To Cure Depression: take one group before bedtime

Dec
5
2014
by
Lynne McTaggart
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Something in me in constantly drawn to the idea of the group. When I wrote The Intention Experiment, I was less interested in the power of thought than the power of more than one set of thoughts.

Something in me in constantly drawn to the idea of the group. When I wrote The Intention Experiment, I was less interested in the power of thought than the power of more than one set of thoughts.

The subject of The Intention Experiment was essentially one large question: what happened when lots of people were thinking the same thought at the same time?  Did it supersize the effect?   

Since writing The Field, I’d been obsessed with the idea that the new story emerging from science completely changes everything about the human condition. We had to wake up to who we really are, in all our extended human potential,  and learn to live according to a radical new view of ourselves, as just a piece of a  larger whole.

To me, it suggested a new type of healing prayer, an intention that required the support of others. What I’d been kicking around was a big idea: creating community, which heals itself together and works together to heal the world. That needed, I’ve increasedly realized, a group.

And now besides the evidence of the hundreds of experiments I’ve run, large and small, there’s new evidence from Sweden that supports the power of the group to heal depression. 

The power of 10

In this study, carried out by researchers from Lund University, and run at 16 primary health care centres in Skäne, a county in southern Sweden, 215 patients aged between 20 and 64 suffering from depression, anxiety or the aftershock of severe stress were randomly placed into one of two groups.

In one patients were to learn group mindfulness treatment, with 10 patients to a group, while the other group would have standard treatment, largely individual cognitive behavioral therapy, each treatment lasting for eight weeks.  Patients in both groups were given detailed questionnaires to examine the severity of their depression and anxiety, and their symptoms were monitored over the eight weeks of the study period.

The mindfulness patients learned mindfulness via a training programme and were asked to keep a diary of their exercises. This technique teaches you to have non-judgmental awareness of the present moment, usually by coming into your five senses, and just ‘being’, without evaluating yourself, inside or out. You learn to direct your attention and learn to accept what is, and also learn how to deal with negative thoughts and how to accept yourself. And in this instance, you do so with the support of a group.

Mindfulness is thought to help with depression because you focus on the here and now, and stop rerunning the tapes of your past. CBT is a more active process of challenging negative thoughts and beliefs.

Other studies of mindfulness based treatment for depression showed that more  people treated with it stay free of depression than those treated with medication (,2008,;76:966-78).

In the Swedish study, the patients treated with mindfulness were given a program designed by mindfulness instructor Ola Schenström, who also modeled the program for two training instructors.

The group antidepressant effect

Both groups reported a decrease in symptoms, but at the end of the two months, when researchers studied the results, there was no difference between them.  Mindfulness meditation in a group worked just as well as undergoing intensive individual therapy (http://bjp.rcpsych.org/content/early/2014/11/11/bjp.bp.114.150243). 

‘Group mindfulness treatment should be considered as an alternative to individual psychotherapy, especially at primary health care centers that can’t offer everyone individual therapy,’ said Professor Jan Sundquist, the research team leader.

What’s extraordinary about this study is that CBT is considered one of the most effective cures for depression. But it’s not particularly surprising to me. 

Mindfulness may be considered the cure, but for me, the cure is the group itself. Numerous native cultures don’t perceive themselves as separate and consequently view healing as a communal act.  Their intention is concentrated, focused and most of all selfless. Healing yourself communally counters our biggest 21st century disease – the disease of separation.

When you do, your solitary voice transmutes into a thunderous symphony.

Lynne McTaggart

Lynne McTaggart is an award-winning journalist and the author of seven books, including the worldwide international bestsellers The Power of Eight, The Field, The Intention Experiment and The Bond, all considered seminal books of the New Science and now translated into some 30 languages.

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