Feature / Spring 2014
How Mindfulness Helps

Studies show that mindfulness meditation improves everything from stress to binge eating

In recent years, hundreds of academic studies – some conducted at the University of Toronto – have vouched for the value of mindfulness meditation in improving everything from stress to binge eating to depression. Here are a few examples of the U of T studies:

Binge eating
A 2011 study led by U of T psychiatrist Christine Courbasson enrolled people with both binge eating disorder and substance abuse problems in a 16-week program of mindfulness-based cognitive therapy. Over the course of the program, participants were found to engage less often in binge eating and to demonstrate both an improved attitude toward eating and a reduced reliance on drugs and alcohol.

In 2013, a team of researchers, including U of T psychiatry professor Dr. Nora Cullen, found that a 10-week program of mindfulnessbased cognitive therapy reduced symptoms of depression in people who had suffered a traumatic brain injury.

Cheryl Regehr, a professor at the Factor-Inwentash Faculty of Social Work and U of T’s provost, led a review of the literature on stress to see what interventions work best for university students. The study, published in 2013, found that mindfulness-based interventions significantly reduce anxiety, depression and cortisol levels.

Brain benefits
A 2013 study by psychiatry prof Zindel Segal and U of T colleagues compared MRI data for people who had undergone an eight-week mindfulness training program with a control group. The mindfulness group not only showed a different pattern of brain activity while practising, but showed an increased ability to connect various parts of the brain, similar to the “rewiring” the brain does after an injury.

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