Mindfulness Training Improves Anxiety and Depression in Japanese Patients
By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.
“meditation was never conceived of as a treatment for any health problem. Rather, it is a path one travels on to increase our awareness and gain insight into our lives.” – Madhav Goyal
Many of the symptoms of psychological distress have been shown to be related to a lack of mindfulness, a focus on the present moment. Anxiety is often rooted in a persistent dread of future negative events while depression and rumination are rooted in the past, with persistent replaying of negative past events. Since mindfulness is firmly rooted in the present it is antagonistic toward anything rooted in the past or future. Hence, high levels of mindfulness cannot coexist with anxiety and rumination. In addition, high mindfulness has been shown to be related to high levels of emotion regulation and positive emotions. So, mindfulness would appear to be an antidote to psychological distress. Indeed, mindfulness has been shown to reduce psychological distress, including anxiety and depression.
Most psychotherapies were developed to treat disorders in affluent western populations and may not be sensitive to the unique situations, cultures, and education levels of diverse populations. Hence, there is a need to investigate the effectiveness of psychological treatments with diverse populations. One increasingly popular treatment is mindfulness training. These include meditation, tai chi, qigong, yoga, guided imagery, prayer, etc. There are indications that mindfulness therapies may be effective in diverse populations. But there is a need for further investigation with different populations.
In today’s Research News article “Changes in depression and anxiety through mindfulness group therapy in Japan: the role of mindfulness and self-compassion as possible mediators.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6378713/), Takahashi and colleagues recruited Japanese patients who suffered from anxiety or depression and provided them with an 8-week, once a week for 2 hours, group mindfulness training that was a combination of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) and Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT). They also practiced at home daily. They were measured before and after training and 2 months later for mindfulness, depression, anxiety, mind wandering, self-compassion, and behavioral activation.
They found that after mindfulness training there were significant reductions in anxiety and depression and significant increases in mindfulness and self-compassion that were maintained 2 months later. They also found that the greater the changes in the levels of mindfulness and self-compassion produced by the training, the greater the reductions in anxiety and depression. Hence, the mindfulness training produced lasting improvements in the mental health of Japanese patients suffering from anxiety or depression.
This study lacked a control group and is thus open to alternative confounding interpretations. But mindfulness training has been shown over a large number of well-controlled studies to improve self-compassion and to reduce anxiety and depression. So, the current improvements in mental health were also likely to be due to the mindfulness training. The major contribution of this research, however, is to add to the generalizability of mindfulness training’s ability to improve mental health by demonstrating that it is effective with Japanese patients with anxiety or depression.
So, mindfulness training improves anxiety and depression in Japanese patients.
“Mindfulness has been shown to help with people living with depression and anxiety. Americans often think a pill is the only way to fix things, but . . . it doesn’t require any money to meditate so it seems like a purer way for people to live with these disorders.” – Katie Lindsley
CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies
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Takahashi, T., Sugiyama, F., Kikai, T., Kawashima, I., Guan, S., Oguchi, M., … Kumano, H. (2019). Changes in depression and anxiety through mindfulness group therapy in Japan: the role of mindfulness and self-compassion as possible mediators. BioPsychoSocial medicine, 13, 4. doi:10.1186/s13030-019-0145-4
Mindfulness-based interventions are increasingly being implemented worldwide for problems with depression and anxiety, and they have shown evidence of efficacy. However, few studies have examined the effects of a mindfulness-based group therapy based on standard programs for depression and anxiety until follow-up in Japan. This study addresses that gap. Furthermore, this study explored the mechanisms of action, focusing on mindfulness, mind wandering, self-compassion, and the behavioral inhibition and behavioral activation systems (BIS/BAS) as possible mediators.
We examined 16 people who suffered from depression and/or anxiety in an 8-week mindfulness group therapy. Measurements were conducted using questionnaires on depression and trait-anxiety (outcome variables), mindfulness, mind wandering, self-compassion, and the BIS/BAS (process variables) at pre- and post-intervention and 2-month follow-up. Changes in the outcome and process variables were tested, and the correlations among the changes in those variables were explored.
Depression and anxiety decreased significantly, with moderate to large effect sizes, from pre- to post-intervention and follow-up. In process variables, the observing and nonreactivity facets of mindfulness significantly increased from pre- to post-intervention and follow-up. The nonjudging facet of mindfulness and self-compassion significantly increased from pre-intervention to follow-up. Other facets of mindfulness, mind wandering, and the BIS/BAS did not significantly change. Improvements in some facets of mindfulness and self-compassion and reductions in BIS were significantly correlated with decreases in depression and anxiety.
An 8-week mindfulness group therapy program may be effective for people suffering from depression and anxiety in Japan. Mindfulness and self-compassion may be important mediators of the effects of the mindfulness group therapy. Future studies should confirm these findings by using a control group.