Mindfulness (part 1)
Our Associate, Amelia Lyons*, talks about mindfulness and her experience of using this approach on herself and her patients in this two-part blog post.
I free myself, not by trying to be free,
but by simply noticing how I am imprisoning myself
in the very moment I am imprisoning myself
Tao Te Ching
I’m a trainer, group and individual psychotherapist and a psychiatric nurse and I work across the spectrum of mild, moderate and severe mental illness. I don’t purport to offer answers here and am no expert in mindfulness but I’ll share something of my experience from both a personal and a professional perspective.
It would be hard to imagine anyone not having heard of mindfulness by now. Many readers will have done a day or a short course on mindfulness – just toget a sense of what everyone is talking about. Mindfulness at work, mindfulness for mental health and well-being, mindfulness in schools, mindfulness for dementia, mindfulness for stress, mindfulness for depression indeed it seems as if it is presenting itself as ‘The Answer to All our Problems’ at the moment. Impossible to escape! Every time we walk around the corner – mindfulness jumps out and waves at us!
And because it has been flavour of the last year or two – it is also virtually impossible not to have developed an opinion on it… Drawn from the Eastern Buddhist traditions and popularised in the US as a method to reduce stress, by John Kabat Zinn in 1979, mindfulness entered the mainstream as being a particularly helpful approach to improving mental health. It has been incorporated into organisations to help develop more creative, emotionally intelligent, resilient and compassionate leaders and employees. Through training the mind to be more focused, people are improving their skills in handling conflict, responding to challenges, managing change, thinking strategically and building more effective relationships.
There is research and evidence (Holzel et al 2011, Leader et al 2013, Kaptchuk et al 2013) to suggest that mindfulness slows down brain atrophy and improves our concentration, if practised regularly – so why not give it a try?
As a therapist I always try the approach on myself before I use it with clients. It has to work for me otherwise I won’t use it because it feels inauthentic. So I undertook some courses and some retreats over the last four years and have been using it with clients for the last two years. Supported by the NHS I am embarking on a formal mindfulness teacher training via Bangor University in January 2016.
My experience of it so far? Well personally – I welcome anything that helps me to calm down and think – when I feel stressed or under pressure. I can react impulsively and mindful meditation has certainly helped me to step back from the melee and not get ‘hooked’ into reacting too quickly. I also welcome anything that improves my awareness and my ability to come into the present moment. It has also helped me accept difficult things where formerly I may have denied their existence.
Other people in a therapy context
I have additionally found that mindful exercises (there are lots of them) often ‘work’ with mental health patients and psychotherapy clients. I have also run therapy groups for the NHS that incorporate mindfulness elements. I have noticed that these have added to the group awareness and individuals’ ability to reflect on themselves without getting too defensive. My experience is that it certainly does help people to slow down and not over-react to situations. It does also help them to become more self-aware. Clients of course need more than mindfulness, but I find it is helpful to have it in my repertoire of tools and therapeutic approaches.
Other helping professionals
My experience as a PSL associate is of bringing elements of mindfulness into the organizational world to improve helping professionals’ attention to their mental health and well-being, and that of their clients’. I have found that mindfulness has been valued by the groups I have worked with.
Amelia Lyons* is a group analyst, trainer, qualified nurse and management consultant. She has a typical portfolio career. In role of group analyst she facilitates psychotherapy groups and psycho education group programmes for service users with moderate to severe MH issues. She also nurses part time on a complex care ward, which uses DBT and mindfulness interventions to treat patients/forensic patients who have psychosis and/or personality disorder. She is a freelance consultant specializing in mental health and works for Practice Solutions as an Associate. She previously enjoyed a senior management role in a University heading a department in health and social sciences for over a decade. With her three sisters, she additionally shares care for her mother who has mild/moderate stage alzheimer’s dementia.Back to blogs