Mindful Treatment of Anxiety, Depression & PTSD

By MJ Allen

you are in the check-out line at the grocery store there are at least 2 or more magazines with articles about mindfulness. More and more celebrities, athletes, and news programs are referring to the benefits of mindfulness, oftentimes, meditation specifically. It is true that mindfulness can bring many benefits to your emotional and physical health, as well as to the relationships in your life. Overall, mindfulness is an amazing tool to assist with stress man- agement and overall wellness because it can be used virtually any time and can quickly bring lasting results. But, how and why has mindfulness become such a tool used as an adjunctive therapy for anxiety, depression and PTSD?

M What is Mindfulness?

So exactly what is this amazing, life altering tool that everyone is talking about? The founder of the modern movement of mind- fulness as a therapeutic intervention, Jon Kabat-Zinn, describes mindfulness as “paying attention in a particular way: on purpose, in the present moment, and nonjudgmentally.” Mindfulness ex- ercises include awareness of breath meditations or detailed and non-evaluative attention to body sensations through body scans, yoga, or walking meditations. Kabat-Zinn developed an 8-week group-based psychoeducational program, Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR), based on the principles of mindfulness. MBSR was developed to reduce the risk for relapse in previously depressed individuals. Participants practice a variety of mindfulness exercises in a secular format that has shown to positively impact stress management, psychiatric symptoms, and quality of life across diverse populations, along with non-clinical populations. It incor- porates exercises aimed specifically at enabling awareness of and disengagement from manifesting depressive symptoms.

The Research

The World Health Organization (WHO, 2016) estimates that depression effects an estimated 350 million people worldwide and classifies depression as one of the world’s most urgent health prob- lems and the leading cause of disability. They further project that

28 ELM™ Maine - May/June 2018

indfulness has gained a ton of momentum in recent years. I think it is safe to say it is HOT, HOT, HOT!! Nearly everywhere we turn these days, mindfulness is there. If

by the year 2030, depression will be the number one cause of the global disease burden. Depression and anxiety know no bounds of age, socio-economic status, professional background…it simply affects a variety of people, from various walks of life. Due to the variety of people who are affected by depression and/or anxiety, healthcare professionals and researchers have begun exploring and examining treatment options that reach beyond the traditional ap- proaches of medication and cognitive behavior therapies. Alterna- tive therapies, such as mindfulness-based therapy indicate promis- ing results.

Recent studies focused on mindfulness techniques have resulted in significant decreases in anxiety and depressive symp- toms. Smith, Metzker, Waite and Gerrity (2015) conducted a study on an inner-city, racial/ethnic minority population that attended a four-week long, group-based MBSR course. This study showed statistically significant decrease in anxiety. In 2015, a group of 322 well-educated Caucasian women, enrolled in an eight- week, community-based MBSR program. Approximately half of this group reported having experienced symptoms of depression. The study findings indicated statistically significant reductions in depressive symptoms regardless of religious affiliation, sense of spirituality, or gender (Greeson, Smoski, Suarez, Brantley, Ekblad, Lynch, & Wolever, 2015). Roche, Barrachina, & Fernandez (2016) studied mixed-gender participants in a yoga group. These partici- pants showed a significant increase in mindfulness and decrease in both anxiety and depression symptoms.

College students are one of many populations that face high

levels of stress and anxiety due to experiencing a transition adapta- tion process. The lack of parental support, culture shock, changes in lifestyle and thoughts that college students experience during this time can lead to students feeling inadequate, leading to higher levels of stress, anxiety, and even depression (Falsafi, 2016). Falsafi explored the use of mindfulness-based interventions as an alterna- tive to treatment to reduce the stigma associated with being diag- nosed with a mental illness. After 8 weeks, those students assigned to the mindfulness and yoga groups showed a significant decrease in depression, anxiety, and stress.

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