Sparing some time for meditation can help fight anxiety and depression, researchers reveal.longtrekhome/Flickr

Sparing some time for meditation can help fight anxiety and depression, researchers reveal.

Interestingly, the study - reported in the JAMA Internal Medicine - found that mindfulness meditation was as effective as antidepressants in lowering symptoms of these mental conditions.

"A lot of people use meditation, but it's not a practice considered part of mainstream medical therapy for anything,"  Madhav Goyal, an assistant professor in the Division of General Internal Medicine at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, said in a news release. "But in our study, meditation appeared to provide as much relief from some anxiety and depression symptoms as what other studies have found from antidepressants."

For the study, a team of researchers from the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in the US led by Goyal looked at 3,515 participants, part of 47 published studies and found that practising mindfulness meditation for 30 minutes was highly effective in treating various types of mental conditions.

Mindfulness meditation is a method of meditation based on an old Buddhist practice known as vipassana or insight meditation. Performing mindfulness meditation is known to help improve focus, patience, compassion and ability to accept.

The studies focused on the role of mindfulness meditation in treating both physical and mental health issues, like depression, anxiety, stress, insomnia, diabetes, heart disease, cancer, substance abuse and chronic pain. Results showed that practising mindfulness meditation regularly for two months helped people manage anxiety, depression and pain.

Previous research has shown several other benefits associated with meditation based programs. A study reported in October last year stated that an intervention program, known as Mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR), helped lower blood pressure in people diagnosed with prehypertension.

Nearly 350 million people around the world are affected by depression, an outcome of chemical changes in the brain caused by stress or hormonal changes. During a major depressive episode, a person experiences severe and persistent depression and loss of interest in everyday activities, often followed by problems with sleep, eating, energy, concentration and self-image. It is crucial to detect and treat the problem early as delayed treatment can result in adverse outcomes including self-destructive behaviour and suicide.

Though antidepressants like selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs) are available to treat this mental condition, many hesitate to take them due to the severe side effects associated with their regular use like delayed orgasm, decreased sexual desire, headache, insomnia, excessive sweating, fast heart rate, constipation, seizures, diarrhoea, insomnia, nausea, vomiting, blurred vision, dry mouth, confusion and weight gain.