A new study sheds light on the effectiveness of mindfulness when compared to antidepressants in treating patients with depression and anxiety disorders.

Most of us know someone who is dealing with depression or anxiety, and sometimes that person is ourselves. There are a lot of people who do not want to take antidepressants to manage their feelings as they have taken them in the past and did not like how they felt, or did not notice any difference. Anxiety and depression are two mental health concerns that I see with my patients, and it is my job to help them get to the root cause. There are several things that I look for when helping patients with anxiety and depression: hormone levels, stress, lifestyle factors, and gastrointestinal health just to name a few. 

Hormones can influence our mood on a moment by moment basis. Ask just about any woman who is dealing with PMS if she can regularly control her moods the week before her period. Better yet, talk with a perimenopausal woman who is no longer having monthly periods. Out of balance hormones will wreak havoc on our moods. However, if our hormones are balanced and we are still dealing with depression and/or anxiety then we need to dig a little deeper. 

Stress and lifestyle factors can also affect our moods. Being overworked, “spread too thin”, or putting too much pressure on ourselves to be superheroes for everyone can make us feel like failures when we are not able to accomplish it all. There needs to be balance. Balance of rest, exercise, and expectations that we put on ourselves.

Often times, it takes a good, honest look in the mirror, or, more to the point, at our life, to know if our choices are playing into our moods. Meditation, mindfulness, and exercise can help support our moods if they are being affected by those earlier mentioned lifestyle choices.

There is a recent study that looked at the effects of mindfulness in comparison to antidepressant drugs. The study showed that mindfulness-based cognitive therapy helped patients as much as antidepressants without the harmful effects that the medications can have. The researcher hopes to continue to study mindfulness-based cognitive therapy to help prevent depression earlier in life. In helping patients to train their minds to see negative thoughts and feelings as early signs of depression, and then giving them skills to overcome these negative responses, the hope is that we can prevent depression from fully taking hold. In short, mindfulness-based cognitive therapy might be an option for some patients. 

Another thing to consider is the gastrointestinal health of the person. Our neurotransmitters are products along the lining of the gut; especially serotonin. If our gut is not healthy then we are not going to produce the neurotransmitters that we need thus leading to depression and anxiety. Food can be our best medicine, but it can also be our worst poison if we are eating foods that our bodies do not like. I often do food allergy/food sensitivity testing on my patients to see specifically how their body responds to food. Removing the foods that affect them can help to heal the gut as well as allow our bodies to absorb the nutrients that we need from our foods.

When it comes to mental health and getting to the root of the issues it can take time as each one of us is unique in why we are suffering. For those who chose to avoid medications there are many options and routes to examine for treatment. I have seen people’s lives transformed by getting their hormones and gut back in order. We all need to have checks and balances on our lifestyles so that we have the balance that we need. So I was encouraged by the mindfulness-based cognitive therapy results as they seem like another option for some people. It is all about finding what works best for each person and supporting them on their journey. 

Source: The Independent

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