Meditation on the NHS

May 21, 2010 at 9:39 am

by Sam May, Meditation Instructor

Meditation has been in the news recently. A mental health charity (The Mental Health Foundation) issued a report in January arguing that if more GPs could refer their patients to the therapy it would significantly cut the financial cost of depression to the NHS, which currently stands at £7.5 billion a year in the UK. They are urging the NHS to make meditation more widely available to people who suffer from depression.

The Foundation’s findings are revealing. Just 1 in 5 GPs have access to Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT), the treatment  based on meditation techniques that was in 2004 approved by the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE). MBCT is based on the Mindfulness-based Stress Reduction (MBSR) eight week program, developed by Jon Kabat-Zinn in 1979 at the University of Massachusetts Medical Center (USA), and has been shown to halve relapse rates for recurrent depression.

A large majority of GPs (72%) think that meditation would benefit the mental health of their patients, but at present just one in 20 regularly prescribes the therapy.

10% of people in the UK have experienced clinical depression, and 50% of sufferers experience it more than once. After two bouts of depression, the risk of relapse is 70% and this rises to 90% after three episodes.

One of the UK’s leading mindfulness experts, Mark Williams, Professor of Clinical Psychology and Director of the Mindfulness Centre at the University of Oxford, said:

“We’re beginning to discover that meditation practices can have extremely powerful effects on our health. We now have a very good treatment for recurrent depression which urgently needs to be rolled out to all patients that need it. Exciting new research is revealing exactly how meditation works on the brain and how it can be applied more widely.”

Meditation has been shown to affect the workings of the brain and even its structure, according to evidence laid out in the Foundation’s report. People doing mindfulness training show increased activity in the area of the brain connected with positive emotions – the pre-frontal cortex – which is generally less active in people who are depressed.

Over 100 studies have shown changes in brain wave activity during meditation and researchers have found that areas of the brain linked to regulation of the emotions are larger in people who have meditated regularly for five years.

Sam offers personal meditation instruction at The Natural Health Clinic.

For a free initial consultation or to make an appointment please contact Reception on 0117 974 1199.

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