Guide to practicing Mindfulness

Some information about Mindfulness and how it can help with Stress Reduction and for alleviating symptoms related to trauma.

We spend too much time in the past or future:

Life consists of millions of moments, and most of us aren’t ‘there’ in them because we are in autopilot mode, maybe worrying or thinking about the future or the past.

 Mindfulness can change your life:

It can can help with a range of problems such as stress, depression and worry. You can learn techniques that help you to pay attention to what’s happening in the mind and body moment by moment.

Over-thinking is the problem:

Our mind often makes simple issues more complicated, telling us we’re useless. The mindfulness course teaches you how to relate to your thoughts more objectively: to see that thoughts are not facts… even the ones that say they are!

The mind has a mind of its own:

Thoughts are not necessarily true. Like clouds, they come and they disperse…if you have the courage to wait for them to disappear.  Sitting for up to 20 minutes just focusing on sensations of breathing or body sensations and noticing the thoughts and feelings that come and go. At first it’s really difficult because the mind gets bored and starts wondering about, but if you train your attention to stay in one place, the next time you feel negative thoughts coming you can remember how to relate them differently…and let them go!

Taking mindfulness skills right into your everyday life:

One of the simple practices taught is called “The 3-minute Breathing Space”.This can be done whenever you’re stressed or anxious. In this 3-step practice, for the first minute become aware of what’s going on in your body and mind. In the second minute you focus clearly on your breath– bringing your attention back to your breath whenever the mind strays. Then in the third minute you expand your attention to your body as a whole seeing all the sensations within it and then expanding out to listen to sounds around you before you continue with your day or evening. Give it a go by following the practice here

Background, Aims and Practices of MBCT/MBSR

MBCT (Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy) for coping with depression/anxiety is an approach developed in the 90’s by three psychologists in an internationally linked programme of research into the prevention of depression. It was developed as an extension of Jon Kabat-Zinn’s earlier work on Mindfulness-based Stress Reduction (MBSR) in the USA. It is recommended by the National Institute of Clinical Excellence (N.I.C.E.) as a means to work with depression that is proven to help prevent relapse in people who are currently well. This approach is also widely used for worry and stress.

Core aims of MBSR/MBCT: To help people liable to reduce their stress and levels of worry and low mood and to improve their wellbeing.

A guide to how to approach practicing Mindfulness

Core skills and practices:

The skills and practices all revolve around means to become more aware of negative patterns of thought and feeling, so as to “step out” of, and “stay out” of them. These are practices and skills that aim to bring about a different way of relating to experience, replacing an old mode of ‘fixing and repairing’ problems with a mode of allowing things to be as they are, in order to see more clearly how best to respond.’

How it works:

It’s all about noticing patterns of thinking and feeling, and from this increased awareness learning to relate differently to them …rather than trying to ‘fix’ them. Trying to ‘fix’ or change difficult thoughts and feelings can too often be an expression of our anxiety, fear, frustration and because of this it does not ‘work’.

The practices focus on teaching skills that develop awareness of body sensations, feelings, and thoughts, which are then applied in relation to particular cognitive therapy- based exercises. We develop ways of thinking that become habitual and automatic. We can only expect to be less enslaved by these habits of mind if we put time and effort into learning new ways. Because of this it is a good idea to make a commitment to practice for 15 minutes of per day.

It is challenging to carve out time to do the practice. It really is worth it though. A useful attitude to adopt is ‘I’ll give this a go, with an open mind’. In order for you to make a decision about whether this approach could be a useful part of your life, you need to engage with it as fully as you can and see if it is helpful.

Patience and Persistence

Because we will be working to change patterns of mind, much of the approach will involve spending some time and effort in giving it a go.  Encouraging yourself to give it a go and be patient at the same time will give the practices a chance to have an effect.

To begin with it may be useful to do the bodyscan practice once a day for a week and see how you get on with it. After this you might try to add the mindfulness of breathing and the breathing space to your daily practice. The mountain meditation can be very helpful to establish and help calm the mind. See what you find happens when you give this a go daily for a while.