A Beginners Guide to ‘Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction’
Today, I am joined by a special guest Louise Creswick. Louise shares her own personal journey with anxiety and depression and how mindfulness has helped her both personally and in her business.
My unexpected discovery.
In all the years I struggled with anxiety and depression, and then in my grief after losing both parents, I would dip in and out of meditation in the hope it would help.
It wasn’t until I discovered mindfulness during 2016, that I finally understood the point of meditation and how it can improve my mental health and well-being.
On the back end of winter 2017, I found myself driving through the cold, dark rural lanes of Shropshire to begin an 8 week Mindfulness Based Stress-Reduction programme (MBSR). I remember thinking “why the hell am I doing this?” and my anxiety was strongly felt. I had no idea what to expect, but at the same time, I was curious.
It only took a few sessions for me to realise exactly why I was doing it.
“Tell me more”, you say?
Well, since its inception around 24,000 people are reported to have completed the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) Programme. Since this figure comes from The Centre for Mindfulness via The University of Massachusetts (where MBSR originates from), I’m assuming that’s just in the USA.
It’s thanks to this programme, a number of people have learnt how to use our inherent resources to respond (not react) more effectively to stress, pain, illness, and more generally, life’s crap. The practise of mindfulness itself, gives people greater clarity on what is happening in their lives – particularly when it comes to my work in grief and loss.
The interesting bits.
In a nutshell, MBSR incorporates a number of techniques such as various meditations, gentle yoga, Qi Gong, and mind-body exercises to help people learn how to cope with such things. So you see, mindfulness is not just about meditation. It’s developing a way of being, rather than something we do.
It’s nothing new either. MBSR was developed in the 1970’s by Jon Kabat-Zinn. And since I was born at the tail end of the 70’s, I can happily declare that it’s older than me. Here’s how he defines mindfulness:
“Mindfulness is the awareness that arises from paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment and non-judgmentally” (Kabat-Zinn, 2015).
As well as awareness, Kabat-Zinn encourages people to focus conscious attention on the ‘right here, right now’. Call it “being in the present” or “in the moment” if you like. It’s a concept that most of us are familiar with thanks to social media – especially if you love Winnie-the-Pooh because he’s always talking about it in memes…
“Today is my favourite day. Yesterday, when it was tomorrow, it was too much day for me.” Winnie-the-Pooh.
At The Centre for Mindfulness (based at The University of Massachusetts), MBSR has been researched and studied extensively. And in more recent years, neuro scientists worldwide are geeking out about this stuff.
It’s also not as “woo-woo” or “hippy dippy” as some people think. Let me explain…
MBSR originates from two very distinctive worlds:
- The world of Science, medicine and psychology.
- The world of Buddhism, meditative teachings and practises – also known as the Dharma. This encapsulates training the mind, freeing the mind and understanding the mind.
When these two worlds meet in the spirit of mindfulness, it’s a powerful thing indeed. The MBSR programme itself is non-religious and personally I love the best of both worlds. I’ve been on my own spiritual journey and at the same time, have great respect for my human brain. Exploring and learning to understand both is double fun.
If you’d like to read a down-to-earth book that successfully combines these two worlds, then I highly recommend ‘How to be Human’, by Ruby Wax. Earlier this year, I went to see the show and it was hilarious.
The results are in.
Scientifically speaking, the evidence that this MBSR stuff actually works, is starting to stack up. It has been shown to reduce anxiety levels by 58% and stress by 40%. As a direct result of MBSR, people have reported feeling more engaged in their work, more energised, less anxious, as well as sleeping better and having fewer physical symptoms of stress.
The work at The Centre for Mindfulness over the past thirty-five years has shown consistent, reliable, and replicable outcomes in terms of significant reductions in medical and psychological symptoms such as chronic pain conditions, anxiety, panic, and depression.
On the flip side, there has also been evidence to indicate enhanced resilience, greater self-awareness, and the ability to act effectively under high degrees of stress.
What’s not to love about that?
Accessing MBSR for yourself.
Of course, I’m going to advocate that you give this a go. Here’s a few tips for you to consider:
- I recommend finding your local teacher and rocking up to a venue like I did.
- Think of it also as an opportunity to meet a lovely bunch of people. Even the most introverted of folks will enjoy this one.
- There are two ‘recognised’ accrediting MBSR teacher training centres in the UK; Oxford and Bangor University. So be discerning with whatever course you choose. Do your homework.
- If you decide to choose an online course, the same applies about doing your homework. There are tons of generic mindfulness courses out there. I recommend pursuing MBSR for the masses.
- If you are currently experiencing mental illness, you may advised by a clinician to consider the Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT), which is a specialist programme.
After completing my own teacher training in MBSR (at Bangor), I’ll be running the 8 week programme – which is very exciting. Watch this space.
As a starter for ten, you can check out my Facebook page – video section, to grab any of my weekly ‘mindfulness made easy’ tips.
Louise is an accredited Coach and NLP Practitioner, who specialises in grief and loss.
She is passionate about supporting others to navigate grief and uncover their “new normal” after loss. Louise’s range of expertise alongside her own personal story, are bought together to deliver unique coaching services for those who are bereaved, or struggling with any other form of loss in their life.
With a developing interest in mindfulness for grief, and her own personal practise, Louise is soon to become a certified mindfulness (MBSR) teacher.
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