This is the final week of the Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy sessions and the final post in this series. I want to sum up what we’ve learned and think about how best we can use this learning to help us manage our moods going forwards.
These are, I think, the main things to take away.
The main responses – awareness, acceptance and mindfully responding
Awareness, acceptance and mindfully responding are the three ways that MBCT suggests you use to respond to situations. Try to use these instead of mindlessly going through pre-programmed automatic reactions and ruminations.
We initially spent time developing awareness of our experience through meditation and being mindful of activities in the day. The second part of the course was spent learning how to be with our experience – developing an attitude of acceptance rather than pushing away our experience (and potentially making it worse).
Acceptance helps us to take the opportunity to see what is really going on and to choose how best to respond. This could be spending time with our experience and noting thoughts as thoughts not facts, or taking some practical action.
Don’t bang your head against a brick wall
One of the things that Alice & Liam wanted to emphasise was that while MBCT can help change your inner and outer experience, there are some things that it is very difficult or actually impossible to change.
Trying again and again to respond to these without noticing any change could be very frustrating and actually make you feel more hopeless and depressed. In these cases, you can maintain some sense of control by making a mindful decision to choose not to act and to try and accept the situation as it is.
In the final session of the course, the leaders spoke the words of a serenity ‘prayer’ where we asked for the:
“Grace to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference.“
Mindfulness is a process of starting again
In our earlier meditations we had the experience of gently pulling the mind back to the breath again and again – without judgement. This process of starting again is something we can apply to bringing mindfulness to our lives too. If we don’t manage to meditate one week, or find the things that we did that once helped slipping away, that’s ok. We can start again with renewed commitment at any point. Again we see this attitude of gentleness and acceptance of ourselves rather than judgement of our failures.
Think about how you can bring mindfulness into your daily life
In this session there was a big emphasis on how to keep mindfulness in our lives – seeing the MBCT approach as a way of life and not as a ‘cure’. To me it seems that this way of seeing things is reflected in how we should see the breathing space too. It is not as a cure for difficult situations but as a way of being in a different way, which can bring a different perspective.
Ways to include mindfulness in our lives might be to observe five mindful breaths first thing in the morning and last thing at night and to take time to do this throughout the day. Alice said that it could be useful to use everyday sounds – a shout, a car horn, a door slamming as a reminder to ‘check in’ with ourselves and take some mindful breaths. Whenever you have some time, waiting for a call, standing in a queue, sitting on the train – take a breathing space and note how your body feels.
I also find the Headspace app useful to remind me to take breathing spaces throughout the day, as well as when I experience unpleasant events.
I hope that some of this writing has encouraged you to think about Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy, to understand it a little better and perhaps to look into exploring it more for yourself. It’s been a pleasure sharing my experience with you. Best of luck.