Mindfulness can help prevent relapses of depression as well as anti-depressants, study claims

Teaching people to practise mindfulness works just as well as antidepressants in preventing relapses of depression, according to the first major comparison of the two approaches.

Mindfulness, which has its roots in ancient Buddhist meditationpractices, is also being considered as a therapy to help people overcome the psychological impact of having other long-term medical conditions, and has also been trialled in schools to improve children’s attention spans and lower stress levels.

Dr Liz England, clinical lead for mental health at the Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP), said that patients often did not want to be reliant on drugs in order to feel better, adding that the RCGP encouraged “alternative evidence-based therapies for mental health problems”.

The treatment is recommended for depression by the National Institute of Health and Care Excellence (NICE).

How to be mindful

Proponents of mindfulness say it can be useful to all, reducing stress levels and improving mental wellbeing.

The technique is centred around awareness of our own thoughts, feelings, sensations and the world around us.

The NHS Choices website recommends people who want to try mindfulness pick a time of day, such as the morning walk to work, or lunch break, to be actively aware of the sensations created by the world around us and to acknowledge the thoughts and feelings in their head, without attempting to act on them, only to ‘observe’ them.