By using brain imaging equipment, similar to that of an MRI scan, professors at Oxford University have been analysing the changes in the brain during, and after, Mindfulness meditation.
The published results are excellent. In just two weeks, Mindfulness has been shown to have a physical effect on the brain. The scans of participants studied revealed an increase in protective tissue in the signaling areas of the brain (increased axonal density). These connections continued to increase in the part of the brain related to self-regulation (the anterior cingulated cortex) with continued meditation. This strongly indicates that Mindfulness could give an individual the power to improve or prevent mental disorders altogether with meditative therapy.
The Massachusetts General Hospital has also published a study that showed how an 8-week mindfulness programme clearly affects the memory, empathy and stress areas of the brain.
Neurological studies have found that Mindfulness is more effective than regular antidepressant prescriptions for preventing recurrent depression in many patients. In the sample of people studied, 75% of people participating in an Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT) course alongside prescribed antidepressants were able to come off their medication within 15 months.
The evidence is so compelling that the Mental Health Foundation and the National Institute of Clinical and Health Excellence (NICE) have now endorsed Mindfulness as an effective treatment for reducing the chance of repeated episodes in people who have suffered from depression more than twice.
In addition, studies have also found that MBCT can:
- reduce the severity of symptoms for people who are experiencing an episode of depression.
- reduce insomnia in people with anxiety disorders.
- reduce people’s dependence on alcohol, caffeine, prescription medication and illegal drugs.
- create greater self-esteem and reduced neuroses