In recent years, mindfulness-based interventions have become increasingly popular as complementary treatment strategies for a number of medical and psychiatric conditions including depressive spectrum disorders. Mindfulness is a practice in which the objective is to maintain ones attention in the present moment rather than allowing automatic thinking patterns and emotional responses to drive awareness. The foundation of a mindfulness practice is meditation. Meditation is the process by which practitioners develop the skill to keep attention focused. This skill is then utilized to practice mindful awareness both in formal meditation and during tasks of daily life.

The main psychological mechanism of mindfulness is known as reperceiving. Reperceiving is a perspective shift such that one sees thoughts and emotions as passing and frequently insignificant phenomena rather than as representing fact. This shift comes about as a result of staying focused in the present moment and observing thoughts and emotions arise and pass. Practitioners thereby gain distance from their own mental processes such that both thoughts and emotions become less powerful and compelling. Neuroimaging studies indicate that mindfulness induces neuroplasticity and rewiring of circuitry, such that the brain is more likely to engage in moment-by-moment awareness than habitual thought patterns and emotional responses.

Compelling evidence indicates that mindfulness-based interventions have antidepressant benefits. In particular, two interventions, Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) and Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT), have been extensively studied and shown to decrease depressive symptoms. Very strong evidence supports the use of MBCT as an adjunctive intervention for depressive spectrum illness.

It is likely that mindfulness-based interventions impact depressive symptoms by facilitating disengagement from ruminative, self-referential thinking associated with depression.


Mindfulness Depression Meditation Neuroimaging 


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© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.George E. Wahlen VAMCSalt Lake CityUSA

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