Mindfulness Group

Meditation has been shown to have many benefits, especially calming and relaxing the mind and relaxation. More recently research has shown that it can be very helpful for management of pain, anxiety, stress, depression and coping with chronic illnesses such as Chronic Fatigue Syndrome/ME.

It is simply a skill that anyone can learn, and with time and patience everyone can benefit from it.

South Coast Fatigue is running regular Mindfulness taster sessions and a mindfulness programme. Please contact your therapist for more information.

Mindfulness Blog

Mindulness Session No. 2 with Liz Shelley, Psychotherapist

You are not your Thoughts

Today we explored how thought affects the body.

Understanding how thoughts affect the body was the focus of today’s Mindfulness Session with Liz. Thoughts, as we know, can be extremely powerful and can trigger responses in the body that we can’t easily prevent. (Picture, for example, cutting a lemon). Mindfulness can help us take control of our thoughts, to be aware of them but to step back and not engage in them, watching them pass ‘like clouds in the sky.’

The Habit of Pain

Going through the experience of pain can put our mind into overdrive. Thoughts tend to cascade and multiply – thoughts such as, ‘Why am I going through this again?’ ‘What can I do to prevent it?’ ‘Is there something I have done/am doing wrong that’s caused this?’ In response, the mind hunts relentlessly for a solution. And the repetitiveness of these thoughts can reinforce the pathways in the brain – the expectation, the memory and the inability to escape pain or to find a solution. The result is an increased sensitivity to pain that has been observed in MRI scans. Stepping back from thoughts, recognising them for what they are but not engaging in them can help prevent this cascading effect.

Breath as an Anchor

The group engaged in a Mindfulness Meditation called ‘Breath as an anchor.’ As the name suggests, this is focussing on the breath, and counting each exhale. This helps to discourage thoughts from intruding and ‘getting in the way’. But when they do, we should recognise them for what they are, (and you will recognise them, says Liz), ‘just like tracks from a CD you have heard many times before.’

Counting is also a good way of anchoring oneself.

Like everything else, quietening the mind through Mindfulness Meditation takes practice. It is simple, but paradoxically, not easy.

But as Liz told us, ‘After doing Meditation for a long time I’ve stopped worrying if I was doing it right because I’ve realised, really, that there is nothing to get wrong.’

Mindulness Taster Session - 21st October 2014

Liz Shelley gave her Mindfulness Taster presentation today.

Mindfulness, Liz advised us, is about turning attention to our inner processes rather than focussing, as we do in almost all of our waking life, on the outside world. In doing so we become more aware of our body, its aches, pains, bodily sensations or indeed emotions and how we are feeling at that present moment in time.

Mindfulness has been described as ‘The Witnessing Mind’ and involves becoming interested in how our mind is working in a non-judgemental way.

Jon Kabat-Zinn, Ph.D* describes it as paying attention to our inner selves:

On purpose

In the present moment

And non-judgementally

The Vicious Cycle of Pain

After a general introduction of why we might practice meditation, Liz began to talk about the nature of pain, describing how it can become a vicious cycle. Our experience of pain – the beginning of the cycle - begins with the primary physical source of pain which is the injury/illness and the way in which the body tenses in reaction to it. This source, and secondary body tension, provokes the mind to look for a solution, (thus focussing more on the pain itself), reminds the body of past pains and when the body is unable to find a solution results in a feeling of being ‘out of control’; all these reactions have the same end result, however: Pain.

So how can Mindfulness help me?

Although we cannot change the source of pain and our body’s reaction to it, we can, with Mindfulness, do something about the way our mind deals with it and thus break this cycle of pain. Indeed, studies back this up and found that on average Mindfulness meditation reduced pain by 57% and in good meditators (i.e. people who do it regularly) up to 93%.

The key, says Liz, is changing our mind’s reaction to pain.

Mindfulness Meditation can also help with:

Mood, memory and concentration

Anxiety and depression, and general life events

Brain function, immune system - even ageing

Medical conditions, such as diabetes, risk of heart disease, high blood pressure etc.

As Liz rightfully pointed out, if there was a pill that we could take that would have all these effects, wouldn’t we all be rushing out to get it?

*Jon Kabat-Zinn, Ph.D is the founding director of the Stress Reduction Clinic and the Centre for Mindfulness in Medicine, Health Care and Society at the University of Massachusetts Medical School. He is also Vice Chair of the Mind and Life Institute.