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According to sophrologist and author Dominique Antiglio: ‘sophrology, a popular self-help method in continental Europe, uniquely combines Western science and Eastern wisdom to help you manage stress, sleep better and discover mindful living.’
Indeed, sophrology combines traditional Eastern practices (such as yoga and meditation) with modern-day stress-management techniques often used by clinical psychologists in the treatment of anxiety disorders (such as body scans, visualisations, breathing techniques and other relaxation exercises).
What are the benefits of sophrology?
As such, sophrology has been used as a tool to help people relax, especially those struggling with mental health difficulties, such as stress and anxiety.
However, it is not limited to those who suffer from mental health problems. Other settings where sophrology has been introduced include education (where pupils and students can learn the basics of relaxation to help them better cope with academic and other pressures), business (as a stress-management tool and to help prevent burn-out), and sports (to enhance athletic performance).
As a matter of fact, sophrology is practised by the French rugby team. In Switzerland, sophrology is often used as a treatment for sleep disorders, as well as to help people manage their anxiety before undergoing operations or giving birth (birth preparation).
The origins of sophrology
Sophrology has been around for 60 years. It was founded in the West (in Spain to be more precise) in 1960 by a doctor, the neuropsychiatrist Alfonso Caycedo. Having studied Medicine at the University of Madrid, Colombian-born Caycedo later specialised in psychiatry and neurology, before becoming Professor of Psychiatry at the University of Barcelona.
During its relatively short life, sophrology has spread from Spain to other European countries, notably France and Switzerland, and has fairly recently arrived in the UK too, which perhaps is why considering sophrology as the new mindfulness may not be entirely wrong.
Sophrology vs mindfulness and meditation
Compared to mindfulness and meditation, sophrology has a wider scope, at least as far as the techniques used as concerned. On the one hand, it incorporates psychology-informed stress-management techniques and skills.
On the other hand, the focus is not just on the mind, but on the body as well. In fact, many of the techniques used are physical and involve movement. As such, it may be preferable to mindfulness or meditation, especially by those who struggle with concentration and staying still.
Having said that, sophrology is neither something drastically different nor ground-breaking, and its benefits are more or less the same ones as those of mindfulness. Some of these techniques are often part of yoga routines. In fact, sophrology appears to bridge the gap between yoga (a largely physical practice) with mindfulness and meditation (largely mental practices).
In conclusion, incorporating different techniques and skills that can all contribute to stress reduction and improved mental well-being, sophrology provides a toolbox to help people optimise their mental well-being and ultimately improve their daily lives.
Image credit: Freepik
Dr Alex Chatziagorakis is a London-based consultant psychiatrist and a member of the Royal College of Psychiatrists.