Six months of in-person mindfulness training improves mental wellness

Mindfulness courses reduce anxiety and depression symptoms in adults.

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A University of Cambridge study found that adults who take mindfulness classes are less likely to have anxiety and depression symptoms for at least six months after finishing the programs. The study, published in the journal Nature Mental Health, reveals that in-person mindfulness training, commonly given in the community, is effective for the ordinary individual.

The study, led by Dr. Julieta Galante of the University of Cambridge, discovered that mindfulness-based programs (MBPs) frequently combine elements of meditation, body awareness, and modern psychology to help reduce stress, improve well-being, and boost mental and emotional resilience.

The study discovered that MBPs reduced people’s psychological discomfort in a minor to moderate way, with 13% more participants benefiting than those who did not attend an MBP. 

Lead researcher Dr. Julieta Galante, who researched at the University of Cambridge, said, “In our previous work, it was still unclear whether these mindfulness courses could promote mental health across different community settings. This study is the highest quality confirmation. So far, the in-person mindfulness courses typically offered in the community work for the average person.”

The researchers discovered that age, gender, educational level, and an inclination towards mindfulness did not affect the effectiveness of MBPs. The new study confirmed that adults who take mindfulness training in person, with a teacher, and in a group setting would benefit in terms of reducing psychological discomfort and enhancing their mental health. However, the researchers only recommend that some do it; evidence shows it does not work for some people.

The researchers used a systematic review to choose previous studies for inclusion in their large-scale study, acquiring complete but anonymized data from 13 trials from eight different nations. 

The median age was 34, and 71% of participants were female. While mindfulness applications are becoming more popular, experts need clarification on whether it is mindfulness practice or that courses entail in-person group work with an instructor present that reduces psychological suffering.

They collected and evaluated data from 2,371 persons who participated in trials to determine the efficacy of MBPs. Approximately half of the participants were randomly assigned to eight-week mindfulness programs, with a one- to two-and-a-half-hour session per week. They were compared to those who were not using self-reported questionnaires.

Dr. Julieta Galante, who has recently taken up a new post as Deputy Director of the Contemplative Studies Centre at the University of Melbourne, will explore the usefulness of smartphone apps and what occurs when people continue to practice mindfulness meditation independently.

Adults offered a four- or eight-week mindfulness training in a group environment with an instructor should take it. This research reveals that for organizations considering giving these types of mindfulness training to members of their community, it may be a beneficial investment if their communities express a desire.

The National Institute for Health Research funded this research.

Journal Reference:

  1. Galante, J., Friedrich, C., et al. A systematic review and individual participant data meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials assessing mindfulness-based programs for mental health promotion. Nature Mental Health. DOI: 10.1038/s44220-023-00081-5