Mindfulness – UPDATE

IMG_0204Mindfulness an update – August 2015.

Mindfulness (as discussed in a previous article – Changing Your Mindfulness) is simply a matter of making yourself aware of a problem and taking a few quiet moments to consider your actions. It has proved to be an effective way of dealing with the problems and it seems to work well for anxiety, although not in all cases.

Try some meditation – focus on your breathing – be aware of your feelings – then imagine a better way of feeling.

I believe it’s just a matter of common sense that the relaxation and focus of hypnosis is just as effective. In fact meditation and self-hypnosis are so closely related, it’s almost as if they were not just cousins, but twins. Both employ the same techniques of self-awareness, inner focus and quiet contemplation. Both are equally successful when it comes to dealing with pain and anxiety. I, along with many of my hypnotherapist colleagues believe that meditation is self-hypnosis and vice versa.

Mindfulness meditation has now been proved beyond any reasonable doubt to be beneficial for pain management and more recently, depression. Not only does it reduce clinical depression but mindfulness is also a powerful block preventing relapses. Mindfulness can reduce psychological stress and mindfulness based cognitive therapy includes methods which identify negative and destructive thought patterns which lead to problem behaviour; mindfulness exchanges dysfunctional obsessive thoughts for more positive ones, thereby improving behaviour. Both mindfulness and hypnosis take place at the conscious level and the neurological correlates are likely to be more or less the same.

Sessions of mindfulness therapy can go on for eight weeks. I would add here that with hypnosis, the client is able reinforce positive thoughts, feelings and emotions to such a degree that with some individuals, one session may be sufficient.

As with hypnotherapy, mindfulness is designed to stop clients reviewing the past and worrying about the future – instead, clients are encouraged to live in, and enjoy, the present. Carpe Diem!! 

In 2012, Stefan Hofmann, a psychologist at Boston University closely examined studies that tested the efficacy of mindfulness as a remedy for anxiety and depression. Hofmann and his colleagues had relatively few studies to concentrate on – mindfulness is a new tool in the box and so definitive material is hard to come by. What was clear however was that there was a significant trend in improvements to patients, both straight after mindfulness therapy and up to three months later.

In 2013 a review of the study, carried out at the University of Montreal by psychologist Bassam Khoury, was able to confirm the treatment’s effectiveness in cases of depression. Khoury also found that other kinds of cognitive therapies were as effective. On the other hand, University of Sussex psychologist, Clara Strauss, whilst praising the efficacy of mindfulness as a treatment for depression, found that it was not nearly so effective when used to treat anxiety disorders.

There is a big red warning light flashing in the back of my mind, because it has to be understood that every client is different. Some individuals may have very good reason to be anxious, for example, someone who has just been diagnosed with a terminal illness or about to stand trial for a serious crime. And there again, we must be aware that not everyone is as suggestible as patients who do well with mindfulness.

The good news is there is clear evidence that mindfulness is extremely effective in reducing relapse rates, even more so than hypnotherapy. If the two could be combined, you might end up with a winning formula that would include the Carpe Diem of mindfulness and the reinforcement created by the peak experience of hypnosis.

In a study of mindfulness based cognitive therapy for depression recurrence in 2000, psychologist John Teasdale at the Medical research Council in Cambridge compared results from individuals receiving their usual treatment (in the form of their usual visits to their GP and consumption of the inevitable prescription drugs as well as visits to the NHS psychologist etc.) with results from individuals who had undergone mindfulness therapy. Teasdale found no difference between the two groups except for one startling result… In the group that had undergone mindfulness therapy, the incidence of relapse was far lower.

A repetition of the study in 2004 found that traumatic events (marital break-up, loss of someone close, that sort of thing) were a common cause of relapse, but in those who had relapsed more than two or three times, depression and anxiety became the normal response to even the most trivial problems. In other words, there is an association between the appearance of a problem and the negative emotions that accompany it. It just might be that mindfulness may indeed break that cycle. This means that mindfulness may actually enable people to understand that unhappy events and unhappy thoughts do not necessarily lead to dreadful emotions. The trick is to get them to apply that principle.