“Suppose you read about a pill that you could take once a day to reduce anxiety and increase your contentment. Would you take it? Suppose further that the pill has a great variety of side effects, all of them good: increased self-esteem, empathy, and trust; it even improves memory. Suppose, finally, that the pill is all natural and costs nothing. Now would you take it?
The pill exists. It is meditation.”
Jonathan Haidt, “The Happiness Hypothesis”
I’ve been meditating off and on since the early 70’s but it’s only been in the last several years that I’ve been teaching it to my clients in my counselling practice. Study after study has found that a regular mindfulness practice can do wonderful things to increase psychological well being. I’ve experienced this personally and so have the many clients I’ve worked with over the years.
How does it work?
There are many types and techniques of mindfulness practice but what they all have in common is the goal of “quieting” the mind. What that means is reducing the repetitive “monkey brain” barrage of thoughts that most of us get caught up in. Thoughts are happening so fast we don’t even realize we’re spending most of our lives in our “head” and missing much of what’s happening around us. In other words, we’re often not “present” in our lives. The famous John Lennon quote says it all: “life is what’s happening while we’re making other plans.”
How to do it.
It’s simple but NOT easy, especially when you first begin. Sit still and focus your awareness on your breathing, a word, or an image. I prefer focusing on the breath, it’s simple and straight forward. Then learn how to prevent other words, thoughts, ideas or images from “taking over your consciousness.” When a thought or image arises, gently and effortlessly bring your attention back to your breathing. Do this over and over again until you train yourself to focus your attention. This will change your automatic thought processes and result in you feeling calmer and less reactive in your day-to-day life. If you stick with it it can change your life.
If you’re struggling with depression, anxiety or relationship problems I offer a 3 month program – Mindfulness-Integrated Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (MiCBT). Here a link that describes the program in more detail – http://www.mindfulness.net.au/what-is-micbt.html.
As always I welcome your comments and questions.
PS. If you’re suffering and you’re not able or willing to meditate and/or do CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy), anti-depressant medication can help.