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Do you suffer from depression or anxiety? Like thousands of other Australians, you have probably tried all kinds of things to feel better and tackle your depression or anxiety. From taking medication to seeing a therapist, there are a variety of things you can turn to. But for many, there is little relief and their symptoms continue to make living a happy and fulfilled life really difficult. If this sounds like you, mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT) could be the answer.

What is Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT)?

Repeated bouts of depression and anxiety not only make sufferers miserable, but they can become very dangerous if not treated effectively. Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT) is designed to help people with chronic depression and/or anxiety and is based on the principles of cognitive therapy, meditation, and the cultivation of mindfulness. 

Mindfulness is an incredibly helpful practice for anyone to cultivate, as it helps us to better focus on the here and now, rather than focusing too heavily on the past or worrying about the future. But for people suffering from depression or anxiety, mindfulness can be a lifeline. 

How does mindfulness-based cognitive therapy work? 

Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT) helps you to work on bringing your attention to both the internal and external experiences happening in the moment. This means relief from the effects of anxiety and depression which cause you to concentrate more on the past or future. 

For sufferers of depression and anxiety, worrying about the future or focusing on unpleasant events of the past causes a great deal of agonising. Learning to bring your attention back to the moment, and center it in reality (rather than the ‘what if’ or ‘if only’) helps to alleviate symptoms of stress, anxiety, and depression. 

Mindfulness has been used for many, many centuries and has origins in Buddhist and Hindu practices of meditation. It signifies a state of active, open attention on the present, and allows you to experience thoughts and emotions as they arise. Most importantly, mindfulness is not about ‘emptying your mind’, but rather, observing those thoughts and emotions without judgement. It helps to separate yourself from negative thoughts and emotions, looking at them as a sort of impartial observer, and letting them float on by without becoming attached to them. This practice is extremely helpful for those who suffer from depression and anxiety, as it helps build resilience against negative or problematic thoughts and emotions. Rather than trying to stop them from happening at all (which is nearly impossible!), mindfulness helps you to recognise that your thoughts and emotions do not define you, and that you can recognise them, acknowledge them, and let them pass. 

Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy helps you to develop mindfulness by using meditation and other practices, including cognitive therapy. 

Where does the cognitive therapy part come in?

To tackle depression or anxiety effectively means: 

  • Being able to stop focusing on the past and worrying about the future 
  • Recognising harmful thoughts and emotions 
  • Learning to let these thoughts and emotions pass 
  • Reprogramming the learned responses in your mind and body

Where mindfulness helps you to concentrate on the here and now, cognitive therapy is all about reprogramming your brain and body’s automated responses to feelings and situations that arise. As negative thoughts and behavioural patterns have created habits that cause harm, cognitive therapy (or cognitive behavioural therapy) works to break down these patterns and replace them with more helpful ones. 

We covered the topic of cognitive behavioural therapy in our recent blog: What is Cognitive Behavioural Therapy  (CBT) and Can It Help Me.

Together, the techniques of mindfulness and cognitive therapy give you the power to center yourself in the present, recognise unhelpful thoughts and emotions, and let them pass, as well as training your mind and body for more helpful reactions – thus, giving you more control over your thoughts and emotions and ultimately, how depression or anxiety affects you. 

Is Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy for me? 

MBCT can be very helpful for anyone who wants to cultivate mindfulness. Whether that’s just to learn to be more present in the moment, enjoy your life more, or experience better concentration and productivity. But for sufferers of depression and anxiety, MBCT can make an enormous impact on their lives in a very different way.

Depression and anxiety are often linked, and while you may suffer with one or the other, many people find themselves experiencing both. They can each be debilitating and can make it extremely difficult to live happily. Both depression and anxiety can impact your: 

  • Ability to get out of bed in the morning 
  • Motivation 
  • Capacity to do your job 
  • Concentration 
  • Energy levels 
  • Ability to enjoy things you would normally enjoy
  • Connect with loved ones
  • Ability to get enough sleep
  • Health, including blood pressure and more

Depression and anxiety, if not treated effectively, can impact almost every area of your life. And yet, many people who suffer from one or both of these concerns fail to recognise what they’re experiencing, or hesitate to seek support. Unfortunately, one of the common symptoms of both depression and anxiety is the feeling that you’re all alone in your suffering and that no one else could (or would want to) understand. That’s why seeking help from a professional therapist is so important. 

Why seek out mindfulness-based cognitive therapy? 

Unlike medications, which do not treat the root causes behind depression and anxiety, MBCT directly addresses the thoughts and behaviours that cause you harm, and give you practical tools to tackle them. MBCT is not only proven to be very effective for sufferers of depression and anxiety, but its impact is felt almost immediately. 

If, like many Aussies, you’ve tried a lot of things that don’t work – or you’ve been avoiding reaching out for fear of judgement – MBCT is for you. Reaching out to a therapist that specialises in MBCT, like Integrated Health Specialists, can offer you the relief you’ve been hoping for. And best of all, the benefits of MBCT are life-long. Being in better control of your thoughts and emotions, and having the power to cultivate mindfulness can have a positive impact on all aspects of your life, for the rest of your life. 

To find out more and make an appointment that could change your life, get in touch today. 

Michelle van Namen
Author: Michelle van Namen