I’ve previously written about mindfulness and its benefits if you’re generally well – some exciting current research is pointing to the effectiveness of mindfulness to treat depression.
Depression is the most common mental illness in Australia (and the world for that matter). It is also a particularly nasty illness that robs sufferers of motivation, concentration, feelings of happiness and sleep. It’s not selective in who it affects and can strike at almost any age. Current research suggests that about 80% of people who’ve had one episode of depression will have another.
We have some very good treatments for depression including psychological cognitive-based therapies and exercise. These can sometimes be supplemented by prescribed medications but no treatment is a “one size fits all”. One of the challenges of treating depression is that it can take some time to identify which approach will work best for an individual person. At the moment, a growing body of research is suggesting a new intervention may have some strong benefits for a number of people – Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy.
Put simply, mindfulness refers to the practice of having yourself fully in the present. Although we might physically be in the present moment, at times we let our minds worry about the future or regret the past and in people who have depression, these thought patterns can become chronic. Mindfulness can be used to alter these thought patterns in a way that helps prevent either a worsening or a relapse of depression.
Mindfulness is not a silver bullet cure – nothing is. But you don’t need any special equipment and in fact mindfulness can be practiced while you’re doing almost anything – working, household chores, exercising – even supermarket shopping. In fact, I now routinely build mindfulness practice into all my clients’ fitness training.
If you’re someone who experiences depression or you know someone who does, encourage them to firstly see their GP and consider asking for a referral to a Psychologist who can help them to learn mindfulness practice.