There’s another pandemic that’s been raging in recent years, and it isn’t COVID. It’s anxiety. I won’t go into the ‘why’ of it all, except to say that the advent of social media is definitely high up on the list of culprits.
You must be living in a cave if you don’t know somebody who’s struggled with anxiety. I have good friends and family members among the stricken.
And when I hear their tales of woe, I understand what they’re talking about. Why? Because I’ve dealt with it myself.
My battle with anxiety and depression
I got hit particularly hard with anxiety-based depression during my first few years in college. It was absolutely, gut-wrenchingly awful.
Luckily, I haven’t had a bad bout in many years. Why not? I don’t know for sure, but I’d bet my bottom dollar that it’s because of the meditation and mindfulness work I’ve done these past ten years.
The JAMA study
Which brings us to the study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) this past November. A group of psychiatrists from Georgetown, Harvard and NYU conducted a randomized clinical trial of 208 people with diagnosed anxiety disorders.
The participants were placed into two groups: one that was given the SSRI medication Lexapro and the other that took an eight-week program called Mindfulness Base Stress Reduction (MBSR).
What is MBSR? I know a lot about it as I took the course five years ago. It’s a 2 ½ hour class once a week for eight weeks where several issues surrounding mindfulness and meditation are taught, performed and discussed. Participants also do 45 minutes per day at home of some kind of meditation and/or mindfulness exercise. There’s also a half-day silent meditation retreat.
Results of the study
At the end of the eight weeks the participants’ anxiety levels decreased in both the MBSR and Lexapro groups…by very similar levels. In other words, the MBSR practices proved equally as useful in treating anxiety as the SSRI Lexapro.
What should we take from this? I am absolutely NOT recommending that people stop taking any anti-anxiety medication they’re on. First of all, I’m not a doctor so I’m not qualified to venture into those waters.
But as someone who has benefited immensely from practicing meditation and mindfulness, I CAN recommend that people with anxiety problems give these techniques a try. I know for certain that they have helped calm my inner waters.
Anxiety can be so painful and debilitating that my personal opinion is to throw the kitchen sink at it. Which means medication, meditation, mindfulness, vigorous exercise and anything else you can think of.
If you’re interested and are looking for a place to get started, go to my website at davidgerken.net and check out my free meditation program. I developed it for regular people with an emphasis on making meditation as easy as possible.
Meditation and mindfulness are profoundly beneficial for most people who practice them. This study shows that they significantly help in relieving anxiety. They also help sharpen focus, deal with chronic pain and help with depression, among other benefits.
I hope you’ll give these practices a try. Deciding to take the plunge on this ten years ago is the best thing I’ve ever done for myself.
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