Mindfulness is an effective treatment for stress, depression, anxiety and other mental health challenges. It is such a valuable technique that we use it in many of our inpatient, outpatient and day patient treatment programmes. Mindfulness can be described simply as learning to control your focus of attention. Through practising mindfulness you notice your thoughts, feelings and body sensations. Once you are aware of them you are better placed to manage them. That sounds very simple but, because it is very different to how our minds normally behave, mindfulness takes a lot of practice.
In this film Christos Papalekas, Psychotherapist at the Priory Hospital Roehampton, together with Priory therapists and service users, describe what mindfulness is, and the enormous benefits it can bring.
There are two ways to practice mindfulness – through mindfulness meditation and living mindfully, moment by moment. Mindful meditation involves sitting for a period of time, observing your breath, and noticing any thoughts that arise. It is common during meditation to think about the past or jobs on your to-do list, or even fantasise about the future. Watching your thoughts as they arise can be quite revealing. It makes you realise what your mind focuses on, and how much energy you spend thinking about the past and the future, rather than the present moment. Mindful meditation trains you to notice each thought as it arises but, rather than follow where that thought leads, to re-focus your attention on your breath and the present moment.
Mindfulness for every day
Mindfulness is not just about meditation. While meditation helps you to train your mind to focus on each moment, mindfulness is also about paying full attention during your day-to-day activities, such as commuting, working and doing household chores. There are many ways to integrate mindfulness into daily life. As mentioned in the film, it can start with something as simple as paying full attention to what you are doing at any given moment, for example the sound, smell and feel of brushing your teeth.
Christos Papalekas has also created a three-minute guided mindful meditation that will enable you to refocus your mind whenever you feel your attention is wandering, or when you need a break because life has become overwhelming.
Evidence for mindfulness
The effectiveness of mindfulness is well-documented. Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy is recommended by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) for the prevention of relapse in recurrent depression. It combines mindfulness techniques like meditation, breathing exercises and stretching with elements from cognitive behaviour therapy to help break the negative thought patterns that are characteristic of recurrent depression.
Research in 2012 found that mindfulness in the workplace could be an effective intervention to target ”high stress levels, sleep quality, and autonomic balance” (RQ Wolever et al, “Effective and viable mind-body stress reduction in the workplace: a randomized control trial”, 2012).
To find out how mindfulness can help you with any mental health challenges, please call 0800 840 3219 or click here to complete an enquiry form.