12 Tips to Improve Mental Wellbeing

The New Joy
When we are talking about mental wellbeing what we are really referring to, is how we are feeling and coping on a day to day basis. For most of us this tends to vary from day to day. If we are feeling unhappy, overwhelmed and struggling with the demands of day to day life, it could be said that our mental wellbeing is not so good. On the other hand if we feel happy, confident, productive and engaged with the world we live in, this is a sign that our mental wellbeing is good. This also tends to suggest that our overall mental health is also good.

Many things can affect our mental wellbeing and such things as loss, relationship difficulties, money worries, work stress and even loneliness. There are also a number of things that may predispose and make us more vulnerable to poor mental health and wellbeing. These include childhood abuse or trauma, social isolation or discrimination, homelessness, poor housing or social isolation or discrimination. Caring for a sick relative or friend, unemployment, long term physical health difficulties and even being the victim of some kind of crime or accident. It could be said that if mental wellbeing is poor over a long period of time this is more likely to result in mental health problems, such as depression and anxiety.

 

There are however, a number of things that we can do to stay mentally well and build our mental wellbeing. These include:

 

1. Taking time to talk to others about our feelings. There really is some truth in the old saying “a problem shared is a problem halved,” Just talking something through can help us feel lighter. Sometimes another person may be able to offer advice or a different perspective and this can help. It need not necessary be a mental health professional, a caring friend or family member can provide the listening ear so often needed.

 

2. Building friendships and relationships with others is an important part of staying well. Choosing positive, supportive and happy people to be around, rather than negative people who are always moaning and critical is very important. Volunteering and helping others can really help to feel you are helping others and contributing to society.

 

3. Staying physically active is a cornerstone to wellbeing. Good diet, adequate sleep and regular exercise all promote good mental health. Reducing reliance on alcohol, recreational drugs  and cigarettes can also help us to feel better about ourselves as we take care of our bodies.

 

4. Taking up a hobby, interest or pastime is really helpful. Doing things we enjoy can help to express how we feel through activity in way that is similar to childhood play. Whether it’s cooking, gardening or DIY, or maybe something more creative such as joining a local drama group. What we do in between the more mundane activities of life can give us a boost.

 

5. Setting some kind of life goal, “bucket list,” or challenge gives us something to aim for. When we begin to reach our goals we can feel positive about our achievements.

 

6. Learn to recognise the sort of things that drag you down. Keeping a mood diary can help us identify triggers. These may be many and can include people, places and events. Sometimes things like lack of sleep, overwork or even eating certain foods can underpin mood changes. Try to be a detective and identify the villains that scupper your wellbeing.

 

7. Take care of yourself. Try substituting the term “selfish” with the term “self-caring.” In other words, looking after you. Take the pressure of yourself, take small steps towards your goals and learn to be accepting and compassionate towards yourself. In other words, speaking to yourself with kindness and understanding as you would a friend you cared about.

 

8. Learn to accept yourself, stop being critical and learn to take yourself and life a little less seriously. Little things like smiling and saying hello to people, as well as valuing the things you do, however small. Learn to be assertive and trust in yourself a bit more.

 

9. Make building your self esteem and confidence a long term aspiration. Appreciating that you are important and that you are, who you are, a unique human being. Stop comparing yourself with others, forget about striving for perfection, identify your positive traits, such as caring for others or loving your pets.

 

10. Take time to read self help books, websites and blogs (such as this one!) to help you build your mental wellbeing change negative beliefs and old unhelpful ways of thinking and behaving. Find yourself a therapist who can help you work on these areas, think of them as a mental wellbeing coach.

 

11. If you have mental health problems take an active part in your treatment. Talk to your healthcare provider about your medication and learn to manage it in a way that helps you. Make sure you know about your medication, side effects and the best times of day to take it. Also if you wish to reduce or come off your medication, try to do it as a team with support from your therapist or healthcare provider. Take time to make a crisis plan and tell health professionals, family and others what helps and doesn’t help.

