Meditation techniques may be very helpful for many people, with a low risk of adverse effects. We are excited to see many apps being developed to help with learning and practicing meditation. In the New York Times, Kit Eaton recently posted brief reviews of four apps designed to help with relaxing and calming the mind: Calm.com, Headspace, Happier, and Digipill, and these apps represent only a fraction of the number of meditation and mindfulness apps available and under development.
How effective is meditation for anxiety and mood disorders?
Of course, meditation and mindfulness practices to reduce anxiety, improve focus, and reduce mood reactivity have been described for centuries, but these techniques are also gaining favor among many who suffer from clinical anxiety and mood disorders. An interesting review of this topic, with special relevance to “mindfulness meditation” and “compassion meditation” was recently published by Dr. Natalie Leung and colleagues. They review studies that have been done with these techniques in people with social phobia, major depression, and generalized anxiety, and also describe studies using imaging techniques to see how meditation effects the brain.
Dr. Madhav Goyal and colleagues recently published a more rigorous “meta-analysis” of 47 randomized controlled trials using meditation techniques. They reported moderate effects of these techniques on anxiety, depression and pain, but lack of effect on several other variables.
My friend and colleague, Dr. Norman Rosenthal, has been a great proponent of Transcendental Meditation, especially for post-traumatic stress related symptoms. He has written an excellent book on this topic called Transcendence, which examines this issue very creatively from a number of different viewpoints.