Efficacy of Stand-Alone Mindfulness Exercises in Anxiety, Depression

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Regular performance of mindfulness exercises can be beneficial for anxiety and depression, outside of a larger therapeutic framework.
Regular performance of mindfulness exercises can be beneficial for anxiety and depression, outside of a larger therapeutic framework.

Stand-alone mindfulness exercises are moderately effective in managing symptoms of anxiety and depression, according to research published in Behavior Research and Therapy.1

Researchers from the University of Heidelberg conducted a systematic review and meta-analysis to examine the efficacy of stand-alone mindfulness exercises — separate from larger-scale mindfulness-based interventions — and whether such exercises can have a positive impact on symptoms of anxiety and depression.

After applying exclusion criteria, 18 studies were included in the meta-analysis. Investigators identified 4 categories of mindfulness exercise (breathing meditation, bodyscan, sitting meditation, and soundscan). Included studies were divided into 1 of the 4 categories (n=12, 6, 5, and 2, respectively). Data were collected from 1150 participants (75.48% female; mean age 30.45).

After re-conducting a meta-analysis to eliminate 1 outlier study,2 researchers found that stand-alone mindfulness exercises yielded an effect on symptoms of anxiety (standardized weighted mean differences [SMD] =0.39; 95% CI, 0.22-0.56; P <.001; I2=18.90). A random effects model found that stand-alone mindfulness exercises yielded “significant effect[s]” on depression symptoms, compared with active control conditions (SMD =0.41; 95% CI, 0.19-0.64; P <.001; I2=33.43%)

Investigators went on to note that, “From a practical perspective, it is noteworthy that [stand-alone mindfulness exercises], provided that future studies demonstrate efficacy for clinical populations, could potentially be integrated as an economic mini intervention into routine practice.”

They concluded, “[Standalone mindfulness exercises] have a small to medium effect on symptoms of anxiety and depression. …It is noteworthy that mindfulness exercises are beneficial without being integrated in any larger therapeutic framework, and that adverse events are rather unlikely.”

References

  1. Blanck P, Perleth S, Heidenreich T, et al. Effects of mindfulness exercises as stand-alone intervention on symptoms of anxiety and depression: Systematic review and meta-analysis. Behav Res Ther. 2017;102:25-35.
  2. Yamada K, Victor TL. The impact of mindful awareness practices on college student health, well-being, and capacity for learning: a pilot study. Psychology Learning & Teaching. 2012;11(2):139-145. 
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