 

12. Finally join a support group or a group associated with a hobby or interest, such as a knitting, reading or art group. Join others for Pilates or other activities. Reach out to others, accept compliments and find time for you.

 

Until next time

 

Steve

 

 

Ref: How to improve and maintain your mental wellbeing – Mind                             info@mind.org.uk                                                                                                                                   mind.org.uk
Image:By Bart Everson – Flickr: The New Joy, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=21362146

Can negative energy give you cancer?

File:Text-book of nervous diseases; being a compendium for the use of students and practitioners of medicine (1901) (14763685262).jpg
I believe passionately that mind and body cannot be separated and that one influences the other. As a body therapist as well as a talking therapist, I have seen how stress can manifest in bodily tension, headaches and all manner of ailments. I have witnessed how skin conditions can be exacerbated by worry and how pain can be eased through the power of thought. 
It is not rocket science, there is often a very logical explanation as to how the mind affects the body. For example, you have a job interview or a forthcoming exam and you find yourself experiencing stomach discomfort and you need to go to the toilet. You have a first date and find yourself feeling lightheaded and nauseous. The reason for this is simple, your body is reacting the way it has since prehistoric days. When you have an exam or about to face a new experience that is very important or in which there may be an element of risk, the stress triggers the “fight and flight” response. Your mind tells your body the there is a “threat” and your body responds by preparing you for danger.
At the first hint of trouble the brain sends out chemical messages signalling an impending threat.  The body responds by preparing the either to attack or flee. Nausea signals that the muscles in the stomach are activated to squeeze and relax. It tells the gastrointestinal tract to empty the bowel and we urinate to clear the bladder. We may also vomit and perspire thus ensuring that we have as little excess in our bodies as possible. No need for the body to attend to digesting food while its energies need to be attending to the perceived threat. Our light headed, tingly body and pounding heart all point to blood being diverted to the big muscles of the body preparing us to either fight to the death or run for our lives.
Mind and body working in perfect harmony. Now, the point of this post is really to highlight that while mind and body are one and thoughts do influence bodily reactions; negative thoughts alone cannot give you cancer. This week TV presenter Noel Edmunds claimed that he had developed prostate cancer as a result of stress. The notion that negative thoughts can cause cancer or that certain personality traits make people more susceptible to cancer, is quite frankly, hocus pocus.
Yes, a positive mental attitude and using approaches such as mindfulness to manage pain and discomfort caused by the condition, or to enable us to live a better quality of life while getting appropriate medical treatment is invaluable. Negative thinking would be better addressed through talking therapy and expression of emotions, rather than blaming our illness on our psychological state.
Dr Max, the Daily Mail’s resident psychiatrist in an article on the subject of negative thinking and cancer, goes as far as to say that, ” blaming a cancer sufferer for their own ‘negativity’ is very hateful.” He suggests that these kind of ‘quack’ theories make those with cancer vulnerable to crooks and charlatans who may prey on their misinformed beliefs.
I can really appreciate how people may cling to the hope that powerful thoughts can influence the process of healing. To an extent I subscribe to this view, however, I think we need to exercise a measure of caution. If orthodox medicine is shunned because we believe that our thinking caused our illness and therefore our thinking can cure the disease, then that is such a shame. Complimentary medicine can ‘compliment’ and shape the way we cope with illness and it may also support orthodox medicine, but negative energy and thought alone cannot ’cause’ illnesses such as cancer, however much Noel Edmunds and others would have us believe.
Until next time,

 

Steve Clifford, Psychotherapist

www.facebook.com/yourmentalhealthmatters

www.facebook.com/bexhillmindfulnesscentre

Twitter @cbt4you

 

Image: By Internet Archive Book Images [No restrictions], via Wikimedia Commons

Find your Self-belief

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How many times have you opted to stay in your comfort zone rather than try something new? How many things have you not done because you didn’t believe in yourself? Missing opportunities leaves us feeling regret and erodes our sense of self.

I really believe that all of us were born with infinite energy to achieve things. It takes courage to move out of our comfort zone, but growth happens right on the edge not in the middle. Yes, it may feel scary, but by gritting your teeth and facing your fears of not being good enough you can achieve great things.

