Mindfulness and Depression
By developing more awareness of how depression actually feels and what it is made up of – the thoughts, emotions and bodily sensations - it is possible to become familiar with the mental habits that support depression. These can be patterns of ruminative thinking, critical self-blame and discomforts in the body. There are many familiar thought patterns associated with depression which can lead to despair if not understood. Through a combination of mindfulness exercises and cognitive interventions, individuals can gain awareness of how mild mental states like sadness or annoyance can spiral into fully blown depression. It is then possible to learn ways to prevent this from happening.
Practices of self-compassion are also very helpful in working with depression and these very specific practices are introduced in the 8 week MBCT programme.
Notice on a grey day when your mood is a little depressed how easy it is to gather negativity about yourself and the world around you. If a friend forgets to ring you when you are not feeling great, what thoughts are you likely to have? If the same friend forgot to ring you on a bright sunny day when your mood is cheerful, are your thoughts likely to be the same or different?
Mindfulness and Stress
When we pay attention to stress we can see that it is a combination of many different emotional, physical and mental states. It has shades of fear, anxiety, worry, depression, tension and being out of control of events in life. By taking a greater interest in what is happening when feeling stressed and pausing, even for a moment, a small gap is created in experience. It then becomes possible to respond more Mindfully and avoid the knee-jerk reactivity that is all too familiar, often leading us to places that encourage even more stress.Notice how stress effects you. Pay particular attention to the sensations in your body- naming them – tension, burning, pinching, pressure etc. Notice the thoughts that accompany these sensations and see if you can describe the emotions that are present.
Mindfulness and anxiety/ fear
Through the practice of Mindfulness it is possible to become more familiar with the thought patterns that are responsible for both anxiety and fear. Most of these thoughts are future based and not necessarily to be believed although they are extremely realistic and very tenacious. By paying attention to thoughts as they arise, it becomes clear that many of the thoughts that cause the anxiety or fear are not in fact true. Many of them are habitual ways of reacting to situations, and Mindfulness can help us to see other ways of responding more skilfully to the same situation.
Cultivating the skill of kindness towards yourself when anxious or fearful helps to move from reactivity and self judgement to a position where you can care for yourself in this painful and uncomfortable state. The skills of self compassion can be very supportive when experiencing states of fear and anxiety.
Notice when you are feeling anxious if your thoughts are about the present moment or about some future event that has not happened or may not happen. Do you notice that this is a common habit for you?
Mindfulness and Pain.
Through developing Mindfulness, one can see that pain is a process and not a fixed condition. It then becomes easier to change ones relationship to the painful condition rather than being locked into aversive reactions to it. It is helpful to see that there is a primary and secondary suffering with pain. The primary suffering is the experience of physical pain such as pinching, burning, nausea, fatigue etc. and the secondary suffering is made up of all the mental and emotional responses to these discomforts such as aversion, anger, depression, anxiety, avoidance and catastrophising. Mindfulness can help to reduce the suffering of pain through allowing things be as they are in this moment and by watching any extra tensions arising.Notice the next time you have a pain or some discomfort how much extra is created by wishing it was not there.
Mindfulness and Cancer.
Mindfulness can be very valuable in helping those with cancer to cope better with some of the fears, negativity and physical discomforts that arise with diagnosis and treatment.Through learning to see the patterns of thoughts that create much of the fears and anxieties, and by learning to relax the body, there is a place created for more peace in the mind and more ease in the body.
Mindfulness registers experiences but it does not compare them. It just observes everything as if it were occurring for the first time. It is the direct experience of what is happening.