Meditation – dismissed by many of us as a whimsical and hippy practice, reserved only for those who want to have homes in trees and live off the land whilst frolicking in their baggy harem pants. But this is no longer the case in General Practice.
Mindfulness is the quality or state of being conscious or aware of something – a mental state achieved by focussing on one’s awareness of the present moment whilst acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts and bodily sensations.
Mindfulness Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (MCBT) is becoming more prevalent amongst various other therapies and medications as a form of legitimate treatment for a number of stress related disorders. This type of therapy consist of 8 classes once a week, with a full day session in the middle. The programme includes a set of guided meditations that participants can continue to use throughout the course, whilst at home. These meditations, breathing techniques and stretches are specifically designed to help break the negative thought patterns and characteristics of recurrent depression. Evidence has shown that MBCT can reduce the risk of relapsed depression by up to 43% (Mark et al, 2014).
The practice originates from the 2500 year old Buddhist psychology tradition. Jon Kabat-Zinn introduced mindfulness to a wider audience through his mindfulness-based stress reduction therapy.
It is not only for those who suffer from diagnosed stress, anxiety or depression. We can all use it in our daily lives to help us become more relaxed and centred. It can be used to help us get a hold of our busy lifestyles, to enjoy the present moment and understand ourselves better. This is achieved by becoming more aware of our own thoughts so that we can really make sense of what is going on in our heads and around us. Many of us have a huge variety of thoughts knocking around in our heads constantly; did I do that? Should I do this? What time was that? Mindfulness mediation is a great way to take a step back and make sense of these thoughts and avoid coming bogged down and stressed by it all.
There are various forms of mindfulness practice:
Meditation – participants will sit silently and focus on the sensation of breathing and other areas of the body, focussing the mind whenever it wanders.
Yoga – a series of movements and postures focussing on strength and flexibility.
Tai-chi – a combination of deep breathing and relaxation with slow movements.
As many of us shy away from seeking professional help when it comes to matters of the mind, the NHS have compiled a list of 5 steps to mental wellbeing. There are also many helpful websites and books to teach yourself techniques in mindful meditation. Take a step back and see if mindful meditation can help you.