There are a number of things you can do to begin to make changes and no better time than the present to do so.  Go out and do something with others, perhaps joining a local choir or club. Many organisations welcome volunteers no matter how little time or experience you have. Helping other people is not only good for them and a great thing to do; it also makes us happier and healthier too.

Going for a walk or doing some other outdoor activity can help with self-esteem. Research shows that getting active makes us happier as well as being good for our physical health. It instantly improves our mood and can even lift us out of a depression.

Trying out new things or learning a new  skill can gives us a sense of accomplishment and helps boost our self-confidence and resilience.

Set yourself some goals for 2016. Something exciting, new, ambitious but realistic.  Setting goals  and having dreams gives our lives direction and brings a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction when we achieve them.

Stop comp airing yourself to others.  No-one’s perfect. Dwelling on our flaws, makes it much harder to be happy. Learning to accept ourselves, warts and all is the key to improving our self-belief.

If you’ve ever felt there must be more to life? The answer is, there is!  Next time that negative inner voice tries to talk you out of something… say NO.

Make 2016 your year.

Until next time, Steve

www.facebook.com/yourmentalhealthmatters

www.facebook.com/bexhillmindfulnesscentre

Twitter @cbt4you

Steve Clifford                                                                                                                                                 Integrative Psychotherapist.                                                                                                                 Cognitive Behavioural Psychotherapist.

Image: By Camdiluv ♥ from Concepción, CHILE (Colours) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

Tired or just plain exhausted?

 

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With Christmas all but a fading memory, it not unusual for people to feel fed up and fatigued at this time of the year. In Britain it is estimated that at any one time 1in 5 people feel unusually tired and 1in 10 have prolonged fatigue, according to the Royal College of Psychiatrists.

Essentially, there are two main types of tiredness. There is the type of tiredness that is like a solitary grey raincloud. This is the type of tiredness that is transient. It might seem like it is with us for a while, but it will pass and usually it is the result of a busier than usual few days, several bad nights in a row or as a result of a stressful event you have just passed through.

The other type of tiredness is more like a grey oppressive sky, heavy and unmoving. It is typified by of a chronic loss of energy that accumulates over months. It may not always feel like tiredness or physical exhaustion but it doesn’t seem to shift.

Often the signs are subtle, perhaps hidden behind behaviour traits that might easily be missed such as:

1) Finding yourself constantly checking your texts, emails and phone messages.
2) Difficulty relaxing or switching off.
3) Forgetting about tea breaks or unable to relax over a meal.
4) Piles of unread magazines with articles you must read.
5) Having too much to do that you can’t take a day off.
6) “Switching off,” by eating, drinking or spending too much.
7) Losing yourself in mindless TV.
8) Working harder and harder just to stand still.

All these types of behaviours are signs that you need to stop and take a break. Powerful indicators that you need to take time out and really look at what is important. It is as if you have “over- ridden” the “over-ride” switch. This type of behaviour, whilst aimed at improving our lot, simply puts the rest of our life at risk of failure and leads to what psychologists call ” burnout.”

So what can be done to address the balance?

Here are a few pointers:

1) Start the day with a relaxing activity such as yoga, meditation or a fifteen minute walk.
2) drink more water, adopt healthy eating, exercising and sleeping habits.
3) Set “boundaries”- learn to say “no.”
4) Take time to disconnect from technology, put away your phone, lap-top or tablet.
5) Discover your creative side, take up a hobby or other activity that has nothing to do with work.
6) Finally, slow down, get support and re-evaluate your goals and priorities.

Make this the time to put the spring back in your step.

Until next time, Steve

www.facebook.com/yourmentalhealthmatters

www.facebook.com/bexhillmindfulnesscentre

Twitter @cbt4you

Steve Clifford                                                                                                                           Senior Accredited Integrative Psychotherapist.                                                                       Accredited Cognitive Behavioural Psychotherapist.

Image:By Evgeny Galkovsky aka ZheGal (vk.com/limon_kiosk) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Are you struggling to sleep?

