Mindfulness as Effective as Medication in Preventing Relapse in Depression – Research

Mindfulness as Effective as Medication for Relapse

Mindfulness – the practice of attending to thoughts and feelings in the present moment – has been the focus of a lot of research attention recently and even under the full glare of science, it just keeps getting better.

In the first ever large scale study of its kind, researchers explored whether teaching people mindfulness would be as effective as maintenance doses of antidepressants in managing relapse in depression.

According to Willem Kuyken, lead author of the study and Professor of Clinical Psychology at the University of Oxford, without ongoing treatment four out of five people who struggle with depression will relapse.

Maintenance doses of antidepressant medication can reduce the risk of relapse by two-thirds, but it’s not without its problems. The side effects can be intolerable for some, and others might (understandably) be averse to an indefinite dependence on medication.


The Study: What They Did

424 adults with diagnosed major depression participated in the two year study. Half were required to stay on their antidepressant medication for the duration of the study. The other half slowly come off their medication and participated in mindfulness practice. People in this group attended eight weekly 2 ¼ hour group sessions consisting of guided mindfulness practices, group discussion and other cognitive behavioural exercises. They were also required to practice daily at home.

What They Found

At the end of two years, mindfulness was shown to be as effective as medication in preventing relapse, with the rates of relapse being 44% for the mindfulness group and 47% for the medication group.


The benefits of mindfulness therapy over medication include its low cost and its appeal to those who are reluctant to depend indefinitely on medication as a way to stave off depression.

The slide into depression can be triggered by negative thoughts and feelings about the self, others and the world. Mindfulness therapy aims to change the way people think and feel, teaching the skills to recognise and respond to thoughts and feelings that could otherwise set in motion a depressive downward spiral.

Through mindfulness, people can learn to appreciate that just because they think something, that doesn’t mean the thought is fact. Rather than hanging on to a thought and letting it gain momentum and strength, mindfulness teaches how to let the thought come and then go.

For more information on mindfulness, see MINDFULNESS: THE WHAT, THE HOW AND THE DIFFERENCE 5 MINUTES A DAY WILL MAKE

[Image Credit: Unsplash]

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The key to moving kids trough anxiety is helping them know when to retreat into safety, and when to move forward into brave.♥️
When their world feels wobbly, children will look to their closest adults for signs of safety. Our nonverbals will speak the loudest. We’ve been communicating in nonverbals long before words. With every expression, movement, with our posture, our voice, our tone, we’re communicating to them whether we believe they are brave enough and safe enough. 

Our capacity to self regulate is key. If you can breathe and lower your own anxiety, they will pick this up. Our nervous systems are talking to each other every minute of every day.  So often, the move towards brave doesn’t start with them. It starts with us. 

If you can hold a calm steady presence it will make it easier for their bodies and brains to pick up on that calm. If they’ve been feeling anxious retreating from something for a while, it will take a while them to trust that they can cope, and that’s okay. The move towards brave doesn’t have to happen quickly. It’s the direction that matters. 

Breathe, validate, and invite them into brave: ‘I know this feels big. What can you do that would feel brave right now?’ And you don’t need to do more than that.♥️

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Few things will stoke anxiety more in an anxious child than unpredictability. One of the ways they might relieve their anxiety is through control. (We can all fall into controlling behaviour when we’re anxious.) This isn’t done to be insensitive or ‘bossy’, even though it might come out that way. It’s done because of their great and very understandable need for predictability and safety.

Anxious kids don’t need to control everything in order to feel safe but they do need someone to take the lead and you’re perfect for the job. They need to understand that they can trust you to keep them safe. To show them, be predictable and clear with boundaries and have confidence in protecting those boundaries. Predictibility will increase their sense of safety and will help to minimise the likelihood of an anxious response.

Without limits kids have nothing to guide their behaviour. The options become vast and overwhelming. They need to feel like you’ve got them, that you’ve set a safety zone and that within that, they’re fine. Of course they’ll push up against the edges and sometimes they’ll move well outside them – that’s all part of growing up and stretching their wings but even then, the boundaries will offer some sort of necessary guidance. In time, children without limits wil become controlling and demanding – and that just doesn’t end well for anyone.

When they are pushing against your boundaries, let those boundaries be gentle, but firm. Invite their opinions and give space for them to disagree:
‘I want to understand [why this doesn’t feel right for you] [what you need] [how this can work for both of is].’

But let the final decision be yours with statements of validation:
‘I know this is annoying for you.’

Plus confidence:
‘This is what’s happening and I know [you can do this] [this is how it has to be].♥️
Even the spiciest behaviour will have a valid need behind it. If we can respond to the need behind the behaviour, the behaviour will ease. When this happens, they will be more open to our guidance and influence: ‘What happened?’ ‘What can you do differently next time?’ ‘You’re a great kid, and I know you know that wasn’t okay. How can you put things right?’

Of course, it’s not always easy to know what the need it. They won’t always know what the need is. (Neither do we when we’re losing our (thinking) minds.)

If you aren’t sure what the need is, try to approach this with a curious mind. Watch, wonder, and don’t forget to breathe. Of you think they’re open to it, ask, ‘Can you help me understand what’s happening for you? I really want to understand.’ Soft eyes, a curious mind, and breathe.♥️

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