Headspace's new meditation for depression


As regular readers know we are massive fans of the Headspace meditation app. Jo in particular has used it to enhance sleep, to rediscover balance at a frenzied time, and improve focus when she (unusually) found herself running around like a headless chicken. This year Headspace added a ‘Pregancy’ programme to their offering (read about it here) – and now, there’s a very welcome ‘Depression’ series. And here’s why it is really worth a try, if you’re depressed in any way – or prone to the blues…

As Headspace explains (and this is all properly referenced on the site), ‘In a comprehensive meta-analysis of 39 scientific studies, researchers from Boston University examined the effectiveness of mindfulness-based therapies in alleviating anxiety and depression. They found that meditation had a significant effect for those clinically diagnosed, as well as those with everyday anxiety and mood problems.

Researchers from Cambridge conducted a rigorous, randomised, controlled study to investigate the protective effects of a mindfulness-based therapy on recurrent depression sufferers.

The relapse rates of depressives who were taught mindfulness in addition to their usual treatment, were compared to a control group of participants who only received their usual treatment without meditation training.

In the control group, only 22% didn’t relapse whereas in the mindfulness group 64% didn’t relapse. In fact, mindfulness practitioners were 3 times more likely to avoid depression over the following year.

Building on these findings, researchers have also looked at the role of mindfulness-based meditation as an alternative to pharmaceutical approaches to treating depressive conditions. A study found a mindfulness based therapy to be effective in reducing reliance on anti-depressant medication.

One group of participants continued maintenance anti-depression medication while the other group of participants tapered off their use of medication while also being taught mindfulness.

Over a six month period, 75% of the mindfulness group completely discontinued their medication. Furthermore, they had lower rates of relapse and more enhanced quality of life in comparison to those on maintenance anti-depressants.’

Meditation rather than medication? It’s surely worth a go (although of course, anyone on anti-depressants or other drugs needs to consult with a doctor before discontinuing or reducing dosages). Read more about it on the Headspace website - including blog by Ruby Wax, among others.

The ‘foundation’ programme for Headspace is free; after that, there are different subscription levels but the £4.99 a month option for an annual subscription is the most popular. And frankly priceless, as far as we’re concerned.