In a groundbreaking study, researchers at Georgetown University Medical Center compared mindfulness meditation to a common antidepressant in a clinical trial targeting patients with anxiety disorders. The results reveal that an eight-week mindfulness program was as effective in reducing measures of anxiety as drug treatment.
Mindfulness techniques have long been an essential tool for therapists helping patients with various mental health issues. The authors of this study looked at a mindfulness technique called “mindfulness-based stress reduction” (MBSR).
A decrease in anxiety of up to 30%.
The research recruited over 200 participants with clinically diagnosed anxiety disorders. Half of them were randomly assigned to undergo an eight-week treatment with the antidepressant escitalopram, while the other half followed an eight-week MBSR program.
The MBSR program included weekly guided mediation classes, daily 45-minute home exercises, and a one-day mid-term course. At the end of the eight-week trial, each participant’s level of anxiety was assessed by a trained clinician who was unaware of which intervention the patient had received. Overall, both groups showed a decrease in anxiety measures of around 30% at the end of the eight-week intervention.
Although… This practice requires a real commitment!
Elizabeth Hoge, first author of the study, said these results should help clinicians and healthcare providers confidently offer MBSR as an effective alternative to drug treatments for anxiety disorders. However, Ms. Hoge pointed out that there are pros and cons to treating anxiety with MBSR.
As for the disadvantages, the treatment requires the patient to invest time and effort in order to be effective. Unlike just taking a pill, MBSR requires taking an eight-week course and practicing meditation regularly to remain effective.
This may mean that it is only really a viable alternative for patients who, for whatever reason, cannot take antidepressants. On the other hand, Hoge indicated that the practice of MBSR is a much more accessible treatment than clinician-managed drug therapies.
How to start an MBSR session?
- To start, sit comfortably in an upright position in a chair or lie down.
- Avoid caffeinated beverages (like coffee or energy drinks).
- Alcohol and drugs that make you sleep (like sleeping pills) before exercise. They can make MBSR harder to perform and less effective.
MBSR exercises can be divided into 4 groups:
This is a mindfulness exercise that involves paying attention to the sensations in different parts of your body. You can usually do this exercise lying down or sitting down.
The purpose of this exercise is to observe the mind wander, focusing on your breath. You can then gently bring your mind back to the breath. Repeat this exercise as many times as you notice your attention wandering.
This exercise is about accepting and observing the sensations of your body as it slowly moves and stretches. This exercise lasts 35 minutes. To do this, you need to be able to balance on one leg and move across the floor.
We recommend trying the exercises that make you feel good about yourself and dropping the ones that you can’t do or that make you feel uncomfortable.
It involves noticing the physical sensations of a task, such as walking or eating. A mindful walking exercise is offered in the recordings.
You may lose motivation after the first try. It’s completely natural. For example, you may have trouble finding time to do the exercises, be too tired, or bored. The main thing is to think about how you felt after the session. If relief or relaxation has been observed, it will put you off doing these exercises again and again. Thus, you will notice for yourself the change in your mood and your anxiety disorders would only be old stories to share!