MBCT Week 7
“If you want the rainbow you have to have the rain"
Because life is not perfect we have to experience both the sunshine and the rain. Mindfulness is about bringing our awareness to “what is” whether it be rain or shine. This week was entitled “HOW CAN I BEST TAKE CARE OF MYSELF?” and it was all about how we can put mindfulness into practice in our daily lives so that we can improve our wellbeing. Regardless of what weather our life brings if we can incorporate a regular mindfulness practice into our routine we are going to experience greater calm amidst the chaos of life!
We looked at how the way we use our time from moment to moment can have a great influence on our quality of life. We compared those actives that drain you with those that nourish you and looked at how we can do less of the “draining” things and more of the good stuff! We discovered that there are obstacles to this sometimes and this is where using activities like the 3 minute breathing space come in :)
Drains and radiators:
Have you ever heard the metaphor that “life has drains and radiators?” Essentially it is saying that some people give off positive energy and lift your spirits whereas others drain us and deplete our energy when we are around them. The same can also be said for the activities that we carry out during the day and the impact these activities have on us. Some drain us whereas others nourish us. Often when we are not mindful we can find ourselves getting drained by situations that we find ourselves in whilst on auto-pilot.
You may wish to try this exercise again (or here’s a summary for those that missed it!):
What happens in my day that nourishes me and increases my sense of being alive in the present moment?
What happens in my day that drains me and brings me down. What things decrease my sense of actually being alive and present or make me feel I am merely existing, or worse?
Given that there are some aspects of my life that I simply cannot change, how can I choose to increase the time and effort I give to nourishing activities and to decrease the time and effort I give to draining activities?
Are there activities that I used to enjoy that I could incorporate back into my routine?
When I meet obstacles how can I can bring mindfulness to this to overcome them?
How the breathing space can help with low mood
By being present in our moment to moment experience of life and making mindful decisions about what we really need in each of those moments, we can use our chosen activities to become more alert, as well as to regulate our moods. By becoming aware of the patterns that lead us towards a depressed or anxious state we can use our mood lifting activities as tools to help us change our state.
The Breathing Space can help us in moments of low mood to take stock and gain perspective. We can use it as a way to “change state” and adapt our behaviour from one moment to the next.
You may find the following tips useful …
Ask yourself: What, if anything, do I need for myself right now? How can I best take care of myself right now?
Try some of the following:
Do something pleasurable.
Be kind to your body: Have a nice hot bath; have a nap; treat yourself to your favourite food without feeling guilty; have your favourite hot drink; give yourself a facial or manicure. Engage in enjoyable activities: Go for a walk (maybe with the dog or a friend), visit a friend, do your favorite hobby; do some gardening; get some exercise; phone a friend; spend time with someone you like; cook a meal; go shopping; watch something funny or uplifting on TV; read something that gives you pleasure; listen to music that makes you feel good.
Do something that gives you a sense of mastery, satisfaction, achievement, or control.
Clean the house; clear out a cupboard or drawer; catch up with letter writing; do some work; pay a bill; do something that you have been putting off doing; do some exercise (It’s especially important to congratulate yourself whenever you complete a task or part of a task and to break tasks down into smaller steps and only tackle one step at a time).
Focus your entire attention on just what you are doing right now; keep yourself in the very moment you are in put your mind in the present (e.g., “Now I am walking down the stairs...now I can feel the banister beneath my hand...now I’m walking into the kitchen...now I’m turning on the light...”) be aware of your breathing as you do other things; be aware of the contact of your feet with the floor as you walk.
Try to perform your action as an experiment. Try not to bias how you will feel after it is completed. Keep an open mind about whether doing this will be helpful in any way.
Consider a range of activities and don’t limit yourself to a favorite few. Sometimes, trying new behaviours can be interesting in itself. “Exploring” and “inquiring” often work against “withdrawal” and “retreat.”
Don’t expect miracles. Try to carry out what you have planned as best you can. Putting extra pressure on yourself by expecting this to alter things dramatically may be unrealistic. Rather, activities are helpful in building your overall sense of control in the face of shifts in your mood.
Adapted from Segal Williams and Teasdale (2007). Copyright by the Guilford Press.
Remember you don’t need to look like a yogi when you’re being mindful. Just make sure you have an erect and dignified posture and that you are not in pain!
The Summer Day (a little mindful poem)
Here’s a reminder of the meditations we did this week. I have also included an unguided meditation exercise for you to try with bells at 5,15 and 30 minutes.
The THREE MINUTE BREATHING SPACE
Why we do it!:
This meditation is an absolutely gem especially if you are new to mindfulness practice. Try and practice it at least once a day. It is short sweet and can be done anywhere (even on the loo!). Notice whether you feel different after to before.
Sitting with difficulty
Why we do it!
This mediation is about sitting with something the brings about an uncomfortable feeling in us. It is important because we are so used to pushing stuff away that we don’t want in our lives (aversion). Ironically this pushing away often makes the situation worse (remember WHAT RESISTS PERSISTS).
Bells at 5,15 and 30 Minutes
Why we do it!
This meditation is for those of you that would like to try “choiceness awareness” in a silent mindfulness state. This is where we essentially just sit with whatever comes in the moment. You can bring your awareness to your breath, your bodily sensations, the sounds around you or a difficulty if it emerges. Try with 5 minutes at first and see how you get on. Remember if your mind wanders (that’s normal) just gently guide it back.
My intention with this course has been to hopefully present a very honest and real life version of mindfulness. There’s no point in us all pretending we are Buddha’s only to go back to our crazy busy lives after the course has finished without knowing how it could work for us in practical terms.
The intention this week was to work out what a SUSTAINABLE home practice looks like for you. If the 3 minute breathing space is where its at then that’s great! Equally it would be great if you could incorporate a longer practice into your life if that works for you. All the resources are on this site and of course there are some brilliant app’s too so just have a play around and see what you enjoy.
We discussed the best time of the day for you to do this. Importantly make sure you don’t do your mindfulness practice when you are tired (as you will probably just fall asleep). Remember to have an erect dignified posture as this will help you be more alert and aware of those thoughts.
This week try and formalise your practice and work out how you would like it to be moving forward. Ideally practice the 3 minute breathing space AT LEAST once a day. As before use the emergency version if you’re in a tricky situation.
Have a go at “choiceness awareness” and use the silent mindfulness for 5,10 or 30 minutes and see how you get on.
Also do continue to practice the “Letting go of difficult feelings” exercise I taught you. Please let me know if you get stuck with anything. It is such a valuable tool!
I hope you find this all helpful. Any questions please ask!
I look forward to seeing you next week for our final week!