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Many people find themselves struggling to sleep.  It may only be the occasional night, but for some, night after night is a struggle. Here are a few tips that may make a big difference. It’s not a case of picking the ones you favour, you really need to put as many in place as you can.

* Keep a fixed bedtime and getting up time even if your sleep has been awful.

* No reading, listening to the radio, watching television in bed.

*No computers, tablets, smart phones (the light omitted disrupts the release of melatonin, a hormone required to sleep)  – the bed is strictly for sleep and sex only.

* Put your watch and alarm clock completely out of sight.

* Use ear plugs and an eye shade in bed to keep avoid exposure to sound or light during the night.

* Avoid caffeine (tea, coffee, fizzy drinks and chocolate) and nicotine from 2PM.

*Avoid exercise in the hour or so before bed.

* Eat a small snack several hours before bed.

* Spend no more than 20 minutes lying in bed trying to sleep.

If you can’t fall asleep within 20 minutes, get up and go to another room. This room should be warm and dimly lit.  Then perform a relaxing activity (not doing daytime tasks which act as a ‘reward’ for staying awake).

When you start to feel sleepy, go back to bed.  If you are still awake about 20 minutes later, repeat the process.

* Absolutely no naps during the day at all.

* Just prior to going to bed perform a relaxing activity.

* Once in bed switch off the light immediately.

* Always remember that sleep will come to you naturally and that different people need different amounts of sleep.

* Remember difficulty sleeping is very common, it is not as harmful as you believe.  Getting upset about it will only make it worse.

Good luck in putting these strategies in place.

Remember, sleep is a passive process, the harder you try to sleep the harder it will be.

Contact me if you wish to book an appointment to look closer at any sleeping difficulties you may have. Alternatively visit www.insomnia-treatment.co.uk

Until next time. Steve

You may wish to know that Steve is now offering therapy sessions via Skype Please contact us through our website @ www.stevecliffordcbt.com

Visit our facebook sites:

www.facebook.com/yourmentalhealthmatters

www.facebook.com/bexhillmindfulnesscentre

Twitter @cbt4you

Steve Clifford                                                                                                                           Senior Accredited Integrative Psychotherapist.                                                                       Accredited Cognitive Behavioural Psychotherapist.

Image: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File%3AFree_College_Pathology_Student_Sleeping_Creative_Commons_(6961676525).jpg

CBT shows promise for people with low back pain

New research has found that CBT can help sufferers of low back pain and accompanying psychological distress manage their condition. Contextual Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CCBT) is aimed at helping people to learn to live with and accept pain that cannot be cured.

The researchers compared CCBT with physiotherapy in 89 patients with low back pain. The CCBT group reported greater improvements in pain and disability than those who received physiotherapy. However, many who took part in the study thought the best treatment was a combination of CCBT and physiotherapy. Patients also expressed a preference for one-to-one therapy rather than in a group setting.

Until next time. Steve

You may wish to know that Steve is now offering therapy sessions via Skype Please contact us through our website @ www.stevecliffordcbt.com

Visit our facebook sites:

www.facebook.com/yourmentalhealthmatters

www.facebook.com/bexhillmindfulnesscentre

www.facebook.com/mgbhillclimbchallenge

Twitter @cbt4you

Steve Clifford                                                                                                                           Senior Accredited Integrative Psychotherapist.                                                                       Accredited Cognitive Behavioural Psychotherapist.

Ref: www.therapytoday.net/Therapy Today: July 2015

Talking therapy shows promise for people with low back pain: http://tinyurl.com/ntb96qp 

Image: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File%3ASpinal_column_curvature_2011.png

NICE supports CBT for menopause anxiety

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A new draft guideline from the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) suggests that Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) should be more widely available to women who experience low mood and anxiety related to the menopause.

Here at my Bexhill practice I see many women with low mood and anxiety associated with the menopause. It is estimated that somewhere in the region of 80 per cent of women experience some symptoms during menopause and these may continue for several years. For one in ten women symptoms can last as long as twelve years.

