Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy: Learning To Enjoy The Here & Now

How To Help A Depressed PersonOvercoming Depression Naturally
Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy for Depression and Anxiety
September 29, 2016

Each episode of depression doubles the risk that there will be another one. In other words, the more often you feel depressed, the more likely you are to feel even more depressed. That’s really depressing, isn’t it? No medication guarantees that you will get rid of depression forever – it only keeps you well as long as you are taking it. It’s a vicious circle difficult to escape because it’s your own thoughts that drag you back to the black hole. If you are looking for a way to avoid the relapse of depression, Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy may be the answer.

I am generally feeling much better than I did at when I sought psychiatric help. I was lucky to receive treatment that worked for me. But the vision of another depressive episode scares me to death, which is why I turned to mindfulness…

 

What is mindfulness about?

Mindfulness has recently gained popularity, but we didn’t invent anything new. The idea originated in the far East, where it is called sati (in Pali). This Asian wisdom known for millennia was introduced into the Western science in 1979 by John Kabat-Zinn, who initially used it as a way to handle stress.

Mindfulness is about bringing your awareness to the present moment without judgment and approaching yourself with the compassion you deserve. It’s about being without excessive thinking (rumination) and doing.

For a better understanding of what mindfulness is, listen to this TED talk given by Takafumi Kawakami in Kyoto.

 

 

Why does depression come back after treatment?

John Kabat-Zinn states in his book that ‘Depression forges a connection in the brain between sad mood and negative thoughts so that even normal sadness can reawaken major negative thoughts’.Each time you fall into the quicksand it sucks you deeper…

The connection between low mood and negative thoughts gets stronger than before, making it even more difficult to overcome. And the event that triggers this process doesn’t have to be traumatic – some everyday difficulties that all of us experience are enough to drag you back to the depression spiral. Thus, our negative thoughts affect our  mood, and at the same time, our low mood generates even more depressive thoughts and it gets even worse. Eventually, a short moment of sadness we are not aware of may lead to a relapse of depression.

Our bodies are also involved in the process. When we feel sad and tired, we are likely to isolate ourselves, and that eventually leads to excessive overthinking called rumination. It’s not only our mood and thoughts that influence our behavior, but also the behavior that adds to your depression.

 

Mindfulness based Cognitive Therapy For Depression

 

What Is Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy & How It Works

Essentially, Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy combines two approaches: CBT and the Eastern practice of mindfulness. It was developed as an extension of the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction by John Kabat-Zinn as a treatment for affective disorders.

In our everyday lives, we live and do things on an autopilot. We keep busy doing things, solving problems that arrive, making plans, worrying about everything, thinking back and forward. Most people don’t pay attention to the signals of the body or their emotions. Believing that things need to be different than they are, we focus on the gap between where we are, and where we would rather be. And the bigger the gap, the greater the feeling of unhappiness. So we work towards the goal, making even more effort until it’s achieved, or rather until we get too exhausted to keep pursuing it.

While the “doing mode” works for external problems that need a solution, it certainly doesn’t work for the internal problems such as unhappiness. When you’re involved in yacht insurance services like I am, you constantly meet people who are much better off than you are – yacht owners, professional skippers, entrepreneurs who can afford to charter a catamaran in the Seychelles to spent a sailing holiday with their families. Comparing my life – a life of a passionate sailor who has neither the time nor the money to go for a vacation – to theirs unavoidably makes me feel sad and hopeless.

Most of us have an idea what would make them happier: for some, it’s wealth, for others, the freedom  it gives. Only some finally achieve it, but even fewer feel really happy when they do. Chasing our goals, we often forget to enjoy the present moment.

A central aim of the Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy program is to learn how to recognize the “doing” and “being” mode in your own life so that you know when to switch from one to another. 

It’s extremely simple, but not necessarily easy. Mindfulness requires time and patience. But it’s worth it.

Through the practice of mindfulness, you can achieve emotional balance, improve your focus, learn relaxation and a healthy way to handle stress, and alleviate the tension in your body. Mindfulness teaches how to enjoy life the way it is and find happiness and gratitude in apparently non-significant moments.

All over the world, research has shown MBCT can halve the risk of future clinical depression in people who have already been depressed several times—its effects seem just as good as antidepressant medications.

 

mindfulness exercises

 

Benefits of MBCT

  • It’s free and can be practiced everywhere and anytime once you learn how. It doesn’t matter if you are washing the dishes or walking in nature, everything can be done mindfully.
  • The best way to overcome rumination and excessive worry.

 

Downfalls of MCBT

  • Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy is not a quick fix for depression and anxiety. That’s why it is called practice. it takes time and dedication to see its results.
  • It’s better not to start your mindfulness therapy in the middle of an episode of clinical depression. Wait until your brain chemistry is fixed!

