The following guest post outlines a past patient’s experience with mindfulness group psychotherapy before they started bespoke individual psychotherapy with a clinical psychologist to address the underlying causes of their problems. – Dr Nick
This article focuses on my personal experience of mindfulness. I discovered mindfulness when I took a course lasting eight weeks to help me deal with anxiety and sleeping problems.
But firstly, let’s go through what mindfulness is. Wikipedia’s definition is as follows: ‘Mindfulness is the psychological process of bringing one’s attention to experiences occurring in the present moment, which one can develop through the practice of meditation and through other training.’ In the modern society we live in, our attention spans tend to be very short, as many distractions are fighting for our attention constantly. From smartphones constantly beeping, to various types of advertising, it can be tough to be present “in the moment” as we shift from one distraction to another and are never truly ‘there’.
In my case, after a painful relationship breakdown, I found myself sleeping very badly, feeling anxious and unhappy. I was already practising yoga regularly. I found yoga really enjoyable as it helped clear my head, and I wanted to take it further. After doing some research, I came across the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction course, also called MBSR mindfulness. This programme was developed by Jon Kabat-Zinn back in 1979 in the US. There are other types of mindfulness, but this one appealed the most to me.
I found a course that was local to me, signed up, and then purchased the accompanying book and CD required to follow the course. The face-to-face course started soon after, with one small group session per week for eight weeks. The book and course were divided into different themes. This was helpful as there is a lot to take in when you start. Going through the course was like ‘retraining’ my brain to live in the present moment. I also learnt to accept my thoughts as they are, without judgement, rather than letting myself to be distracted by them or my surroundings.
We practised various breathing and meditation exercises as a group each week. We also meditated using the CD at least 10 minutes a day each day, in a quiet environment. It was not easy for me, as my brain tends to be racing with many different thoughts, but that is the whole point of mindfulness: to take a break during your busy day, allow yourself to refocus, be present “in the moment”, and in time feel re-energised and less stressed. During the course, I quickly felt a lot more relaxed, and I soon started sleeping better. I also developed some new positive routines, such as meditating 10 minutes a day every day, and even learned how to master meditating while on a noisy train!
I thoroughly enjoyed my MBSR mindfulness course and would recommend it to anyone who suffers from stress or anxiety to try the course, as it has been scientifically proven to help reduce those symptoms. If you cannot afford a face-to-face course (prices vary depending on where you are based), then following the method via a book and CD could be very helpful too.
A free online course of mindfulness can be accessed here.
The link to the course is provided for educational purposes. – Dr Nick