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Depression and Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction

Written by sshowalter, ritasharma.

Originally created in 1979 at the Stress Reduction Clinic at the University of Massachusetts Medical Center by John Kabat-Zinn, Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MSBR) programs are now offered at more than 200 medical centers, clinics and hospitals around the world including many leading integrative clinics.1

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Effect of Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction on Depression

MBSR is an 8 week program that urges individuals to center their attention moment to moment in a non-judgmental way helping them to cope with stress that often accompanies depression and other chronic diseases. The key concept of MSBR is to cultivate mindfulness through sitting meditation and through mindful body movement which will then translate into the participants' daily lives. Intensive weekly workshops (usually lasting for 8 hours, 1 day per week, for 8 weeks) train participants in mindful meditation which cultivate an awareness of the unity of the mind with the body, as well as how unconscious thoughts and feelings can undermine both emotional and physical health. 1 Additionally, individuals participate in yoga and/or forms of martial arts to bring awareness to the movement of their body.

Through these practices, individuals can beneficially effect both their states of emotional arousal as well as physiological symptoms (such as a blood pressure and heart rate.)

Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) combines facets of Kabat-Zinn's MBSR with Aaron T. Beck's Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). MBCT is therefore a form of MBSR specifically used in the treatment for depression through the use of exercises which focus on how thinking can impact feeling.1 MBCT gives participants tools to use when depressive states threaten to overwhelm them.1

Read more details about Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction.

Research Evidence on Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction

One study published in the Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology found that Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy was effective in reducing relapse of depression for individuals who had endured 3 or more depressive episodes.2 MCBT was most effective for individuals who suffered from recurrent major depressive disorder and whose depressive episodes were not environmentally provoked.2

One review of MBCT studies notes that the treatment can be usefully combined with other psychological therapies and can be introduced while antidepressant medications are withdrawn.3 Additionally, MBCT can be less expensive and require fewer resources than one-on-one psychological therapies making it worthy of even further research as an effective treatment for depression.3

A meta-analysis of 20 repots on the efficacy of MBSR found it to help a broad range of individuals cope with their clinical and nonclinical problems including depression.

Other Uses

MBSR is used in the treatment of many chronic ailments in addition to depression including but not limited to: hypertension, heart disease, cancer, gastrointestinal disorders, psychological conditions (including depression), and diabetes.


1 Mindful Living Programs (2010). What is Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction?

2 Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy for Depression: Replication and Exploration of Differential Relapse Prevention Effects (2004). Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology72(1), 31-40.

3 Coelho, H.L., Canter, P.H. & Ernst, E. (2007). Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy: Evaluating Current Evidence and Informing Future Research. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology 75(6) 1000-5.

4 Grossman, P., Niemann, L, Schmidt, S., & Walash, H. (2004). Mindfulness-based stress reduction and health benefits: A meat-analysis. Journal of Psychosomatic Research 57, 35-43.

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