The new guideline suggests that a combination of hormone replacement therapy and psychological therapies such as CBT can help with low mood. While the guideline does not support other non-pharmaceutical treatments, such as herbalism, there is evidence for the effectiveness of genistein and red clover. However, there are concerns about the safety of these two treatments.

CBT is also effective for menopausal anxiety related to hormonal changes. Psychological symptoms are very common and can impact on personal, social and professional lives. The use of antidepressant medication such as SSRIs/SNRIs is not recommended as a first-line treatment for low mood associated with the menopause, except where women may be experiencing clinical depression. Primarily this is because of adverse side effects and because low mood may be the result of hormonal changes.

Until next time. Steve

You may wish to know that Steve is now offering therapy sessions via Skype Please contact us through our website @ www.stevecliffordcbt.com

Visit our facebook sites:

www.facebook.com/yourmentalhealthmatters

www.facebook.com/bexhillmindfulnesscentre

www.facebook.com/mgbhillclimbchallenge

Twitter @cbt4you

Steve Clifford                                                                                                                           Senior Accredited Integrative Psychotherapist.                                                                       Accredited Cognitive Behavioural Psychotherapist.

References: Therapy Today/www.therapytoday.net/June 2015

Draft guideline:http://tinyurl.com/qxyy8xq

Imagehttps://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File%3ASymptoms_of_menopause_(raster).png

Summer days, school holidays and happy children

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Summer is the ideal time to picnic with friends and let the children run free. Happy children are a joy to behold and bringing out the best in your children needn’t be hard work.

Allow your child to express their emotions, do not laugh, ridicule or humiliate them. Even if they are expressing emotions you find difficult to handle, do not withdraw or withhold your love. Ensure your child knows what you expect from him or her. Try not to send confusing and unclear messages. Remember, children are not mind readers. If you have a partner make sure that you are both singing from the same hymn sheet. Set clear rules and boundaries. We all like to know where we stand. Do not make idle threats. If you do impose sanctions, make sure you always carry them through, that way your child will know you mean business and they will learn to trust you.

Do not compete with your child or try to get one better over them. If you have broken up with the child’s other parent, do not say unkind, hurtful or critical things about them. No matter how unkind they may be, or how much you may be hurting. Fighting and point scoring can be a major source of anxiety to a child.

Sooner or later all children will express thoughts or emotions different from your own. Encourage them to be inquisitive and to explore new things and have experiences that you may never have experienced. This is how they learn. Your self esteem should not be linked to your child’s appearance, behaviour or how well they do academically. By all means, give praise for things well done, but do not punish or withhold love and approval if they do not do well.

When your children are misbehaving, remember they are not “bad” children. It is merely their behaviour that is “bad.” All behaviour means something. Step back and see if you can spot the meaning. Finally – Remember that children and adults have different needs and expectations. Children are not “mini grown-ups.” They want different things.

Until next time. Steve

You may wish to know that Steve is now offering therapy sessions via Skype Please contact us through our website @ www.stevecliffordcbt.com

Visit our facebook sites:

www.facebook.com/yourmentalhealthmatters

www.facebook.com/bexhillmindfulnesscentre

www.facebook.com/mgbhillclimbchallenge

Twitter @cbt4you

Steve Clifford                                                                                                                           Senior Accredited Integrative Psychotherapist.                                                                       Accredited Cognitive Behavioural Psychotherapist.

Image: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File%3AFelicidade_A_very_happy_boy.jpg

An Exciting Announcement

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Steve is thrilled to announce that he has been chosen to join a select number of intrepid classic car owners to bring the Firle hill climb back to life after a break of some 48 years. Thanks are due to the Bo-Peep Drivers Club who is putting on this special event in aid of the Chailey Heritage Foundation.

