My experience of mindfulness

Mindfulness is a way of focusing on the present moment, often practised by paying attention to the breath as a form of meditation. It encourages people to become more aware of their thoughts and feelings so that they can manage them in a different way with more positive outcomes.

Practising mindfulness can give people more insight into their emotions, boost their attention and concentration and improve their emotional wellbeing by helping with stress, anxiety, and depression. It can also help with physical health problems, such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and chronic pain.

As mindfulness is the theme of this year’s Mental Health Awareness Week, we’ve asked service user to share their experiences of it.

Mark, 41, from Bramhall, said: “My first experience of mindfulness was at a drop-in session run by Healthy Minds. Mindfulness was recommended to me as something that might help with the depression and anxiety I was experiencing at the time. Along with other newcomers I was made very welcome and the instructor tailored the content to our needs. I attended a few times and decided from these experiences to take the opportunity to sign up for an eight-week course.

“Mindfulness is now a tool that has integrated into my day-to-day life. It has allowed me to approach life in a more level headed way, seeing the positives as well as managing the negatives. It has given me more awareness over my reactions to everyday experiences and it gives me greater power to make informed and balanced choices to improve my overall wellbeing.”

Amy* (*not real name), from Rochdale, said: “I had been prone to worry since as far back as I could remember. Following the birth of my first child, my anxiety began to feel unmanageable. I found myself having repetitive fears about terrible things happening to me or my child. The anxieties around my health were affecting the quality of my relationships with others and generally diminishing my quality of life.

“Living in fear of something terrible happening, most commonly a fear of being diagnosed with cancer, was leading me to, at times, withdraw from everyone and everything around me. I struggled to concentrate and communicate effectively; a lot of the time I generally felt lost in my thoughts. In addition, I attributed the corresponding physical symptoms I was experiencing to an undiagnosed illness. I had lost weight and my BMI was under the healthy range for my age; I experienced dizziness and fatigue amongst various other symptoms. I attended countless doctors’ appointments, seeking reassurance, and was convinced the various GPs I saw were missing something. I was also obsessive about checking my symptoms on the internet, further fuelling the fears I had.”

Amy knew that she needed professional help to address the anxiety issues she was experiencing. She had heard of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) - a talking therapy that helps people manage problems by changing the way they think and behave – and asked her GP if it might be suitable.

Amy’s GP referred her to the local Healthy Minds service, where she was seen by Senior CBT Therapist, Paddy Rafferty. In addition to CBT, Amy was introduced to mindfulness. She decided to take part in a mindful-based stress reduction (MSBR) course, which proved to be a big step towards recovery.

Amy said: “I had read about MBSR and was excited to be part of the group. The group was a remarkable learning experience and at times, incredibly challenging. I experienced frustration and difficulty over the eight weeks and the meditations we practised helped me to embrace them and deal with them intuitively and positively. I felt the way the course had been set out, the resources and the home practice tasks, were all excellent. There was a level of intimacy and quiet respect between all of the group members and, by the end, an understanding that we had all shared something important.

“My experience of mindfulness has, without doubt, changed my life. Mindfulness helped me to sustain the impact of what I learned about the nature of my thoughts during the CBT therapy. It gave me the tools I need to respond well to stress and anxiety in an everyday practical sense. Mindfulness has given me the courage and strength to face, and accept, the inevitable difficulties in life; I feel I can respond to the judgements my mind makes about perceived problems (including my health) with perspective and awareness rather than reacting with irrational fear. I also feel I am a more patient and intuitive parent, wife, sibling, friend, teacher etc. Most importantly though, mindfulness has afforded me the clarity to really trust myself and fully appreciate, with ‘a beginner’s mind’, all the magnificence and joy in life.”

Click here for more information about mindfulness or contact your local Healthy Minds team.