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The study consisted of a group of men and women over an eight-week period from Rutgers University. 22 participants suffered from depression and 30 were mentally healthy participants. Researchers had each participant start with 30 minutes of meditation followed by 30 minutes of aerobic exercise. Participants were also told that if their thoughts drifted to past events during the workout, they should refocus their breathing. This technique allows those with depression to accept “moment-to-moment changes in attention.”
“Scientists have known for a while that both of these activities alone can help with depression,” Tracey Shors of the Department of Psychology and Center for Collaborative Neuroscience says, “but this study suggests that when done together, there is a striking improvement in depressive symptoms along with increases in synchronized brain activity.”
In the end, participants in the study who suffered from depression had a 40 percent reduction in depression-related symptoms.
Depression can be debilitating, affecting one in five Americans at one point during their life. Common treatments for depression have been medications that regulate brain chemicals and cognitive behavioral therapy. Ultimately, the goal of the study is to demonstrate that new coping skills can be acquired by individuals to better control stressful life events.
“By learning to focus their attention and exercise,” Shors says, “people who are fighting depression can acquire new cognitive skills that can help them process information and reduce the overwhelming recollection of memories from the past.”