One of the buzzwords of recent times, but what is mindfulness?
Mindfulness is being able to focus on the present moment; being more aware of our thoughts and feelings; living in the here and now and learning to appreciate the present. How many of us have driven to a destination only to recall nothing of the journey itself? We have arrived as if on automatic pilot and the time spent and surroundings on that journey have somehow passed us by. Mindfulness can help us to become more aware of our surroundings and of those around us contributing to our mental well-being, and therefore also our physical health.
Mindfulness involves acceptance too – we become aware of our thoughts and feelings, but learn not to judge them as the right or wrong feelings to have. Being aware of the present can help us to respond better to life’s challenges, rather than to react in a knee jerk fashion to pressure.
Mindfulness can be used as a treatment for mental health problems, such as depression, but it can also be practised even if you are well. MBCT or Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy which includes breathing techniques, meditation, stretching and visualisation techniques, can help dissolve feelings of fear, dread and anxiety and combat recurrent depression, or simply make us view life more positively. More specifically, activity in the pre-frontal cortex – the area of the brain normally associated with positive emotions – tends to be lower in those suffering from depression. People who meditate regularly, for example, and are therefore more ‘mindful’, tend to have a larger pre-frontal cortex and have arguably a more positive outlook.
There is increasing evidence to show that mindfulness can help those suffering from generalised anxiety disorders and other mental health disorders, and that it can sometimes be a more effective treatment than anti-depressants. Indeed research has shown that it can reduce relapses of depression by up to 44% (Oxford Mindfulness Centre).
Mindfulness should be treated as a useful tool to good mental health, and not necessarily as a complete cure. Once an individual learns the techniques of mindfulness which work for them, it can be practised easily on a daily basis for the rest of one’s life and be a useful way to cope with modern stresses and maintain mental well-being.
If you would like to undergo MBCT and learn some of the techniques of mindfulness, please get in touch. Our consultant psychiatrists are very experienced in the treatment of depression and other mental health conditions and can help you on the road to recovery.
The normal course of treatment would be six sessions on a weekly basis for one hour duration each time.