The Firle hill climb came into existence at the end of World War II due to lack of available motor racing circuits, which were then still being used by the military. The search was on for any suitable venue and as luck would have it, a small winding lane in Sussex was identified as the ideal place for a hill climb. The site is not actually at or in Firle but a little way along the road at Bo Peep Lane. The Bentley Drivers Club and later the British Automobile Racing Club went on to develop the hill climb into an increasingly popular event through the fifties and into the sixties. Alas, tragedy struck in 1967 following an unfortunate incident between some walkers and a car which left the road and collided with the unfortunate walkers. It was decided that the event was no longer manageable and so the last hill climb is recorded as taking place in September 1967.

On September 20th 2015, after a gap of some forty eight years, there will once again be the sight and sound of some fantastic automobiles climbing the hill at Bo Peep. There are too many to list all of them, but they include Alvis, Austin, Austin Healey, Bentley, Fiat, Ford, Jaguar, Lagonda, Lotus, MG, Morris, Reliant and Triumph.

 MG 001

Steve will be driving his MGB which he hopes to modify to full hill climb spec, albeit on a shoestring and he is busy budgeting for roll cage, seats, harness, etc. Prior to the charity event he will be taking his MG along to various events with the Bo Peep drivers club to publicise the hillclimb. Steve has a facebook site and would be delighted if you had time to visit www.facebook.com/mgbhillclimbchallenge 

Bo Peep Drivers club founder, Rob Bryant, said he was delighted to get a hill climb reinstated after getting permission to close Bo Peep Lane in Alciston, a village close to Firle Beacon, to host the event. He said: ‘A year ago I thought it would be a great place for a hill climb event and then discovered the history…The event is along the lines of a mini Goodwood with themed 1950s, ‘60s and ‘70s dress, drivers’ lounge, a band and a charity auction’.

Funds raised will aid the Chailey Heritage Foundation, a school for children and young adults with a variety of complex disabilities. The following paragraph forms part of the vision statement that Chailey Heritage Foundation work to achieve.

“Every young person at Chailey Heritage School will be given every opportunity to make progress towards fulfilment. We will never, ever give up looking for ways to support our young people to make their own choices in life, and to achieve their own desired destinations.”

Until next time, Steve.

We would be delighted if you visit our facebook sites:

www.facebook.com/yourmentalhealthmatters

www.facebook.com/bexhillmindfulnesscentre

www.facebook.com/mgbhillclimbchallenge

Steve Clifford                                                                                                                             Senior Accredited Integrative Psychotherapist.                                                                 Accredited Cognitive Behavioural Psychotherapist.

Image: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File%3AJohn_Cobb_(motorist).jpg

Mindfulness – Learning from the breath

 

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Like everything else that requires practice, the development of mindfulness first involves learning some concepts, and some methods to practice. The methods are practiced over and over again, first only in very structured situations, eventually in all kinds of situations.Ultimately, the skills become reliable ways of responding with freedom, wisdom and kindness to a greater and greater range of human experience.

Bare attention – Attending to sensory experiences that arise with an object of attention, without distraction or thinking too much. For example, when attending to your breathing with bare attention, you just notice the sensations of breathing and nothing else. When this is occurring, many subtleties and nuances of breathing, and patterns in these, reveal themselves to you. Also, you are just noticing these sensations as they arise and pass away in the present moment – not thinking about them, not labelling them with language, not associating them with other sensations or patterns you may have experienced before.

With practice, bare attention can be applied to bodily and emotional responses, including those triggered by very painful or traumatic experiences. For example, a person might attend to the sensations in her chest, throat, and face that arise when someone raises their voice in anger and reminds her of a hurtful parent or step-parent. Focusing on emotions as bodily events while “dropping the story” of verbal thoughts, bare attending.
Labelling – Mentally applying a word or brief phrase to a particular content of experience.

Not all mindfulness meditation instructions include this practice, but many do. The idea is to help oneself simply notice something arising in your experience, without judgment, so that you can get back to observing the flow of experiences arising and passing away. This practice can also eliminate the control of particularly “sticky” thoughts and feelings over one’s attention. For example, one might use the labels “sadness” or “anger” when these emotions arise; or “planning,” “worrying,” or “remembering” when those common cognitive processes arise.

