Mindfulness-based approaches such as Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) and Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) are evidence-based with proven effectiveness for a variety of life challenges such as stress, anxiety, panic, depression, coping with pain and illness. Stress means different things to different people and the intention of mindfulness-based approaches is to help you to cultivate a new, more kind relationship to your own personal experience in terms of whatever you are struggling with in your life.
What is Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT)?
Mindfulness-Based Cognitive therapy has specific efficacy in treating people who experience recurrent bouts of depression. The National Institute of Clinical Excellence’s (NICE) Guidelines recommend MBCT as treatment of choice for relapse prevention from recurrent depression.
Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy is an adapted version of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction. It combines mindfulness meditation and non-judgmental awareness skills with Cognitive therapy. It is most effective for those who are vulnerable to episodes of depression because it addresses processes of rumination. The tendency to get stuck in a loop of negative thought patterns is what triggers and maintains an episode of depression.
Someone who is prone to recurrent depression will notice that even a mild low mood can quickly lead to a large amount of negative thoughts. These negative thoughts include trying to figure out why you are feeling a particular way which often results self-criticism and your perceived personal failings. These thoughts could include ‘I’m useless’ or ‘I’m a failure’, or ‘why does this always keep happening to me’ or ‘what is wrong with me for feeling this way’? These can trigger further symptoms such as fatigue and reduced motivation thus leading to a new episode of depression.
Mindfulness-Based Cognitive therapy aims to help you become more aware moment to moment of your experience, of your thoughts, emotions, physical sensations inside the body and the world around you, and in a way that is non-judgemental. By stepping back and becoming the observer of your experience you realise that all these thoughts, emotions, sensations and even the world around you are constantly changing, that they come and go. This helps us to become less identified with these experiences as something that is fixed or permanent within us. We start to realise that for example that thoughts are simply mental events that come and go, thoughts are not facts, they are just thoughts. In fact, we are not our thoughts, not even the negative ones. They do not need to overwhelm us or define us in any way.
Mindfulness meditation helps us to become aware of our habitual stress increasing thought patterns in a way that is friendly and non-judgemental. This awareness brings choice, in particular the ability to choose whether to respond or react to stressful events. We cannot make helpful changes in our lives without becoming aware of what it is that is unhelpful to us.
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