Recently published NICE guidelines have placed mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT) at the forefront of improving mental health in society. NHS GP’s set to recommend MBCT more widely as a frontline treatment.
Most people know mindfulness as a relaxation tool, but MBCT is different. MBCT is a fusion of mindfulness and cognitive therapy developed to combat recurring depression. It has been shown also to have a positive impact on a variety of mental health issues, including anxiety.
Here are some of the main tools and techniques from Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy which can benefit people’s mental health:
A different relationship with unhelpful thinking patterns
Many people with depression and anxiety habitually find themselves overthinking or engaging in unhelpful thinking patterns – projecting terrible outcomes (catastrophising), self-criticising, being resentful or feeling like things will never improve, unwittingly triggering their stress response system.
MBCT teaches techniques for recognising thoughts as an internal narrative; thoughts are not facts, and imparts the skills for allowing unhelpful thinking patterns to subside so that the person can re-engage with the present moment ruminating, allowing the stress response system to settle.
MBCT cultivates a deeper understanding of one’s emotions and their impact on behaviour.
Feelings like fear, anger, frustration, shame, guilt or jealousy are often labelled as ‘bad’, emotions that should be avoided. But emotions are neither good nor bad, just signals in the amygdala designed to communicate with us and inform us how to navigate life.
Taking actions purely based on these emotions can sustain difficult experiences and suffering. Instead, MBCT teaches us how to respond skilfully to how we feel, regulate our emotional energy and offer space to choose an informed response to difficult experiences.
This allows greater understanding and acceptance of feelings, regulation of stress-related emotions, and a more robust sense of calm and equilibrium.
Recognising the good
Humans evolved to have a negativity bias, meaning we find it easier to focus on things we find threatening or difficult. MBCT helps create balance by teaching us to pay attention to the good, the richness of life, and those moments of joy that might otherwise be missed when caught up in ruminative thinking patterns.
MBCT is a process of training ourselves to be more aware of what creates balance and brings us happiness, especially the smaller moments that we might not usually notice or value.
A multi-faceted approach
MBCT provides a multi-faceted approach to understanding how our mind works and how we can accept and manage our thoughts and respond effectively to our emotions in a healthier and more positive way.