For those who regularly practice meditation, it may seem self-evident; but to me, the idea of using holistic methods to help people get through mental illness seems refreshingly novel: instead of a possible dependency on drugs, a patient might find that learning to observe one's troubles with detachment may help in recovery.
"Mindfulness-based psychotherapy" is a new approach currently being experimented in hospitals and mental health organizations. According to the Globe and Mail, the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health in Toronto is one of these. It's taking part in a $2.5-million clinical trial to find out if mindfulness meditation can prevent relapses of depression in certain people as effectively as anti-depressant medications.
This type of discipline requires that a person sits still, relaxes and listens to one's body, focuses on breathing and on being aware of one's surroundings. When the patient learns to prevent the mind from wandering too much, he or she is asked to turn their attention to whatever is troubling them. Learning to observe difficult emotions impartially and accept them is an important step.
Zindel Segal, a psychologist, tells the newspaper that pausing at these moments can help people who have a history of depression. They can identify and observe emotions instead of reacting automatically. "Fright, alarm, rejection are experiences that can come over us very quickly, " Segal says. In many cases, they are built-in responses that prevent patients from choosing alternatives.
The Globe article offers some interesting insights. Here's the link.
For related stories, see "The present is the only thing that's real" and "Oxygen, a simple prescription for better health?"
Illustration courtesy of Sachin Ghodke.