Mindfulness, Yoga Can Improve Mental Health, Studies Show

Mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) can reduce anxiety in people at the same level as anti-anxiety medication called escitalopram, often sold as Lexapro, according to a study published in November 2022 in JAMA Psychiatry.

This study is one of several showing the benefits of a mindfulness practice.

The MBSR study followed 208 people during eight weeks of a mindfulness program that involved 2.5 hours per week of classes with a mindfulness teacher and a one-day retreat. Participants also did 45 minutes per day of mindfulness exercises at home. The exercises included breath-awareness, mindful movements that included stretching, and mental body scans to focus on each part of their bodies.

At the end of the program, members of the mindfulness group had cut their anxiety level from an average of 4.44 to an average of 3.09 on an anxiety scale, which was similar to the medication control group (decreased from 4.51 to 3.09).

Other studies show the benefits of yoga on mental health. A 2020 review of studies on how the practice of different yoga forms impacted stress for healthy adults found that most types of yoga helped to reduce stress.  

A 2019 review of studies found that yoga helped to decrease depressive symptoms in people with mental disorders more so than many existing treatments.  

A 2018 study showed that practicing yoga for eight to 12 weeks reduced anxiety, helped manage stress and even diminished depression for the study participants.