Depressed? Mindfulness May Be What You Need

Over the last decade, positive psychology has been given more attention for its practices that may be therapeutically beneficial in ameliorating depression. One such practice is mindfulness. Mindfulness practices involve helping the client focus on the present moment in a non-judgmental way. Some ways people practice mindfulness include meditation, yoga, and body awareness exercises. More therapists are looking for effective non-pharmaceutical interventions like mindfulness programs that can help clients experiencing depression, as many adults prefer to avoid taking antidepressant medications. 

Depression has been linked to inflammation within the body and poor cognitive functioning. In addition, depressive symptoms can be disruptive to everyday life, such as causing people to lose enjoyment in activities that once brought joy. One study by Marciniak et. al (2020) examined whether a mindfulness-based stress reduction program may be more effective than cognitive training on reducing depressive symptoms, reducing biomarkers of inflammation, and cognitive functioning in adults. 

In the study, 12 healthy aging adults participated in an 8-week mindfulness-based stress reduction program that included meditation, body awareness, and breathing exercises. Participants in this condition also were instructed to complete mindfulness-based activities at home with the assistance of an audio-guide. Eight adults participated in the cognitive training group, which served as the control condition. The cognitive training program lasted 8-weeks and included both group and individual work on specific cognitive domains using exercises such as recognizing changes within a room, matching cards, and recognizing well-known melodies. 

To examine the efficacy of both interventions, researchers performed baseline cognitive, depression, and immunophenotyping assessments. These same assessments were repeated after the completion of the interventions. What researchers found was that the 12 people who participated in the mindfulness-based stress reduction intervention reported significant decreases in their depressive symptoms in comparison to the 8 adults who completed the cognitive training program. Cognitively, psychomotor speed improved significantly in the mindfulness-based stress reduction group than in the cognitive training group. No significant differences were observed in the analysis of biomarkers of inflammation.

What does this Mean for You?

Clinicians working with adults that are experiencing depression may want to incorporate a mindfulness-based stress reduction therapy program as part of their client’s therapy plan. In the study, researchers also assessed the reception and feasibility of a mindfulness-based stress reduction program among participants. Participants reported overall that they enjoyed the mindfulness intervention and performing mindfulness practices at home. With your clients experiencing depression, you may want to discuss and help them find ways that they enjoy practicing mindfulness daily. Mindfulness practices may help reduce the depressive symptoms that they are experiencing over time.

Marciniak, R., Šumec, R., Vyhnálek, M., Bendíčková, K., Lázničková, P., Forte, G., … & Sheardová, K. (2020). The Effect of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) on Depression, Cognition, and Immunity in Mild Cognitive Impairment: A Pilot Feasibility Study. Clinical Interventions in Aging, 15, 1365.
Dustin Luchmee

Dustin was HappyNeuron's Product Specialist. With research experience in stroke, Dustin learned how a stroke can change someone's life. He also learned how different kinds of therapists can work together to help a person get better. He is passionate about neuro-rehabilitation and finding the active ingredients for effective therapy.

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