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Meditation Rivals Medication for Depression
Posted By Elizabeth Agnvall On January 8, 2014 @ 4:05 pm In Gray Matters | Comments Disabled
Want a free, easy tip for reducing anxiety, depression and pain without medications? Try meditation .
New research finds that meditation may be equally as effective as antidepressants in helping to reduce anxiety, depression and pain, according to a review of studies published Monday in JAMA Internal Medicine .
Researchers reviewed 47 randomized clinical trials with 3,515 participants and found that mindfulness meditation  improved symptoms of depression by 10 to 20 percent and symptoms of anxiety by 5 to 10 percent. “This is fairly comparable to what other studies have found for antidepressants in similar populations,” says study author Madhav Goyal, M.D., of Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore. And, he adds, meditation doesn’t come with the side effects of medications.
The focus of mindfulness meditation is to pay attention to the present moment without worrying about the past or future.
For the study, the researchers combed through thousands of studies on meditation and chose only randomized controlled studies – the gold standard of medical research – for analysis. Goyal said scientists don’t yet understand why meditation might reduce anxiety and depression but speculated “it could be that mindfulness programs teach individuals to reduce the way they react to negative emotions or symptoms.” He added that “it was surprising to see that with so little training [2.5 hours a week over eight weeks] we were still seeing consistent effects.”
This study builds on previous research that has showed that meditation can lower heart attack risk , reduce stress hormones , combat loneliness in older people, ease caregiver stress  and protect the aging brain . This analysis found that meditation does not appear to help with substance abuse, sleep or weight loss.
Shelley Carson, Ph.D., a Harvard research psychologist and coauthor of Almost Depressed, said mindfulness meditation can be a powerful tool in dealing with symptoms of depression. “Mindfulness meditation is a way of spending time inside yourself nonjudgmentally,” she said. “You are calming your inner self.”
For those new to meditation, here are a few tips, from her book, on how to get started.
Try to stay in this mode for at least five minutes. For more help, play or download free guided meditations from the UCLA Mindful Awareness Research Center here .
Photo courtesy: mediaphotos/iStockphotos 
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URLs in this post:
 Image: http://blog.aarp.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/01/MeditationLady.jpg
 meditation: http://www.aarp.org/health/alternative-medicine/info-04-2009/meditation_goes_mainstream.html?intcmp=AE-BLIL-DOTORG
 published Monday in JAMA Internal Medicine: http://archinte.jamanetwork.com/article.aspx?articleid=1809754
 mindfulness meditation: http://www.aarp.org/personal-growth/life-long-learning/info-02-2011/meditation_grows_the_brain.html?intcmp=AE-BLIL-DOTORG
 >> Sign up for the AARP Health Newsletter: http://www.aarp.org/online-community/people/subscribeFromEmail.action?id=19061&intcmp=ILC-EMAIL-SUB-HLTH
 can lower heart attack risk: http://blog.aarp.org/2013/12/13/7-new-ways-to-help-your-heart/?intcmp=AE-BLIL-BL
 stress hormones: http://www.nydailynews.com/life-style/health/mindfulness-meditation-lowers-stress-hormone-cortisol-study-article-1.1305502
 ease caregiver stress: http://blog.aarp.org/tag/meditation/?intcmp=AE-BLIL-BL
 protect the aging brain: http://www.aarp.org/health/brain-health/info-08-2010/a_meditation_technique_that_changes_the_brain.html?intcmp=AE-BLIL-DOTORG
 UCLA Mindful Awareness Research Center here: http://marc.ucla.edu/body.cfm?id=22
 mediaphotos/iStockphotos: http://www.istockphoto.com/stock-photo-23202517-woman-meditating.php?st=2e52ea0
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