According to the National Alliance of Mental Health (NAMI), anxiety disorders affect approximately 48 million people in the U.S., and 21 million are affected by depression. Mental health disorders start as early as the age of ten and are the number one reason for suicide. With that said, NAMI says suicide is the second leading cause of death worldwide.
Although mental health organizations such as the American Psychological Association, National Association of Mental Health, and Anxiety and Depression Association of America do their best to provide help to sufferers of anxiety and depression, only 36.9% of people receive treatment.
Luckily, you can find help with depression and anxiety through mindfulness-based interventions, which combat mental health in three ways: Cognitive-behavioral therapy, dialectical behavior therapy, and acceptance and commitment therapy.
What Are Mindfulness-Based Interventions?
Mindfulness-based interventions (MBI) are techniques or “tools” to help ease stress, anxiety, and depression through learning mindfulness and meditative practices. You can also read more about practicing mindfulness in this article. MBIs are organized through group settings, one-on-one training, or classes specified around mindfulness and thought training.
MBI treats many disorders in addition to anxiety and depression, including:
- Bipolar Disorder
Mindfulness is the ability to use your five senses (touch, taste, smell, sight, and hearing) in a non-judgmental or labeling way. Anxiety sufferers often put too much definition behind their thought process and define that one thought as good or bad. Mindfulness helps disable these cognitive distortions simply by looking at something and feeling or seeing it the way it is.
For example, someone struggling with depression might think others are judging them, and they’ll feel self-pity while drowning in a downward spiral of shame, blame, and embarrassment. Mindfulness allows the individual to see their thoughts for what it is without judgment—or mind-reading—alternatively resulting in less self-doubt and pity.
Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy and Mindfulness (MBCT)
You may have heard of cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), a practice where you challenge negative thinking by defining cognitive distortions and questioning the thought process through logical reasoning. Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT) combines CBT with meditation and mindfulness techniques to combat anxiety and depression.
MBCT helps you become aware of cognitive distortions and provides you with meditative tools to stop the thought spiral. The main reason thoughts can spiral out of control and ultimately take over is that so many times, anxiety and depression sufferers will try to fight or stop the thoughts—only making things worse.
MBCT allows you to recognize when an intrusive thought surfaces, disconnect from the cognitive distortion and learn how to separate your negative beliefs from what you feel, thus resulting in a calmer, more aware sense of self.
Dialectical Behavior Therapy and Mindfulness (DBT)
Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) is a practice where you are focused on grounding yourself in the present moment. DBT is the core foundation of mindfulness, where you develop healthy tools to help you regulate emotions, cope with stress, and build relationships. DBT is a more physical approach than CBT.
In dialectical behavior therapy, your therapist, class, or group will provide skills-based on interpersonal effectiveness, emotional reasoning, mindfulness, and distress tolerance. Each module helps you achieve thought awareness and self-regulation, process how feelings and thoughts are different and resist behavioral urges.
Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT)
Acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT) breaks mindfulness down into easy-to-understand tools so anxiety and depression sufferers can use ACT daily or as needed.
- Defusion allows you to define your limiting beliefs and unhelpful thoughts and make a distanced relationship with them through guided meditation.
- Acceptance allows you to see the thought, urge, belief, or feeling for what it is, accept and acknowledge it’s there, and let it come and go without judgment.
- Grounding combines cognitive and physical experiences with the here and now. It allows you to understand that your sensations do not control you or your thoughts, and you are guided back to the present moment.
Each skill is a tool used in mindfulness and allows people with anxiety and depression to get a temporary break from their perceived threats or limiting beliefs. The temporary break becomes more permanent with constant practice and eventually happens automatically, bringing you back to the present moment.
What Are Some Examples of Mindfulness-Based Interventions?
Whether you choose to undergo any of the above MBIs, each therapy represents a form of mindfulness practice that includes the following:
During this exercise, you lay down and focus on each body part without judgment or labeling. You intentionally focus on the sensations you feel while allowing thoughts to come and go.
Any yoga is beneficial to your health. However, gentle yoga lessens physical activity while teaching you to connect your body with your breath.
The practice of giving your brain a mental vacation that you control, intentionally focusing on guided imagery.
Grounding teaches you to use your five senses to be in the here and now. Mindful exercises include mindful breathing, observation, awareness, and listening.
Bottom Line: How Will Mindfulness-Based Interventions Help Me?
Mindfulness-based interventions were designed to help anxiety and depression sufferers find support and relief for their daily symptoms of self-doubt, panic, and intrusive thoughts. You can find MBI help and services through your local mental health clinic or with an online therapist or class.