Posted: 10.30.2014 | by AMRA

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Home meditation practice has long been a cornerstone of mindfulness-based interventions, but questions as to how much home practice is needed remain unanswered. Crane et al. [Behavior Research and Therapy] studied the home practice of 99 Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) participants to address this question. All of the mostly Caucasian, female, middle-aged participants had three or more prior episodes of major depression, but were asymptomatic at the start of the study.

Their formal and informal home practice was assessed using weekly self-report diaries. “Formal home practice” meant engaging in daily forty-minute guided meditations using MBCT-provided compact discs. “Informal home practice” included less structured practices such as mindfulness of routine activities or attending to the breath when stressed.

Participants indicated whether they had engaged in home practice on any given day by ticking off diary checkboxes. The duration of formal home practice was quantified (an average of 21 minutes daily for the sample), but informal home practice was measured only by whether practice had occurred on any given day or not.

The researchers found that major depression relapse rates were negatively associated with the amount of formal home practice. By the end of one year, 58% of the participants who practiced less than 3 times a week had major depressive relapses, while only 39% of those who practiced 3 or more times a week relapsed.

Consistent formal home mindfulness practice reduced the risk of relapse by nearly 50%. While the amount of formal and informal home practice was highly correlated (r=0.82, p<0.001), the amount of informal practice was not significantly related to relapse risk, perhaps owing to the inability to quantify its actual duration.

The findings support a crucial role for formal home mindfulness practice in a structured mindfulness-based intervention — at least up to a point yet undetermined — and suggest that the more one practices, the better one’s mental health benefit.

Reference:

Crane, C., Crane, R. S., Eames, C., Fennell, M. J., Silverton, S., Williams, J. M. G., & Barnhofer, T. (2014). The effects of amount of home meditation practice in mindfulness based cognitive therapy on hazard of relapse to depression in the staying well after depression trial. Behaviour Research and Therapy.

[Link to abstract]