Mindfulness has been an age-old practice in different parts of the world, particularly in eastern countries. People in the western world have begun to take interest in mindfulness through their contact with eastern philosophy. The era of colonization provided western scholars opportunities to practise and study mindfulness. Eastern scholars also have immense contributions in introducing and popularizing Mindfulness in the occidental world.
Through sincere effort, the popularity of Mindfulness and its associated philosophy has gained momentum, considerably by the end of the second world war.
The present-day popularity of Mindfulness has much to do with the past efforts of many eminent mindfulness practitioners, and that’s why the mentioning of the past heritage seems important. The recent surge of popularity of Mindfulness among the common people and the very educated as well as enlightened ones has attracted the attention of the scientific community to conduct research on Mindfulness.
In the USA, Jon Kabat-Zin, who is a medicine specialist and professor emeritus, developed a course on Mindfulness at the University of Massachusetts Medical Center which maintains a clinical and scientific standard. Jon has a big role in popularizing new-age mindfulness practices as well as attracting and impacting Mindfulness research findings.
People have benefitted from practising mindfulness. It’s a different question how people are benefited out of it. The noticeable benefits have prompted computational neuroscientists Dr. Gaulle Deborders to conduct research on Mindfulness.
A randomized controlled trial is a golden standard for a clinical study. This has also been applied in Mindfulness research. Such study has jumped from one in the period from 1995-1997 to 11 from 2004-2006 to a whopping 216 from 2013-2015, according to a recent article summarizing scientific findings on the subjects. This trend is increasing year after year.
In 2015, 16.1 million Americans reported having experienced depression in the previous year. Their depression was crippling as they struggle to get back to work. This may have been due to modern-day work pressure and lifestyle distractions, which means a lack of Mindfulness. In this connection, Benjamin Shapiro, a psychiatrist instructor at Harvard Medical School observed that Cognitive Behavioural Therapy and anti-depressant medication can be helpful for some patients. But there is a need for an alternative approach to tackle depression.
Shapiro is working with Gaelle Desbordes. They are working towards an alternative approach – Mindfulness-based medication.
Numerous well designed and well-run studies have proved that Mindfulness-based medication is effective in tackling chronic pain, depression, and anxiety.
The connection between Mindfulness and depression has been described by Gaelle Desbordes, a computational neuroscientist. She practised mindfulness meditation while she was a student at Boston University. Meditation was very helpful for her in tackling anxiety as a result of academic pressure. She noticed that something very important happened to her. But the question was for her – How did it happen? She decided to probe into the matter expecting that Mindfulness could be of help to others.
Desbordes’ research used functional magnetic resonance imaging which is also called fMRI. This method was applied to the long term meditators. The findings of this research were encouraging. The subjects of the research were divided into two groups. One group had no experience in meditation. Another group received training for eight weeks of extensive meditation. Those who had eight weeks of meditation experience were detected less brain activation in the amygdala area of their brain. That means less anxiety!
Desbodes also found that moment to moment awareness (interoception) of mindfulness meditation is helpful in keeping depression and anxiety at bay. A new system for combating depression has emerged which is called Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy.
Our above discussion proves that Mindfulness and depression are closely connected.
Recent research has convinced me that there is no doubt about the efficacy of mindfulness in preventing depression and anxiety. The growing popularity of Mindfulness and its interest among the learned is something that is thought-provoking. Result conducted so far on Mindfulness meditation is very positive.
In some areas, research on mindfulness is hampered by a small sample size model and problematic experimental design in areas like irritable bowel syndrome, psoriasis, and fibromyalgia. However, in cases of chronic pain, depression, and anxiety, there is convincing experimental design and sample sizes to come to a conclusion that Mindfulness is effective.
Gaelle Desbodes conducted experimentation on the efficacy of mindfulness. She used functional magnetic resonance imaging which is also called fMRI. This method was applied to the long term meditators. The findings of this research were encouraging. The subjects of the research were divided into two groups. One group had no experience in meditation. Another group received training of eight weeks of extensive meditation. Those who had eight weeks of meditation experience were detected less brain activation in the amygdala area of their brain. That means less anxiety!
Considering the public engagement in Mindfulness, and positive research activities in this field, now we are in a position to say that Mindfulness is going to be the next MBCT (Mindfulness-based Cognitive Therapy) in combating depression.