Train Your Brain: Mindfulness Meditation for Anxiety, Depression, ADD & PTSD
By now, everyone knows that mindfulness meditation is good for you—but what’s still surprising scientists is just how quickly it works. Ten minutes of meditation won’t make you a better mutlitasker—there’s no such thing, as psychologist and science journalist Daniel Goleman explains—but it will make you more adept at switching tasks and returning to a deep level of concentration more quickly after a distraction. Every time you practice meditation, you’re strengthening the neural circuitry for focus and training your brain away from mind-wandering. Beyond the need to concentrate for work, pleasure, or to overcome negative emotion, mindfulness meditation can also help to manage disorders like PTSD, anxiety, and Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD). This last one particularly has shown incredible results, and Goleman cites one exercise a teacher in a rough neighborhood of New York City practices routinely with their class of seven-year-old kids, over half of which have special needs like ADD and autism. That daily
A new study presented at the 125th Annual Convention of the American Psychological Association found that male veterans who had elevated depression scores before a twice weekly hatha yoga program had a significant reduction in depression symptoms after the eight-week program.
How Yoga Benefits Veterans with Depression.
“Yoga is unique in that it combines several things that empirical research has shown to be very helpful for improving depression and other mental health concerns: exercise, mindfulness, and breathing practices, to name a few,” says study information co-investigator Lindsey B. Hopkins, Ph.D., a research fellow at the San Francisco Veterans Affairs Health Care Center. “All of these things likely played a role in the benefits that these veterans experienced.”.
The study, which featured 21 male veterans, also found that improvements in depression were significantly correlated with increases in mindfulness and decreases in experiential avoidance—defined as engaging in a particular behavior in order to change or avoid unwanted negative thoughts, emotions, or sensations, even when doing so produces harm. This is consistent with other research, Hopkins says. The social aspect of yoga may also play a role: in interviews, many of the veterans said they derived a great deal of benefit (in terms of mental health and well-being) from having the opportunity to connect with other veterans, she adds. Read More
I’ve heard natural remedies for depression, such as St. John’s wort, can work as well as antidepressants. Is that true?
So-called natural remedies for depression aren’t a replacement for medical diagnosis and treatment. However, for some people certain herbal and dietary supplements do seem to work well, but more studies are needed to determine which are most likely to help and what side effects they might cause. Here are some supplements that show promise:
St. John’s wort. This herbal supplement isn’t approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to treat depression in the U.S., but it’s a popular depression treatment in Europe. Although it may be helpful for mild or moderate depression, use it with caution. St. John’s wort can interfere with many medications, including blood-thinning drugs, birth control pills, chemotherapy, HIV/AIDS medications, and drugs to prevent organ rejection after a transplant. Also, avoid taking St. John’s wort while taking antidepressants — the combination can cause serious side effects.
SAMe. This dietary supplement is a synthetic form of a chemical that occurs naturally in the body. SAMe (pronounced sam-E) is short for S-adenosylmethionine (es-uh-den-o-sul-muh-THIE-o-neen). SAMe isn’t approved by the FDA to treat depression in the U.S., but it’s used in Europe as a prescription drug to treat depression. SAMe may be helpful, but more research is needed. In higher doses, SAMe can cause nausea and constipation. Do not use SAMe if you’re taking a prescription antidepressant — the combination may lead to serious side effects. Read More