Medication isn't the only way people successfully battle depression -- exercise and acupuncture are two alternative methods. A new study suggests that Transcendental Meditation may also be an effective way to lessen depression symptoms.
Two studies compared months of Transcendental Meditation practice with health education (which served as a control) on depression. The TM technique uses a mantra to help people achieve a relaxed state, and the practice is typically done for about 15 to 20 minutes twice a day. The methodology of both studies was the same: Participants were asked to do TM or follow a health education program twice a day for 20 minutes.
Researchers measured depression symptoms at the beginning of the studies and three, nine and 12 months later. Since there is a link between depression and a risk for cardiac events in people who have coronary heart disease, participants in both studies also had cardiovascular risk factors such as carotid artery wall thickness.
In one study, participants included 59 African American men and women ages 55 and older, and in the other, participants included 53 native Hawaiian men and women ages 55 and older. In both studies, the meditation groups had a far greater reduction in depression symptoms than the control groups. There were no substantial differences between genders.
Researchers speculate that meditation may trigger changes in the body's chemistry, affecting serotonin (a neurotransmitter that may be linked to depression) and fostering better reactions to environmental stress.
"These results are encouraging and provide support for testing the efficacy of Transcendental Meditation as a therapeutic adjunct in the treatment of clinical depression," said Hector Myers, a co-author of one of the studies, in a news release. Myers is director of clinical training in the Department of Psychology at UCLA.
The studies will be presented April 9 at the annual meeting of the Society of Behavioral Medicine in Seattle.
-- Jeannine Stein