Therapy can be as effective as anti-depressants says DR VASILIOS SILIVISTRIS

Noun: ‘A mental state achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations, used as a therapeutic technique.’

Mindfulness is an integrative, mind-body-based training that helps people to change the way they think and feel about their experiences, especially stressful experiences, and is recommended as a treatment for people with mental health problems.

What is mindfulness?

It is an integrative, mind-body-based training that enables people to change the way they think and feel about their experiences, especially stressful experiences.

Mindfulness pays attention to thoughts, feelings and body sensations to become directly aware of them, and better able to manage them; it is of potential value to everybody to help find peace in a frantic world.

People who have learned mindfulness, experience long-lasting physical and psychological stress reduction; discover positive changes in wellbeing; are less likely to get stuck in depression, and exhaustion, and are better able to control addictive behaviour.

The benefits of mindfulness

Practising mindfulness helps you

To be fully present, in the here and now

To become aware of what you are avoiding

To become more connected to yourself, to others and to the world around you

To increase self-awareness

To become less disturbed by and less reactive to unpleasant experiences

To learn the distinction between you and your thoughts, to have more direct contact with the world, rather than living through your thoughts

To learn that everything changes; that thoughts and feelings come and go

To have more balance and less emotional volatility

To experience more calm and peacefulness

To develop self-acceptance and self-compassion

To become more resilient.

The practice of mindfulness enables you to improve focus and concentration, increase self-awareness, reduce the impact and influence of stressful thoughts and feelings, and facilitate better relationships. It also helps catch self-defeating behaviours, and substitute more effective ones in addition to becoming aware of self-defeating thought processes, and letting them go.

All of this boils down to three major benefits: improved performance, reduced stress, and greater satisfaction in work and life.

Mindfulness and therapy

Mindfulness training has emerged as a powerful, evidence-based tool for enhancing psychological health. It has been clinically proven in a wide range of clinical disorders, including chronic pain, anxiety disorders, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), substance abuse and borderline personality disorder (BPD).

Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT) is a psychological therapy designed to aid in preventing the relapse of depression, specifically in individuals with a major depressive disorder (MDD). Clinical trials have shown that MBCT is as effective as antidepressants, and in patients with multiple episodes of depression can reduce the recurrence rate by 40-50 per cent compared with usual care. Mindfulness can be practised by children, young people and adults.

The evidence for mindfulness

Mindfulness treatment has been shown to affect how the brain works and even its structure. People undertaking mindfulness training have shown increased activity in the area of the brain associated with positive emotion (the pre-frontal cortex) which is generally less active in people who are depressed.

Presently, more than 100 studies have shown changes in brain wave activity during mindfulness treatment. Furthermore, researchers have found that areas of the brain linked to emotional regulation are larger in people who regularly practice mindfulness.

The evidence for different types of mindfulness is promising and research has grown in recent years.

Dr Vasilios Silivistris (Vasos) is a psychotherapist, counselling practitioner,