For anxiety, mindfulness can be just as helpful as medication

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A new study published in JAMA psychiatry found that eight weeks of a weekly mindfulness program can be as effective as the drug escitalopram, a type of selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor, in treating anxiety.

The recent randomized controlled trial compared the effectiveness of a structured mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) program with escitalopram (brand name Lexapro), a common medication used to treat anxiety disorders.

The study involved 276 adults diagnosed with anxiety disorders. Participants were randomly assigned to either an 8-week mindfulness course or flexible dosing of escitalopram.

The researchers found that the mindfulness program was as effective as escitalopram in reducing anxiety levels. Importantly, there were also fewer dropouts from the mindfulness program: no participants in the mindfulness group dropped out of the study, compared to 8% in the medication group who dropped out due to an adverse event.

This study provides further evidence that a mindfulness-based approach can be a safe and effective treatment option for individuals with anxiety disorders and serve as a viable alternative or supplement to medication.

Mindfulness practices can include yoga, meditation, tai chi, mindfulness walking, and breathing skills. The benefits of regular mindfulness practice include:

  • It cultivates present-moment awareness and non-judgmental acceptance, allowing individuals to look at their anxiety with self-compassion and reduce its impact on their daily lives.
  • It promotes a sense of connection and allows individuals to find joy in the present moment.
  • Develop skills to reduce your anxiety using acceptance, self-awareness and self-compassion.
  • It empowers individuals to take an active role in managing their anxiety.
  • It rewires the brain through neuroplasticity and improves emotional regulation and long-term resilience and reduces anxiety.
  • Affordable, low-cost options are available, including free online mindfulness resources.

It is important to note that mindfulness may not be able to replace medication for everyone. A combined approach that integrates medication, mindfulness, and psychotherapy options is often highly effective. Mindfulness offers a viable alternative or complementary option to drug treatments for anxiety.

body scan exercise

Try practicing mindfulness with this body scan exercise or listen to the Body Scan audio from UCLA’s free guided meditation collection. This practice can take 5 to 15 minutes and be done at least 3 times a week. Many people prefer to practice this before bed as part of an evening routine. Research suggests that people who practice body sweeping longer get more benefits from the practice.

  1. Start by finding a place where you can feel safe. You can sit upright or lie down, whichever is most comfortable for you.
  2. bring your attention for your body and any sensations in your body today.
  3. You have the option to close your eyes if that’s comfortable for you, or keep a soft gaze a few feet in front of you.
  4. If you are seated, notice how your body feels while sitting down. How does the chair or floor feel under you? If you are lying downnotice how your body feels resting on the surface beneath you.
  5. take some deep and long breaths inhaling through the nose and exhaling through the mouth. Feel the air moving in and out of her body.
  6. Bring your attention to your feet: Note any sensations in your feet (eg, weight and pressure, vibration, temperature). Inhale and imagine the breath flowing through your nose. Exhale and let your feet become heavy and steady.
  7. Then bring your attention to your legs– your knees, calves and thighs. Inhale and imagine the breath flowing through your nose and down your legs. Exhale and let your legs feel heavy and relaxed.
  8. watch your stomach area. Note any tension or tightness there. Inhale deeply. Exhale and let the stomach area soften.
  9. Bring your attention to your chest. Note any tension or tightness there. Take a deep breath and imagine the breath filling your chest. Exhale and let the chest area soften and relax.
  10. watch your hands. Inhale and imagine the breath flowing through your body and into your hands. Exhale and let your hands soften.
  11. watch your arms. Inhale and imagine the breath flowing into your arms. Exhale and allow your arms to soften.
  12. watch your neck It is throat. Inhale and imagine the breath flowing to fill these spaces. Exhale and let your muscles relax.
  13. Bring your attention to your jaw. Stress is often stored there in the form of a tense jaw. Allow your jaw to soften and relax any hold.
  14. Now watch your full body. Take a deep, full-body breath and imagine your breath flowing from the top of your head through your entire body. Exhale and imagine the breath coming out through the soles of your feet. Let your whole body relax and feel grounded.
  15. They do this full body breathing again for two to five cycles.
  16. You can stay here as long as you feel comfortable. When you feel ready, open your eyes if they are closed. Gently move your fingers to wake up your body. You have now completed your mindfulness practice for the day.

Copyright Marlynn Wei, MD, PLLC © 2023

For anxiety, mindfulness can be just as helpful as medication

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