How Mindfulness Supports Good Mental Health by Adrian Wright
How Mindfulness Supports Good Mental Health
Mindfulness is used to support a plethora of mental health conditions but let’s focus on
three of the most common: stress, anxiety and depression.
People often consider the mental and emotional impacts of chronic or long-term stress.
Mindfulness helps with this but it helps by working with this stress in the body, rather than
in the mind. When stressful thoughts or emotions arrive, in a mindfulness practice, we
notice them and allow them to pass. However, this can be very challenging, especially if the
thoughts are determined to stay or generate more thinking and this then triggers difficult
emotions. Therefore, rather than working with stress at the mental/emotional level, it is
often easier to work with the body. Bring your attention to your body right now… and see
where the stress is showing up in the body… it may be in raised shoulders, a tight jaw or
tense temples. When bringing attention to the area, the body often very naturally releases
the tension, especially is you use a couple of deeper breaths and allow the body to let go on
Anxiety can be a very challenging condition to manage. The thoughts come so rapidly and -
through natural selection - our brains have learned that it is good to be anxious. This is
what the neuroscientists call the negativity bias: it’s safer to think that rustle in the grass is a
snake rather than a toad. That sort of worry has kept us safe for thousands of years.
However, as a species, we’ve become too good at predicting the negative so that life can
become a succession of continual worries and concerns. Mindfulness can help us step back
from the stream of thoughts and worries and see whether they are useful or are we
overthinking or worrying about something that may not be a real threat at all? And, even if
the threat turns out to be something challenging, mindfulness allows us to take a breath,
find some headspace and look for ‘creative responses’ rather than ‘destructive reactions.’
Britain has been leading the world in using mindfulness for the treatment of depression
since the turn of the century when Mark Williams and his colleagues developed the MBCT
(Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy) programme. Their aim was to use mindfulness and
cognitive therapy together, not necessarily in place of medication but alongside and after
medication use in order to avoid relapse. Similar to the way mindfulness helps reduce
anxiety, it can interrupt depressive thoughts (rumination) and help the person to breath and
then manage their thoughts towards a different direction.
After MBCT’s success, Mark designed the ‘Mindfulness: Finding Peace in a Frantic World’
book and course which we run at the Therapy Life Centre. This book and course is not
aimed at those presently suffering from clinical depression but can, as the title suggests,
help us find some peace.
Please contact Adrian through the Therapy Life Centre if you’d like to know more.
3rd of June