Study Shows In-Person Mindfulness Courses Can Improve Mental Health for At Least Six Months

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A recent investigation found that adults who voluntarily participate in mindfulness courses are less likely to experience symptoms of depression and anxiety for at least six months after the program.

The study, published in Nature Mental Health, was led by Julieta Galante, MD, a postdoctoral fellow in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Cambridge in Cambridge, England.

For their investigation, Galante and her colleagues set out to determine the effectiveness of mindfulness courses for improving mental health. The study’s authors defined mindfulness as “the awareness that emerges through paying attention on purpose, in the present moment, and nonjudgmentally to the unfolding of experience moment by moment.”  

Galante and her colleagues analyzed 13 previous trials on mindfulness programs and mental health outcomes. Each of the studies focused on mindfulness-based programs (MBPs) courses. According to the study authors, MBPs, are guided mindfulness activities led by trained instructors to reduce stress, improve wellbeing, and enhance mental and emotional resilience. The programs usually consisted of several one-to-two-hour sessions.

Researchers analyzed data from 2,371 adults who had taken part in trials assessing the effectiveness of MBPs, half of which had participated in mindfulness lessons for eight weeks. Then, they examined the impacts of MPBs on the participants' mental health and compared the results with passive-control groups. 

The analysis found that those who participated in the MBPs were 13 percent more likely to have a reduction in psychological stress than those who did not attend MBPs. The investigation also indicated that existing psychological distress, age, gender, education level, and a disposition towards mindfulness did not alter the effectiveness of MBPs.

According to Galante, these results suggest that in-person mindfulness courses can benefit people's mental health, despite their backgrounds or preconceptions about the practice.

"If you are offered an in-person four- or eight-week mindfulness course in a group setting with a teacher, and you are curious about it, I'd say, based on this study, just go ahead and try it," said Galante. "And for organizations wondering about offering these types of mindfulness courses to members of their community – this research suggests it may be a good investment if their communities express an interest.”