"Our research is identifying the mental muscles that people build that protect them against depression and enhance their well-being," says Adam Anderson, Canada Research Chair in Cognitive Neuroscience at the University of Toronto.
Anderson is using brain imaging to actually see why "mindfulness meditation" - which emphasizes non-judgemental, moment-to-moment awareness of your feelings and thoughts - is so effective in preventing depression relapse.
"We found that when people focused on simply being aware of how they were feeling, their brain activity moved from the problem solving, judgmental part of the brain that is closely linked to depression, to an older part of the brain that's focused on body awareness," says Anderson. "And this move is very calming. It's like moving into the eye of the storm. You're actually turning off the judgmental part of your brain."
Anderson believes his research will help build a strong case for the use of mindfulness meditation in treating depression. His next step is a clinical study that will examine the effectiveness of meditation in preventing depression relapse, specifically among patients who've taken anti-depressants.
One important warning here: If you're taking anti-depressants do not stop taking your medication without your doctor's knowledge and approval. Meditation is appropriate in addition to medical treatment - not instead of!