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Dharma Connect: Meditation as Good as Medication for Mild Anxiety, Depression

A new study by Johns Hopkins University finds that 30 minutes of mindfulness meditation a day may relieve mild anxiety and depression -- as effectively as medication.

The study looked at the degree to which self-reported symptoms or various conditions, such as insomnia and fibromyalgia, changed in people who began to practice mindfulness meditation, described as a form of Buddhist self-awareness designed to focus precise attention on the moment at hand. They say it shows promise in alleviating some pain symptoms as well as stress.

"A lot of people use meditation, but it's not a practice considered part of mainstream medical therapy for anything," says Madhav Goyal, M.D., M.P.H., an assistant professor in the Division of General Internal Medicine at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and lead author of the paper in JAMA Internal Medicine. "But in our study, meditation appeared to provide as much relief from some anxiety and depression symptoms as what other studies have found from antidepressants."

Goyal noted that mindfulness meditation is not just sitting down and doing nothing. "Meditation is an active training of the mind to increase awareness, and different meditation programs approach this in different ways," he said.

Mindfulness meditation -- which emphasizes acceptance of feelings and thoughts without judgment, along with relaxation of body and mind -- showed the most promise, he said.

More study is needed, he added.  And individuals are different -- the study looked at those with mild anxiety and depression; some people with symptoms may need more than meditation, like therapy or medication.

But in the meantime, meditation won't hurt.

Want to learn how? Or start a regular practice? IDP offers many options, for those in NYC and far away.

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