Can Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy Increase Positive Affect in People with Depression?

Depression is a debilitating, but common and recurrent condition. Research shows that approximately 80% of people who suffer from depression will experience more than one episode of major depression during their lifetime. And many people suffer from residual depressive symptoms that can increase the risk of relapse. Researchers at Maastricht University Medical Center, the Netherlands and Kings College, London, were aware of this when they conducted a recent study exploring ways to lessen residual depressive symptoms. They said, “Residual symptoms commonly include sleep disturbances; loss of energy; and decreased pleasure, motivation and interest. Overall, this pattern of symptoms is consistent with lower levels of positive affect – a core symptom of major depressive disorder.” They added, “An intervention currently receiving empirical support for the prevention of depressive relapse and recurrence, and for the treatment of residual depressive symptoms, is mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT).”

The researchers recruited subjects from outpatient facilities who tested positive for residual symptoms on the Hamilton Depression Rating Scale. The participants were enrolled into 2.5 hour MBCT sessions over an eight week period. Additionally, the participants were given at home exercises and were instructed to record their moods throughout the day by using a self-assessment form. The subjects were evaluated for several measures, including pleasantness of daily activities, negative and positive affect and reward experience, using the Inventory of Depressive Symptoms, the Penn State Worry Questionnaire and the Rumination on Sadness Scale. The researchers found that MBCT directly increased positive affect in those who participated compared to the control. Additionally, the MBCT group experienced more pleasantness of activities and reward experience and decreased levels of worry and rumination. When discussing their findings, the researchers said, “Overall, our results support the primary hypothesis that MBCT is associated with both enhanced experience of pleasant daily-life situations and improved PA responsiveness to pleasant daily life situations.” They added, “In line with our secondary hypothesis, increases in PA variables within the MBCT group were associated with reductions in residual depressive symptoms, indicated the potential relevance of increased PA for the prevention of depression.”

Geschwind, Nicole, Frenk Peeters, Marjan Drukker, Jim Van Os, and Marieke Wichers. “Mindfulness Training Increases Momentary Positive Emotions and Reward Experience in Adults Vulnerable to Depression: A Randomized Controlled Trial.”Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology (July 18, 2011). Advance online publication. doi: 10.1037/a0024595

© Copyright 2011 by By Noah Rubinstein, LMFT, LMHC, therapist in Olympia, Washington. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

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  • Carla


    August 4th, 2011 at 4:37 AM

    This is wonderful news that this actually helped those who have expereinced recurrent depression in their lives.
    But I do wish that I had a better understanding of what MBCT actually is and why it seems to play such a positive role in the treatment of patients like this and this is something that I did not get from the reading.

  • frank


    August 4th, 2011 at 12:45 PM

    people are depressed for various reasons,n they may be different for different if they make a therapy for depression,dies it not need to be tailor-made for the causes of depression?I see that this study has yielded good results but then modifying it to the individual’s reasons of depression will surely be great.

  • H.F.D


    August 4th, 2011 at 7:09 PM

    Anything that’s able to get these people’s minds away from the reason for their depression is a good thing. Also, meditation has for long web proven to be helpful in this regard. So I say this is great news and something to look for to for people with depression.

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Title   Content   Author is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice, diagnosis, medical treatment, or therapy. Always seek the advice of your physician or qualified mental health provider with any questions you may have regarding any mental health symptom or medical condition. Never disregard professional psychological or medical advice nor delay in seeking professional advice or treatment because of something you have read on