Mitchell L. Gaynor M.D.

Your Genetic Destiny


For Depression: Mindfulness Therapy Works as Well as Drugs

Mindfulness therapy may offer you relief—without any unwanted side effects.

Posted Jul 10, 2015

Mitchell Gaynor
Source: Mitchell Gaynor

Are you tired of popping pills to treat your depression? Antidepressants can sometimes work wonders, in terms of improving your mood, but they may also cause unwanted side effects, such as nausea, weight gain, headache, drowsiness, dizziness, nervousness, and lower sexual desire—to name just a few.

Consider another approach.

Recent research that was published in The Lancet has found that mindfulness therapy was as effective as antidepressants when it came to preventing the recurrence of depression.

In the study, 424 people with major depression (who had had three or more previous major depressive episodes in the past) received either drugs or mindfulness therapy to treat their condition. Over a two-year span, the relapse rate for the mindfulness therapy group was 44 percent and the relapse rate for the antidepressant group was 47 percent. In other words, the relapse rates were about the same.

So what is mindfulness therapy? It's a type of cognitive behavioral therapy. One aspect of the treatment teaches you how to become more aware of when you're experiencing a negative spiral. Once you learn how to spot a negative spiral, it'll become easier to put an end to it faster. This type of therapy teaches you techniques that you can use that'll help you resist any damaging thoughts that may creep into your head. It'll also help you examine why you might fall into these patterns. Does talking to a certain person, eating a specific food, or thinking about a certain memory trigger you? When you know what to try to avoid, you can sometimes prevent a depressive episode from starting in the first place. Mindfulness therapy can also show you how to pay more attention to the positive moments and pleasures in your life, which can often get hidden by a flood of negative thoughts.

During this type of therapy, you'd likely see a therapist at least once a week and then that frequency can be reduced as you start to feel better. For more information, visit, where you can learn how to find a mindfulness therapist near you, books on the subject, clinical research on the topic, and meditation retreat centers.

Why does mindfulness therapy work so well? It's a relatively new type of treatment, so the exact mechanism is still very much a mystery. But since there are no side effects, there is no harm in giving it a shot. You can even try it in conjunction with taking an antidepressant, if that's what your doctor recommends.

If you're looking for a few more ways to boost your spirits naturally, one key is to exercise at least a few times a week. Studies show that regular physical activity can improve mild to moderate depression. You might also want to think about adjusting your diet, since science reveals that nutrition can affect your mood. For instance, it's a smart idea to avoid artificial sweeteners. Research has shown that people who consume foods and beverages that are high in aspartame (which can be found in diet sodas and many "sugar-free" foods) are more likely to experience depression.