. (2014, 8 October). What is Mindfulness? Retrieved from Mindful.org: https://www.mindful.org/what-is-mindfulness/