20 May, 2009

Buddhist meditation cures depression

People suffering from recurrent depression can avoid using drugs now and can switch over to a group- based psychological treatment which utilizes many of the Buddhist meditation exercises. The method appears to be as effective as using anti- depressant drugs, according to a new study.

The therapy, involving a range of Buddhist meditation exercises, turned out to be as cost effective as prescription drugs.

The eight- week study included 123 people from urban and rural locations who had suffered chronic depression.

The patients were divided into two groups — half received the antidepressant drug treatment and the rest participated in the group- based psychological treatment course, called Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT).

After 15 months of the trial, 47 per cent of those given the MBCT therapy experienced a relapse in comparison to 60 per cent on normal drug treatment, the scientists said.

The group receiving MBCT therapy also reported a higher quality of life in terms of their overall enjoyment of daily living and physical well- being.

Unlike most other psychological therapies, MBCT can be taught in groups by a single therapist, and patients then continue to practice the skills at home by themselves. Thus, MBCT is less costly than individual treatments and is not dependent on a large number of trained therapists needed for one- to- one psychological treatments, they said.

Many of the exercises were based on Buddhist meditation techniques and helped the individual take time to focus on the present, rather than dwelling on past events, or planning for future tasks, scientists said. The exercises worked in a different way for each person, but many reported greater acceptance and more control over their negative thoughts and feelings, scientists said.

“ While anti- depressants reduce the symptoms of depression, most patients remain vulnerable to a relapse. MBCT takes a different approach — it teaches people skills for life”.