Tag Archives: Mindfulness

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

My thoughts on exercise and depression

Bad journalism

The BBC  headline ‘Exercise ‘no help for depression’, research suggests’ (note – the BBC have 

photobikequietly changed this headline now!) – and indeed Guardian headline Exercise doesn’t help depression, study concludes (note – this link has since broken and I can no longer find the article) – really frustrated me today. It’s classic bad science reporting, which we all know is nothing new, but it touched a chord with me on a personal level so I wanted to get down my thoughts and personal experiences over my lunch break.

There is a lot more to be said and I’m really aware of my own experience biasing my opinions so do add your comments and thoughts.

The headline is misleading

 

The main frustration is the misleading nature of the headline. If you read the article, what patients were actually given was “advice on up to 13 separate occasions on how to increase their level of activity. It was up to individual patients what activity they chose to increase and by how much.”. The report – which you can read in full here – is actually investigating one particular method (the TREAD method) of encouraging depressed patients to increase their activity. This is a very different study than the one the headlines lead you to believe. 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