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A study published in the December 2008 issue of the Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology found that Buddhist meditation techniques may be better than drugs for treating depression.
For the study, British researchers split 123 people with long-term depression into two groups. Half of the participants underwent a treatment known as mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT) and the other half received traditional antidepressant medication for a period of eight weeks.
MBCT combines simple meditative breathing exercises with yoga poses to make participants more aware of the present moment. The idea behind this type of therapy is that more focus on the present results in less worry and anxiety about the past or future. Meditation has also been shown to reduce anxiety and lower blood pressure.
The researchers did a follow up 15 months after the eight week trial and found that only 47 percent of the patients who received MBCT suffered a depression relapse, compared to 60 percent of those who received antidepressants.
According to professor Willem Kuyken from the Mood Disorders Centre at the University of Exeter, antidepressants are effective in reducing the symptoms of depression but when people stop using them they are particularly vulnerable to relapse.
The researchers note that the lower relapse rate among patients who received MBCT therapy is likely due to the fact that the therapy is focused on teaching individuals valuable coping skills for everyday living. This therapy is also generally less expensive than traditional depression treatments and prescription drugs.
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