Mindfulness and Depression

New evidence suggests mindfulness gives patients control over depression, anxiety, chronic pain. 

Photo: Ideowl/Flickr.com
Previous studies have shown how mindfulness can reduce depressive symptoms. This new study suggests exactly how that works.

When one is in a depressed state, attention can become consumed by negative thoughts, explains Catherine Kerr, lead author of the new study and director of translational neuroscience at Brown University in Providence, in the US. Instead of dissipating, the negative thoughts can gain a foothold and become entrenched.

Mindfulness allows patients to disengage from this negative thought pattern through the “body scan” technique. Patients are asked to systematically pay attention to each region of the body. As this happens, the alpha rhythms that are responsible for the flow of sensory information to the brain fluctuate.

In an interview with The Guardian, Kerr describes this fluctuation as a “sensory volume knob” that acts as a focusing skill that “regulates attention so that it does not become biased toward negative physical sensations and thoughts, as in depression”.

Read the paper, published February 2013 in Frontiers in Human Neuroscience.