 

Do It Yourself

 

If you think Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy is for you and wonder how you can get started, I have good news for you. There is no need to sign up for a mindfulness training, which usually takes several weeks and costs several hundreds of dollars.

 

The Mindful Way Through Depression: Freeing Yourself From Chronic Unhappiness is certainly the best book to start with. The authors (who are leading experts in this field – one of them is John Kabat-Zinn) begin with explaining in an amazingly accurate way the thought processes and patterns which feed your negative mood.

Once you understand how it works, you are given thorough instructions on how to include mindfulness practice in your daily life and some mindfulness exercises to work on. The set also includes 4 CDs, three of which contain guided meditations very pleasing to listen to.

Read the reviews here.

 

Another book that I greatly enjoy reading and can recommend to you is The Mindful Way Workbook: An 8-Week program to Free Yourself from Depression and Emotional Distress written by the same team, which complements the former and goes even deeper into working with thoughts and emotions. It doesn’t contain so many explanations of why and how things work, though – this one is definitely focused on mindfulness practice instead of theory. I bought it after reading The Mindful Way Through Depression and now I am slowly working my way through it. I can already tell that I’m noticing positive changes in my attitude…

The workbook also includes a CD with guided meditations (or downloadable mp3 tracks).

Read the reviews for this book here.

 

Of course, as you will learn, there is no such thing as a cure for negative feelings. These books will not suddenly make you happy, but they will give you the tools to escape the trap of unhappiness and handle your negative emotions in a healthy way.

 

I wish you be happy regardless of the circumstances.

Take care,

Marta

 

PS. You may also be interested in reading about the 6 steps to an antidepressant lifestyle. Mindfulness is only one of them.

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16 Comments

  1. Nikola says:

    Hi Marta. Reading your blog post got m depressed a bit. I don’t sufferer from depression buy it reminded me that there are people who do and that it must be hard for them. I am glad that mindfulness-based cognitive therapy worked for you. Tell me, how long does it take to see results? I am thinking of recommending this to my mother, who is sometimes depressed.Thank you for your reply.

    • Marta says:

      Hi Nikola,

      the good thing about mindfulness-based cognitive therapy is that it improves the quality of your life and you don’t have to suffer from depression to benefit from it and notice the difference. After two weeks of regular exercises I can already notice the difference.

  2. Fatima says:

    I love mindfulness and I just believe it’s very soothing and calming for us. This was indeed a lovely afternoon read.

  3. Shirley says:

    I have heard a lot about Mindfulness and must say it is good healing therapy the one who are going through the depression. This post is very informative and good to read. Thanks for sharing.

  4. Great information on depression. I used to have a mild case of depression and it was a tough time for sure!

  5. I try to practice mindfulness when I can to treat my own depression and it does help.

  6. jennifer L says:

    I just love your post! I’ve been gradually learning more about mindfulness and it’s absolutely wonderful.

  7. Tiina A says:

    I have tried to practise mind fullness and I know it has a postive effect. It’s just that I find excuses to skip it even though I really need it. Thanks for this post! It encouraged me to continue!

    • Marta says:

      For me, the problem is that I’m constantly disturbed… I try to do mindfulness meditation as much as I can, but whenever the phone rings or someone rings the doorbell, I jump up… I wonder if it will ever stop irritating me.

    • Marta says:

      You’re welcome!

  8. Lubka Henry says:

    I like the idea and the whole concept of Mindfulness. We really need more of it these days.
    I recently met a guy during a workshop in London and he was doing mindful origami – very fascinating indeed.

    • Marta says:

      Well, technically, you can do anything mindfully, so no surprise here, but I’ve never thought of origami as a mindfulness exercise. What a fun idea!

  9. Ana says:

    I try to practice mindfulness whenever I get time and it makes me feel so calm and relaxed!

  10. Xaric says:

    Hello Marta.

    Great article on mindfulness and I loved the video as well.

    Mindfulness is an extremely powerful, life-altering tool for those who learn how to use it.

    I used to suffer from social anxiety, anxiety in general, stress and I think that I was on the verge of getting depressed.

    At that time, mindfulness came to me and started practicing and now 2 years later I couldn’t be happier of being alive.

    I didn’t follow any programs at all, just practicing. I am sure that following some program might offer people faster and better results and along with consistency and faith this will work for sure.

    Thank you for sharing.

    Harry !

    • Marta says:

      Hey Harry,

      It’s not easy to find time to be here and now, but I’m doing my best. Just being gives me so much peace and joy that I know it is worth it! Thanks for your insight.

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ABOUT ME

INFP. A sensitive, yet adventurous soul on a never-ending quest for the meaning of life and the reasons behind human behavior. Sometimes, a I'm frolicking unicorn pooping rainbows. On other occasions, I can be as deep as the Mariana Trench. After some psychotherapy and medication, I am seeing my depression as a source of positive changes and self growth. If I could choose any superpower I wanted, it would be healing.

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