What’s been on your mind lately? If you’re like most of us, a lot of your time is spent pondering things that are rooted in the past or the future: the dentist appointment in a few hours, the argument you had yesterday, your vacation next month.
Every moment is spent thinking about another moment. And when we finally arrive at the moment we’ve been thinking about, we are already thinking of another moment. We are expending an enormous amount of energy ‘living in our heads.’ Wouldn’t it be nice to save all that energy and live more in the here and now?
Mindfulness is the practice by which we truly take in the present without judgment: the juiciness and flavor of an apple, the deep blue of the sky, the noise of the city. Our minds are on whatever it is we are doing, seeing, smelling, feeling right here and now rather than worrying about another moment in time, whether past or future.
In a new study, published in The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, mindfulness has been shown to significantly reduce feelings of depression for virtually everyone, regardless of age, gender or religious affiliation.
There are many and multiple causes of depression, and each case is unique in symptoms and severity. For some people, depression begins as a chemical imbalance; for others it begins in their thinking processes. When left untreated, however, it almost always ends in a painful cycle of feeling emptiness, a lack of joy, and a freight train of negative thinking.
For many people, getting back to the basics—eating healthy, exercising, and avoiding allergens—can significantly lessen symptoms of depression and anxiety. But even when our diets and exercise habits are stellar, our very thought processes can make us physically ill. This is where mindfulness comes in. If we are always pondering the past and the future (and much of this is worry), how does this affect our wellbeing?
For the study, the researchers investigated the effectiveness of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR), a standardized 8-week program originally developed by Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn, which involves intensive training in mindfulness meditation to help individuals cope with stress, pain, and illness.
Their intent was to find out if MBSR could help reduce depression in people of all groups and ages, including those who consider themselves non-religious. The study was completed by 213 participants—mostly white, married, well-educated women—with about half meeting the criteria for a “likely” case of clinical depression. About two-thirds of participants reported a religious affiliation.
As hypothesized, completion of MBSR training was able to significantly reduce depressive symptoms in all groups.
MBSR is based on ancient healing practices—a conglomeration of meditation and yoga techniques. If you take MBSR training, either in person or online, you will gain greater knowledge of the unity of mind and body, as well as an awareness of the unconscious thoughts and feelings that harm your emotional, physical, and spiritual health.