Acceptance – Accepting the reality of one’s current experience is particularly important when it comes to potentially intense negative emotional responses. Once such emotional responses have arisen in one’s current experience, neither mindlessly being carried away by them nor attempting to suppress them will be particularly helpful. Acceptance allows one to see them more clearly for what they are – unwanted and intense, but passing experiences – and choose how to respond to them, perhaps with acceptance and nothing more.

Non-reactivity – Responding to experiences, including emotions and impulses, without getting carried away by them or trying to suppress them. All organisms, including human beings, are conditioned to react automatically to most of the experiences they have. We grasp at what we want and like, and push away what we don’t want or like. Before we even know it, such conditioned responses to stimuli and emotions carry us away.

Mindfulness involves the skill of non-reactively observing split-second conditioned reactions, which provides the option of not acting out the entire chain reaction that would normally follow. This non-reactivity opens up space for new observations, reflections, learning, and freedom.

Curiosity – An attitude of interest in learning about the nature of one’s experience and mind. Through mindfulness, this quality of mind can be brought to a much greater range of experience than we ordinarily do. When it comes to experiences that we don’t want, including painful memories and emotions, we tend to just push them away and avoid them, again based on our conditioning. We tend to reserve curiosity for things and experiences that are new and at least somewhat positive. But with mindfulness, we can bring curiosity to the full range of our experience, and discover much that is new and enlightening.

Patience – Accepting a slow pace of change; bearing unwanted, difficult or painful experiences with calmness. Experiencing the breath over and over again, and repeatedly observing – with acceptance, non-reactivity, and curiosity – that one’s mind has wondered or been carried away in a chain reaction of conditioned thoughts and feelings, is a wonderful way to cultivate patience. And these experiences can translate to daily life, enabling us to become more patient with ourselves and others as we all continue to fall into habitual responses that increase our suffering.

Thoughts and feelings as events, not facts
We often respond to our thoughts and feelings as if they were facts or truths that “demand” or “justify” particular responses. However, it is also possible to understand and experience our thoughts and feelings as events that arise under certain conditions, and then pass away. This is true of all sensations, perceptions, feelings, memories, fantasies about the future, and other mental experiences.

Understanding and experiencing our thoughts and feelings in this way opens up some “space” around them. Instead of the thoughts and feelings having you, and carrying you away, you can experience yourself as having certain thoughts and feelings under certain conditions, and as having options about how you respond to them.

Attending to process vs. attending to content.
Most of the time, most of us are lost in the contents of what is running through our minds. Though fears, cravings and various emotions drive our thought processes, we tend to get lost in the specifics and details of our thoughts and memories. Mindfulness meditation teaches us how to observe the processes of our minds and how they work.

For example, when we are experiencing a pain in our body, or a painful memory, we tend to focus on the content of the pain experience and relate to it as something solid and unchanging. When that happens, the pain or memory is experienced the same way we always experience it, with the same predictable results. However, if we truly attend to the process by which sensations of pain or aspects of remembering arise and change from moment to moment, the experience tends to lose its grip over our awareness and become more tolerable and workable.

When we can attend to a painful memory as a process that arises and plays out in our mind, we notice how the images, thoughts, feelings and bodily experiences change from moment to moment, and that experience of remembering involves new learning and opportunities for healing. Repeatedly attending to the processes of one’s mind in daily meditation practice, one can become more mindful and more skilled at noticing the processes of experiences in daily life – and choosing not to get lost in the contents of experiences.

The transformative and healing power of this shift in how we attend to our experience really is amazing, though it does take practice and discipline. Most important, this is a skill that truly can only be experienced directly, and only hinted at with words and concepts like these.

Until next time, Steve

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Steve Clifford Senior Accredited Integrative Psychotherapist.                                           Accredited Cognitive Behavioural Psychotherapist.
This blog post is largely an abridged version of “Mindfulness and Kindness; inner sources of freedom and happiness,” by Jim Hopper, PhD – http://www.jimhopper.com [Accessed 18/02/15]

Image: By Michael Coghlan from Adelaide, Australia [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons