Mindfulness, the practice of being present in this moment with openness and acceptance to what this moment offers, has become popular in our busy world. It is not actually a therapy in itself, but can be used for therapeutic purposes.
Mindfulness teaches us to adopt a new, non-judgemental, relationship with our thoughts and feelings. The analogy of the two arrows is helpful here. The first arrow is the pain we suffer, however we experience that. This is suffering enough, but the second arrow is the one we inadvertently deliver ourselves, through the judgments we make about the first arrow. So if we are experiencing depression as a result of a series of unhappinesses, say, that is hard enough; but if we then give ourselves a hard time about this reaction, perhaps reproaching ourselves and calling ourselves weak, we can suffer all the more. Double trouble. Mindfulness helps us to step back and take a more accepting approach to our physical, emotional and thinking processes .
Mindfulness can be taught in individual therapy, in which case it will be tailored to the needs of the individual. It can help with ruminations in depression and also with anxiety problems, in particular worry.
Mindfulness and CBT
Mindfulness can also be taught in classes. Jon Kabat-Zinn began this with his Mindfulness Based Stress Reductions (MBSR) classes which were shown to be helpful for people suffering with illness and pain. This was later adapted by Mark Williams, Zindal Segal and John Teasdale for Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT). The adaptation was the inclusion of greater emphasis on mindfulness of thoughts and the importance of pro-wellbeing behaviours; in other words a fusion with aspects of CBT. MBCT is considered to be a therapy in its own right and there is considerable data to indicate its efficacy for recurrent depression (three or more episodes).
Many people are wary of joining groups or classes, but there are many reasons to do so. It can be very warming to meet other people who can identify with our distress, the stigma of having emotional problems is reduced in this way and groups can be supportive. Also, a key component of mindfulness is the learning of new thinking skills which can be done as well in a group, or sometimes better, than individually. Classes consist of learning a series of mindfulness practices, with any discussion being about the practice rather than our “stories”.
Mindfulness in Brighton and Hove
So, mindfulness can be a part of individual therapy or it can be taught in a class. If you are interested in a class in the Brighton and Hove area then you may be able to access this through the NHS Sussex Mindfulness Centre.
You can find out a bit more about Mindfulness and CBT on this video: