Meditation for just half an hour can relieve depression as much as popping a pill, claim researchers. They found regular meditation could also relieve anxiety, pain and stress. In a U.S. study of previously published research involving 3,500 people, meditation alleviated symptoms of depression on a par with conventional anti-depressants.
Meditation, which has a long history in Eastern traditions, is one of many 'mindfulness' techniques that have grown in popularity in the West over the last 30 years. It is typically practised for 30 to 40 minutes a day with the aim of encouraging acceptance of feelings and thoughts without judgment, and relaxing body and mind.
Study leader Dr Madhav Goyal, an assistant professor at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore, said 'A lot of people have this idea that meditation means sitting down and doing nothing. 'But that's not true. Meditation is an active training of the mind to increase awareness, and different meditation programmes approach this in different ways.'
He said thousands of people use meditation for stress busting and personal growth, 'but it's not a practice considered part of mainstream medical therapy for anything.' He said 'In our study, meditation appeared to provide as much relief from some anxiety and depression symptoms as what other studies have found from antidepressants. These patients did not typically have full-blown anxiety or depression.' Overall, depression affects one in 10 adults in the UK at any one time.
There has been a big rise in the use of antidepressants in the last 20 years, particularly among women, with prescriptions in England reaching a record 50 million in 2012.