According to a new analysis pooling data from 13 studies, adults who participate in mindfulness courses voluntarily are less likely to experience symptoms of anxiety and depression for at least six months post-completion, compared to those who don’t participate.
Researchers from the University of Cambridge analyzed group-based and teacher-led mindfulness courses conducted in person and offered in community settings.
The researchers believe their findings, published in Nature Mental Health, should encourage the implementation of similar teacher-led programs in workplaces and educational institutions interested in preventing mental health issues among their communities.
Dr. Julieta Galante, the lead researcher, said this study provides the highest quality confirmation so far that such mindfulness courses do promote mental health across various community settings.
The Concept of Mindfulness
In these programs, mindfulness is defined as “the awareness that emerges through paying attention on purpose, in the present moment, and nonjudgmentally to the unfolding of experience moment by moment.”
The courses, formally known as mindfulness-based programs (MBPs), combine elements of meditation, body awareness, and modern psychology.
They are designed to reduce stress, improve well-being, and enhance mental and emotional “resilience.”
The study found that MBPs generated a small to moderate reduction in adults’ psychological distress, with 13% more participants seeing a benefit than those who did not attend an MBP.
Factors like existing psychological distress, age, gender, educational level, and a disposition towards mindfulness did not affect the effectiveness of MBPs.
Mindfulness Vs. Other Activities
Galante noted that not everyone will benefit from mindfulness courses.
Moreover, while these courses are beneficial, they should not be chosen over other activities that an individual might derive benefit from, like participating in a sports club.
Effectiveness of Mindfulness Apps
While mindfulness apps are becoming increasingly popular, researchers are still unsure if they are as effective as in-person mindfulness courses.
Galante states, “Apps may be cheaper, but there is nowhere near the same evidence base for their effectiveness.”
The effectiveness of smartphone apps and the long-term effects of self-practiced mindfulness meditation will be investigated by Galante in her new role as Deputy Director of the Contemplative Studies Center at the University of Melbourne.
Based on this study, Galante suggests that individuals curious about an in-person mindfulness course should try it.
For organizations contemplating offering these types of mindfulness courses to their communities, this research suggests it may be a worthwhile investment.
If you care about mental health, please read studies about 6 foods you can eat to improve mental health, and B vitamins could help prevent depression and anxiety.
The study was published in Nature Mental Health.
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