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Monday, January 20, 2014
Can Meditation Top Medication?
Meditation has gotten a lot of positive press lately as researchers find that it has a host of brain benefits, including helping usfeel happier, and leading to the growth of brain regions responsible for building memories, regulating our emotional state, and helping us gain a sense of perspective. But can the practice help those with depression or anxiety manage their condition as well as patients on antidepressants or anti-anxiety medications?
A review of 47 clinical trials involving more than 3,500 participants with mild anxiety or depression found that those who took mindfulness meditation classes experienced improvement in mood after eight weeks — on par with the effect seen with prescription medications. The study, published Jan. 6 in JAMA Internal Medicine, found that meditation helped alleviate chronic pain in those with back trouble, arthritis, headaches, or other conditions.
“The benefits did attenuate over time — with the effectiveness of meditation decreasing by half, three to six months after the training classes ended,” said study leader Dr. Madhav Goyal, an assistant professor of medicine at Johns Hopkins University. “We don’t know why this occurred, but it could have been that they were practicing meditation less often.”
Most of the studies asked volunteers to attend weekly two-hour classes to learn mindfulness meditation — learning to focus attention on breathing, body sensations, and other experiences in the present moment. Participants were also instructed to continue their practice for 20 to 30 minutes a day at home. The meditating group was compared with a control group who attended educational classes on their particular health condition. (MORE)