Mindfulness Meditation and CBT for beating the winter blues and unhappiness
Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) and winter blues can severely disrupt people’s lives. As many as half a million people suffer from SAD and around five million from winter blues between the months of October and April. Some manage to cope but for others, winter can lead to a more severe type of depression. Even the onset of spring will not help alleviate some depressions.
But of course, it’s not just a change in season that can trigger depression. Depression in all its forms is on the increase and is now, according to the World Health Organisation, the world’s fourth most debilitating human condition. It causes huge suffering to individuals, their partners and families.
When a doctor is faced with someone with depression, the quick and easy response is to write a prescription. No surprise then that the number of prescriptions for anti-depressants has doubled since 1994. Although drugs do have an important role to play in relieving symptoms, especially in serious depression, they have many negative side effects and cannot prevent relapse.
So what’s the alternative? Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) has been thoroughly researched and is the therapy of choice for depression. It is highly effective: in alleviating mild to moderate depression it is as effective as medication (with none of the side effects). CBT helps people understand how they become and remain depressed, it helps prevent relapse.
Prevention of relapse has been further improved by an 8-week course combining CBT with long-established mindfulness meditation techniques. Studies show the course to reduce relapse rates by 50%. This is very encouraging news for individuals who are prone to low mood, frequent bouts of unhappiness, depression and its components anxiety and stress.
The course, approved by NICE and developed at Bangor University, teaches in 2-hour weekly sessions, and by practising at home with CDs, mindfulness meditation. Participants learn simple breathing meditations and yoga practices to help them become more aware of the present moment, and of subtle changes in their bodies and minds. They learn a basic understanding of what causes and maintains depression, how to spot the warnings and what to do before depression can take a hold.
Through enhanced awareness participants begin to see the signs of potential crisis, upset and the onset of low mood much sooner than they normally would, which enables them to respond in a calm, clear-headed way that doesn’t result in depression, anxiety or stress.
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