In to routine experiences that occur throughout the day.

In order to
critically evaluate the effectiveness of mindfulness, it is necessary to define
mindfulness and be aware of the origins of the practice. Firstly, this essay
will explore the wide range of types of mindfulness. Secondly, it will look at
the effectiveness of the practice as a treatment for depression. Finally, it
will discuss how mindfulness can improve symptoms of depression, comparing
treatment effectiveness of the practice with other biological and established psychological
treatments.

 

            Mindfulness originated in Eastern
traditions and has been called the heart of Buddhist meditation. It is often
associated with the formal practice of mindfulness meditation (Shapiro, Carlson, Astin, & Freedman, 2006). A core
characteristic of the practice has been distinguished as being in the present
or be aware of the ongoing events and experiences. Mindfulness is a way to
disengage individuals from automatic thoughts and unhealthy patterns of
behaviour (Brown & Ryan, 2003). Kabat-Zinn (2013) described mindfulness as making room for
thoughts that may disturb us instead of pushing them away. Furthermore, Shapiro et al., (2006) created a theory to
further understand the mechanism of mindfulness. The theory had three
components: intention, attention, and attitude. The intention is about the purpose
of performing the practice. As meditators continue to practice, their
intentions shift from self-regulation to self-exploration and self-liberation.

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The second component is attention. This component is about observing one’s
moment-to-moment, internal and external experience. Finally, the last component
attitude, this component is about the attitude one brings to the attention.

Meaning, an individual can learn to attend to their internal and external
experiences, without evaluation or interpretation, and practice acceptance,
kindness and openness even if what is experienced are not what one expected.

Furthermore,
the practice of mindfulness is divided into two ways of practicing; formal and
informal. In a formal practice, individuals are provided guidance involving the
nature and content of the practice. In comparison, informal practices are less
structured and do not require a set length of time. Individuals bring awareness
to routine experiences that occur throughout the day. The effectiveness and
outcome of the practices differ significantly according to previous studies
which will be discussed later on in this essay (Hawley et al., 2014).

 

            A great amount of studies has
investigated the relationship between mindfulness therapy and depression. Brown and Ryan (2003) examined the role of mindfulness in
psychological well-being using the dispositional mindful attention awareness
scale. The scale assesses individual differences in the frequency of mindful
states over time. It focused on individual’s presence or absence of attention
to and awareness of what is happening in the present. The results of their
study indicate that both dispositional and state mindfulness predict
self-regulated behaviour and positive emotional states. A similar view is held
by Walsh and Shapiro (2006) which suggest that the original purpose of
meditation is self-actualization, by practicing different types of meditation
can improve concentration, reaction time, motor skills and other cognitive
performance. Mindfulness appears to be beneficial for several clinical
populations and have reduced the use of legal and illegal drugs. One characteristic
of depression is the obsession of thinking negatively about experiences, self-image
or the future. By practicing mindfulness can improve these habits and teach
people to be aware of these thoughts.

 

Furthermore, mindfulness-based cognitive therapy was constructed as
a psychological intervention for individuals at risk of depressive relapse (MacKenzie & Kocovski, 2016). Another form of therapy
within mindfulness-based therapy (MBT) is mindfulness-based stress reduction.

This therapy includes sitting meditation, Yoga and body scan, where attention is
sequentially directed throughout the body (Hofmann, Sawyer,
Witt, & Oh, 2010).

A
study by Ma and Teasdale (2004) revealed that mindfulness-based cognitive
therapy (MBCT) reduce relapse/recurrence in high-risk groups. However, there
was no significant difference between MBCT and normal therapy for patients who
have only encountered two previous episodes of depression. This suggests that
patients from this group originated from a different population, meaning, with
normal reported childhood experience and later initial onset of major
depression. For this reason, it might be concluded that patients who had
depression in their childhood or earlier stages, were more likely to benefit
from MBCT.

