Monthly Archives: September 2017

  • Four Ways Mindfulness Eases Anxiety and Depression

    Written by Amy Jane Wood

    According to the mental health charity Mind, anxiety and depression affect nearly one in four of us in the UK. So if that includes you too, you are not alone. Though their root causes are varied and complex, we do know that anxiety and depression are exacerbated by our fast-paced, plugged-in world, which leaves us little time to connect with ourselves. Mindfulness may not be an overnight fix, but it does offer us an arsenal of tools and techniques to ease the weight of anxiety and depression. And its effects are cumulative – which means that what we practice only grows stronger. Find out just a few of the ways it can help…

    Mindfulness soothes the nervous system

    On a simple level, mindfulness meditation soothes the nervous system and promotes a sense of calm which reduces anxiety. Being attentive to physical sensations and breathing mindfully activates the parasympathetic nervous system, which induces a state of peace and relaxation in the body. This is backed by recent scientific studies, which have revealed that levels of cortisol – the hormone that’s triggered in response to stress – are dramatically reduced in those who practice mindful awareness.

    Mindfulness teaches us to accept difficulty

    When the blues strike, it’s common to want to hide what we feel and detach from our emotions. Sweeping pain under the metaphorical rug stops us from connecting with it, which can simply make it worse. As the old adage goes: ‘what you resist, persists’. The idea of turning towards emotional pain may seem counterintuitive, but when we gently open the door and invite it in, our relationship with it can be truly transformed. By cultivating an acceptance of our painful thoughts and feelings in the present moment, and holding space to simply ‘be’ with them, we may find that they loosen their grip on our lives quite dramatically. This can bring a clarity that helps to heal old wounds and break unhealthy patterns.

    Mindfulness opens us to self-compassion

    We all have an inner critic – it’s a voice that often comes from the past: a parent, teacher or boss. When we find ourselves stuck in a rut, feeling anxious or depressed, that judgmental voice can make things ten times harder. If we’re not careful, we can live by the stories it tells us about ourselves and let it shape the direction of our lives. Becoming aware of our inner critic is the first step towards disengaging with it, and mindfulness empowers us to do this. By training the brain to spot its negative internal commentaries, we can choose to respond to life’s difficulties with self-compassion instead of self-criticism. In this way, we chart new neural pathways that support and nurture us when we’re feeling low.

    Mindfulness helps us to break negative thinking

    Negative and ruminative loops of thinking are characteristic of depressive and anxious moods. They can throw us into a black hole of self-doubt that colours our response to everything. Happily, mindfulness can help us to break this cycle. With mindful awareness, we train the mind to recognise negative thought patterns and learn the skills to interrupt and respond to them in a way that makes us more resilient. Science has also shown that mindfulness works to disarm the mind’s ‘stress centre’ – the amygdala – which is the seat of our fearful and anxious emotions, and boosts activity in the more thoughtful area of the brain – the pre-frontal cortex. As a result, we are less overwhelmed by negative and ruminative thoughts, and more able to access practical thinking and positive emotions.

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    MEDITATION:

    Body Scan

    TIPS:

    Why Meditate?

    The Present Moment

    COURSES/WORKSHOPS:

    Mindfulness for Anxiety and Depression

    8-Week Mindfulness Course for Depression

    8-Week Mindfulness Course

    Mindfulness One-Day Workshop