Several months ago, we began the weekly Mindfulness and Healing Groups since I noticed a definite uptick in mood disorders in my patients ever since the COVID problem. The success of and support for the Mindfulness and Healing Groups is inspiring, and I want to thank all participants. The medical literature suggests that a marked increase in the prescribing of psychotropic drugs and an apparent increase in substance abuse and alcoholism has happened since COVID.
The modulation of all of these problems is greatly improved by mindfulness practice. You don’t have to isolate yourself and wonder what to do – please come to the groups and see for yourself what Mindfulness can do for you.
A Mindfulness Practice Can Help with Many Issues
I have been writing blogs (see NIHA Integrative Medicine & Dentistry blog) and in the previous articles I had been going down the list of the leading causes of death (cardiovascular, cancer, accidents etc.) to review the literature on how effective mindfulness is for many disorders.
For instance, last week in the Mindfulness and Healing group we explored how mindfulness practice can greatly lessen chronic pain, and a participant shared with the group how the pain of a recent joint fracture was alleviated with mindfulness even without pain meds. Another individual was able to alleviate 75% of a kidney stone pain, which as you may know if ever having experienced a stone, can be quite painful. Now we will address how mindfulness alleviates much of the emotional pain that comes and goes in life, especially during these COVID times.
Mood Disorders, Anxiety, Depression
Mental disorders are quite common and mood disorders (e.g., anxiety and depression) are the most common of all. Research suggests that about 25% of the people you meet will at some point this year suffer from a diagnoseable mental disorder. About 50% of the people you interact with will have a diagnoseable mental disorder in their lifetime. This may be much higher now with COVID around. The Centers for Disease Control publishes the leading ten causes of death by age range, and in younger ranges from 10 years old to about 35, suicide is number 2 (see Figure below). We will continue down the list to show and discuss the studies as to how mindfulness may help prevent and helps with treatment in every one of these disorders, but since suicide, caused by depression mostly, is so prevalent in the younger groups, we will address address mood problems in the Mindfulness and Healing Group on Sunday evening at 7 PM.
In a recent review of the literature, published in Trends in Psychiatry and Psychotherapy, mindfulness was found to be very effective in the treatment of anxiety and mood disorders:
“The literature in this field suggests that mindfulness is an effective strategy for the treatment of mood and anxiety disorders and is effective in therapy protocols with different structures including virtual modalities. Use of mindfulness in scientific models continues to expand.”
Even for a much more serious kind of mood disorder, Bipolar Disorder, which is more likely to involve suicidality, mindfulness practice was found to be very helpful. In BMC Psychiatry the conclusion was:
“If the study hypotheses are supported, the findings from this research project will provide empirical support for an alternative treatment. Moreover, by identifying the mechanisms of the beneficial effects of the brief MBI (Mindfulness Based Interventions), the findings will highlight process variables that could be specifically targeted to make MBI treatment even more effective in this population.”
Mindfulness practice, especially when focused on the somatic discomfort of unpleasant affective states, allows an individual to recognize the true source of feelings as coming from within, and through taking ownership of one’s feelings, disempowering stressful events and other people as the cause of emotional reactions. Maslow referred to this process as “self-actualization,” an understanding that feelings “actually” come from within the “self.” The payoff for taking response-ability for your emotional pain is that it generally disappears. The downside of blaming others for your emotional upsets is that it tends to not go away. The neurological mechanism, backed up by neuroimagery studies such as positron emission tomography, that modifies or ends somatic pain and emotional discomfort, follows the same prefrontal cortex and thalamic feedback loops as described in my article on Mindfulness and Pain. Your brain is hard-wired to let go of pain, and mindfulness awakens these pathways to healing.
Suicide overall is the 10th leading cause of death, but sadly, is number two in the younger age groups. Mindfulness has been proven in amassed studies to be an effective treatment for mood disorders that often are the prelude to suicide.
Please join me for a guided session to learn a Mindfulness practice.
Mindfulness and Healing Group every Sunday evening at 7 PM.
To enter the group, simply call 712-770-4340 and when prompted, enter the code 566853# (pound).
Charles Gant MD, PhD, is a physician, author and teacher and has practiced Integrative and Functional Medicine for over three decades. He specializes in getting to the root cause of health issues to support healing at the molecular level. Areas of interest include ADHD, chronic diseases, metabolic, hormonal and immune disorders, infectious disease (Lyme and co-infections), genetic testing and more. He is an expert in interpretation of functional medicine testing to diagnose precisely what is deficient in each patient, and then replenish those missing, essential items.
Rodrigues MF (2017) Mindfulness in mood and anxiety disorders: a review of the literature, Trends in Psychiatry and Psychotherapy, vol.39 no.3
 Chan H. W. et. al. (2019) The effect of a brief mindfulness-based intervention on personal recovery in people with bipolar disorder: a randomized controlled trial, BMC Psychiatry, 19:255