 

A
similar result was found in a study by Hofmann et al.,
(2010) were 727 articles were used and 39 studies analysed. The study compared
pre-post effect sizes for MBCT and MBSR on both depression and anxiety. The
result indicated that mindfulness-based therapy shows improvements in symptoms
of anxiety and depression and even when these symptoms are associated with
other disorders. However, the effects of MBT on depression and anxiety in
chronic conditions might be smaller. Patients may experience physical symptoms
of depression and anxiety because of the side-effect of medical treatments.

Another possibility is that these patients had a low level of anxiety or
depression at pre-treatment, which can show a smaller degree of improvement
after treatment than those with a high level at pre-treatment.

 

Furthermore, as mentioned earlier mindfulness is
divided into two practices, informal and formal. Hawley et al., (2014) examined
whether formal and informal practices have a different impact on symptom
alleviation. Patients were asked to perform formal and informal mindfulness
practice between 45 to 60 minutes daily over the course of 8 weeks. The results
revealed that individuals who engage in mindfulness practice may become better
at disengaging from ruminative thoughts, and become more experientially aware.

The study found that formal mindfulness practice was associated with
significant reductions in depressive symptoms. It also appears that mindfulness
engages with habits and thought processes, which in conclusion can help
individuals improve negative thought and habits. In contrast, findings of the
study did not support the informal mindfulness practice. There was no direct
relationship between informal practice and clinical outcome. However, the study
noted that there are important aspects of informal practices, which can be used
strategically to allow individuals to better cope with difficult experiences.

 

Mindfulness-based therapy is clearly associated with depression
and other disorder based on previous studies. However, it is necessary to look
at mindfulness-based therapy compared with other treatments. A study by Kuyken et al., (2015) compared mindfulness-based
cognitive therapy with maintenance antidepressant treatment in the prevention
of relapse/recurrence. The results suggest that over 15-months of follow-up,
relapse and recurrence rates were lower for MBCT than antidepressant. However,
over 18 months of follow-up relapse and recurrence rates did not differ for
MBCT and antidepressant treatment. In addition, the study found that individual
at greatest risk of relapse confers most benefit of MBCT. MBCT also provided
significant protection against relapse/recurrence for individuals with increased
risk due to a history of childhood abuse.

 

The effectiveness of mindfulness-based treatment is clearly
accurate based on previous studies. Although, benefits of mindfulness are
greater for the individuals who have encountered three or more episodes of depression,
it has been proven that mindfulness is effective overall for individuals in
other populations. Results from previous research revealed that mindfulness is
a treatment to improve depressive symptoms and the possibility of
relapse/recurrence. When an individual who have recovered from depression
experience negative or depressive thoughts, they are better able to encounter
these thoughts when mindfulness practice has been completed. In this case
mindfulness can help to break the cycle of unpleasant thoughts. However, there
is limitations with studies on mindfulness. The common experimental design
problems include small samples sizes, suboptimal controls, and relatively few
randomized controlled trials. Questions about subject election bias and expectancy
effects are still unanswered. Some studies do not state or give further details
about the type of meditation used. Furthermore, assessments problems include
broad reliance on self-report methods and short-term follow-ups. In most
studies, self-report is based on beginners rather than advanced practitioners. One
significant concern is that the effects of the treatment could dissipate once
the practice discontinue (Walsh & Shapiro, (2006). As a consequence of
these limitations, it is difficult to draw accurate conclusions to determine
the precise effects of mindfulness-based treatment (MacKenzie & Kocovski, 2016).

Hölzel et al., (2011) suggested that future clinical psychological research
should take into account the different components of mindfulness, and how it
might be connected to different disorders. Disorders that has a dysfunction of
a component may benefit from that particular component. They also suggest that
further research should focus more on the explanations of beneficial effects,
rather than, solely testing the usefulness of mindfulness for symptom reduction
in general. In addition, different mechanisms could be relevant for different personality
types. This is something future meditation research should take into account.

 

In conclusion, it is evident that individuals with
depressive disorders benefit from mindfulness-based treatment. However,
evidence has shown that mindfulness-based treatment is equally effective as
other treatments such as antidepressant. Despite this, mindfulness-based
treatment could be an alternative for long-term protection against
relapse/recurrence, without being dependent on antidepressants.