Although meditation practices in different wisdom traditions and religions have been around for thousands of years, there has been an increasing amount of scientific interest in their effect over the last decade or so. It is true to say that for a good part of the last century, the psychological community had a low opinion of religious practices, as can be seen in Freud, who regarded them as an attempt to control the outside world and sometimes as a regressive infantile delusion. However, in more recent times, a significant amount of attention and research has been conducted on both the medical and psychological benefits of religious practice and on the health effects of secular meditation programmes such as Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) and Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT ).
One recent study, published just this week in the July 2012 Journal of Psychiatric Practice, was conducted by Dr William R. Marchand of the George E. Wahlen Veterans Affairs Medical Center and the University of Utah in Salt Lake City, and found that there was “convincing evidence that such interventions are effective in the treatment of psychiatric symptoms and pain, when used in combination with more conventional therapies”
Dr Marchand set out to review published studies evaluating the health benefits of mindfulness-based practices. His conclusion was that both MBSR and MBCT have “broad-spectrum” effects against depression and anxiety and can also decrease general psychological distress.
Based on the evidence, MBCT can be “strongly recommended” as an addition to conventional treatments (adjunctive treatment) for depression. Both MBSR and MBCT were effective treatments for anxiety and Dr Marchand states that from a medical point of view “the available evidence indicates their use is currently warranted in a variety of clinical situations”