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Proof that depression and anxiety can be reduced without individual therapy

This could be great news for the HSE.

Image: Mindfulness via Shutterstock

A NEW STUDY has revealed that group mindfulness can work as well as individual therapy to reduce depression and anxiety.

Researchers in Sweden found that group mindfulness treatment is as effective as cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT).

This is important for countries looking at mental health in the community, as primary care centres often cannot offer individual therapies. From these results, group mindfulness treatment could be looked to as an alternative.

For the project, Professor Jan Sundquist took 215 patients with depression, anxiety or reactions to severe stress and split them into two groups. One of the groups were give structured group mindfulness treatment, while the others got ‘regular individual treatment’ which was mostly CBT.

Patients also received a private training programme and were asked to record their exercises in a diary.

Before and after treatment, the patients in the mindfulness and regular treatment groups answered questionnaires that estimated the severity of their depression and anxiety. Self-reported symptoms of depression and anxiety decreased in both groups during the 8-week treatment period. There was no statistical difference between the two treatments.

“The study’s results indicate that group mindfulness treatment, conducted by certified instructors in primary health care, is as effective a treatment method as individual CBT for treating depression and anxiety,” said Sundquist.

“This means that group mindfulness treatment should be considered as an alternative to individual psychotherapy, especially at primary health care centres that can’t offer everyone individual therapy.”

Mindfulness meditation has also been empirically shown to thicken the brain’s cortex, lower blood pressure, and can help psoriasis.

According to occupational psychologist Gerry Fahey mindfulness is best defined as “moment-to-moment awareness of one’s experience without judgment”.

“Mindfulness is a state and not a trait so it is not a characteristic that people inherently possess. It can be acquired with practise, unlike a trait which is largely genetically inherited.”

Opinion: Develop your ‘mental fitness’ in work to find a sense of well-being

Column: Practising mindfulness is a valuable tool for easing stress and anxious thoughts

Read: ‘Mindfulness’ sounds like a lovely concept… so how the hell do you do it?

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