Tag Archives: MBCT

The mindfulness of dogs – a #mentalhealthselfie for Mind

Mind asked me to created a #mentalhealthselfie, a video blog about my mental health, for Mental Health Awareness Week 2015. The theme was mindfulness.

“He reminds me to be curious” – how Watson helps me practice mindfulness

As I blogged for Mind about my Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy course in 2012, I decided to do something a little different this time and talked about how my dog Watson helps me to remember some of the core teachings – acceptance, curiosity and overcoming reverse motivation.

What exactly IS Mindfulness? Chatting with young people on TheSite.org

Earlier this month I found myself back at YouthNet Towers, this time as an expert for one of their expert chats. The Engagement and Support team at YouthNet oversee the running of a number of types of online chat. These include support chat (I also moderate support chats as a volunteer), general chat, film and book club chat, positive thinking chat and expert chat. You can read more about the different types here. Chats take place in a safe chat room space with a trained moderator present at all times.

Expert chats

For expert chats, the team invite experts in to answer questions from the community. I answered questions on Mindfulness. There’s a taster of the transcript below but for the whole chat, have a look at the chat archives. It was an interesting experience working as an expert – especially as I have moderated many expert chats in the past. Mindfulness was a difficult topic to explain quickly in a chat environment but I hope that the young people who attended at least received a taster of what it involves as well as links to places where they can explore further.

Community members have since posted threads  about Mindfulness on TheSite discussion forum which I have answered in my role as volunteer moderator.

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I’d like more mindfulness chats, I liked learning about it and want to learn more. It was the first one I’d ever been to and I loved it

– young person on TheSite.org

Finding a breathing space – eight weeks of Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy

Over the past month I have been working on a series of posts for Mind about my experience of Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT). My own original post about Mindfulness – ‘Keeping the beast asleep’ is by far my most popular – and Mind are interested in how users of their services can develop resilience and ongoing mental health management skills. It seemed like a good fit.

I have written eight posts, each one reflecting one of the eight sessions that I attended as part of the Breathing Space ‘Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy for depression’ course. These are based on the diaries I kept of my experience, as well as the handouts we received and my reading of Segal, Williams and Teasdale’s book on MBCT.

The process of revisiting the course, and reading more about it was a really positive one for me. I found myself re-remembering elements I had forgotten and using the techniques more and more. It was great to put down in words some practical examples of how the course helped me, and revisit the feelings and thoughts I’d recorded at the time.

There were also elements of the writing process that I found difficult. Fundamentally, the course is one based in practical experience and ongoing practice. I wanted to emphasise that just reading the posts wouldn’t help in the way that attending a practical course would.

Having said that, I definitely feel that there is a place for a simple week by week exploration of the basic concepts and ideas. Putting these alongside some explanation of some of the practical activities we underwent and I how I experienced them could give people an introduction and a sense of how a mindful approach could help in practice. I hope that is what I have managed to do – to some extent at least.

I also wanted to replicate the development of the course over the eight weeks, the gradual build of skills and understanding which helped me to really grasp some quite new concepts and perspectives. It was tempting to try and explain everything at once – but to really replicate the course and embed the concepts and ideas, I needed to take it slowly.

The first four posts, like the first four sessions, explore and develop new skills and perspectives. These build a foundation from which, in the later posts, we can introduce some new ideas and suggestions for using these skills to improve our lives. At the first session of the course we were encouraged to stick with it, even if we didn’t see initially how it would help. Trusting in the course and keeping going, even at the points when it didn’t seem to be helping, or even making much sense, led to a really positive experience for me. I found myself wanting to do the same for the readers of the series.

The eight posts will be published weekly by Mind. As they are published, I will link to them below with a short summary. Continue reading

Keeping the beast asleep – Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy and my experience of how it can help prevent relapse

Recurrent depression

I recently found something I wrote a couple of years ago, while trying to make sense of a particularly difficult period of depression;

“Recurrent depression is cyclical. It comes and goes in longer periods than just days or weeks. Each low episode can last months, and within that time it can make everything much harder, with deep lows and any better times feeling fleeting and insecure. The hardest part of the fact it is recurrent is in the way that when you’re low you forget the good months and better years and just remember the  times in the cycle where you were fighting it, and it feels like you’ve spent your whole life feeling low, that every time you thought you’d beaten it, it comes back and that there’s nothing to look forward to but more of the same. I can understand why depression is a killer. The only way to give each apparently endless low a meaning is to try so hard not to see it as a setback or as a return to the hardest darkness but to try and learn from each one, to gain as much practice in management and insight from each time to help the next time become easier. And maybe each time it comes around, each low period, be it weeks, months or longer, will get easier to manage and survive through as a result. And perhaps the low times will come less often.”

It’s been the recurrent nature of my depression that has kept me on varying doses of monstiCitalopram for almost 11 years. It is the recurrent nature of depression in general that seems to present such a challenge to both sufferers and those providing treatment. I’ve often wondered if one can ‘recover’ from something that has been part of one’s life for so long? Or does one just end up learning to manage it more effectively, becoming ever more aware of those tiny changes to the delicate balance of your mind that could, without proper attention, tip you downhill again? Can ‘recovery’ be more than just a lasting period of absence of symptoms if at any moment the black swan of relapse could ‘disprove’ it ever was.

Preventing relapse

For me, on a day to day basis, it’s about finding and using the tools that I know keep my mind healthy. That’s not to say I don’t have bad times, but I’m becoming increasingly better at stopping those times spiral down into longer darker times and, in general, I can function ‘normally’. These tools have become even more important recently as I start the long (and never previously successful) process of trying to cut down my dose of Citalopram.

MBCT – ‘the integration of core cognitive therapy principles with sustained mindfulness practice’

Among the more common tools of diet, a lot of running and swimming (I can’t overemphasise the importance and impact of exercise on my mood), writing, militant amounts of sleep and my SAD light, I attended an eight week course at Breathing Space. This is a course designed by Segal, Williams & Teasdale in their book Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy for Depression – a New Approach to Preventing Relapse and taught by trained members of the Buddhist community, supervised by a consultant psychiatrist. Continue reading