The feelings of anger, anxiety and stress which lead to depression can be controlled by a person, by practicing meditation based therapies of mindfulness, according to clinical psychologists. A research study covering meta-analysis of different ‘mindfulness-based therapy trials’ was published in the Plos One journal earlier this month.

The study aimed at characterizing the positive effects of controlled trials of mindfulness based therapy techniques that are effective for depression and to check any signs of biased results by reviewing related research literature. Various tools and software such as CINAHL, Cochrane CENTRAL, EMBASE, ISI, MEDLINE, PsycInfo, and SCOPUS databases were used for searching for controlled trials of mindfulness-based therapy.

The trial results of the mindfulness based research showed incredibly significant results but it was concluded such results may seem statistically important but could have also been overstated when taking reality into account. Since real life is not like a systematically equipped trail, applying the same principle can be a difficult concept.

Mindfulness based therapies (MBT) are practiced for the treatment of patients suffering from psychological conditions related to depression and anxiety. Such interventions are greatly inspired by the Buddhist traditional methods of meditation called ‘sati’. Buddhism promotes the use of various relaxing strategies for bringing peace to mind.

Mindfulness is a form of awareness, a state in which one’s attention is brought to the external and internal events going on, particularly by building inclination towards appreciation of little things in the surroundings and focusing completely on the positive aspects. For instance, children and dogs are much better at observing small things that can even be insects crawling in the grass, whereas adults, on the other hand, worry about the past and future. Psychology Today explains mindfulness as the state of ‘present moment awareness’ in which you have complete awareness and control on the present and observe your feelings and emotions from a distance without characterizing them as good or bad ones. It is described as ‘living in the moment’ and letting negativity go away.

American Psychological Association describes mindfulness therapy as a collection of activities (yoga, tai chi and qigong along with meditation) that focus on providing attention and awareness to the mind under the voluntary control of a person that ultimately leads to mental well-being and development of specific qualities such as calmness, clarity and concentration.

“MBT appears to be a low-cost and easily implemented treatment that may be useful for providing effective mental health care to a large number of patients who are currently under-served. However, the proportion of positive trials that are reported, despite small sample sizes and low statistical power are concerning,” said Dr Brett Thombs, the lead author and clinical psychologist at Institute of Community and Family Psychiatry, Montreal, QC. “Although we could not determine with certainty the degree that reporting biases play a definitive role in this, there was evidence that this may be driving force. Investigators who conduct trials of MBT and other non-pharmaceutical interventions to improve mental health should register their trials with enough information so that readers can verify whether published outcomes match the pre-specified outcomes.”

A Chinese based donor funded US$21 million for the establishment of a research center named as ‘Lee Kum Sheung Center for Health and Happiness’, at Harvard T H Chan School of Public Health in Boston, US, for encouraging researches in the field of clinical psychology, reported Sampan — the only bilingual Chinese-English Newspaper in New England. The goal of the research center is determining the effects of interventions promoting psychological well-being, particularly the mindfulness-based strategies that can quantify the extent of health and happiness of depressed individuals resulting in providing better treatment options for various serious mental health issues such as anxiety, depression, and bipolar diseases etc.

Professor K “Vish” Viswanath, Lee Kum Kee, Professor of Health Communication at the Harvard Chan School and Co-Director of the new Center, while giving her views on the matter, said, “Happiness is often talked about as if it were a cute catchphrase,” she added, “But in fact, happiness is a product of how one is engaged with the world. If one is being treated inequitably in society or lives in poverty, there may be physical factors that influence your health such as limited access to nutritious food or health care. In addition, one’s opportunities for engagement with the world and with other people may be limited. This Center will enable us to investigate in a systematic and rigorous way the factors that promote engagement, communication, community, and connection with others, and how engagement or lack of engagement can influence happiness and ultimately health.”

According to APA, various scientific research studies have backed up the use of mindfulness therapies leading to healthy outcomes for mental health such as reduced depressive symptoms and less rumination, stress reduction, boost to working memory, less emotional reactivity, more cognitive flexibility and relationship satisfaction, along with other benefits.

A recent study on the usefulness of mindfulness therapy was also published in March in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) and reported that a mindfulness-based therapy is effective in reducing chronic pain in lower back.