Mindfulness is sometimes described as ‘the gentle effort to be continuously present with our experience’. It’s based on ancient traditions which go back many centuries, but more recently it’s been combined with ideas from evidence-based psychological therapies such as Cognitive Behavioural Therapy into an effective 8-week group treatment for depression and anxiety called Mindfulness-based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT).
The main aim of the programme is to help group members become more aware and accepting of their experience, especially their thoughts and feelings, and teach them a variety of techniques to help them to purposefully pay attention in a non-judgmental way to what’s going on in their body and mind.
Mindfulness has been shown to be a helpful technique for people who are prone to depression and anxiety, as well as those with chronic pain and stress, and in fact is widely used by many people who wouldn’t say they have particular problems with their emotions.
In MBCT participants meet together for 90 minutes a week. The programme lasts for eight weeks and is facilitated by two therapists.
There are audio recordings to accompany the programme, which you use to practise on your own at home once a day, six days a week. In the classes, there is an opportunity to talk about your experiences of home practices, the obstacles that inevitably arise, and how to deal with them skilfully.
The aim is to help you:
- become familiar with the workings of your mind.
- notice when you are at risk of getting caught in old habits, resulting in downward mood spirals or anxiety.
- explore ways of releasing yourself from those old habits and, if you choose, enter a different way of being.
- to put you in touch with a different way of knowing yourself and the world.
- to notice small beauties and pleasures in the world around you instead of living in your head.
- to be kind to yourself instead of wishing things were different all the time, or driving yourself to meet impossible goals.
- to accept yourself as you are, rather than judging yourself all the time.