Mindfulness doesn’t solve everything. It doesn’t cure everything. I regularly tell my students this. They should never be tricked into believing that mindfulness will sort all their issues out because it doesn’t. Even when you are an experienced practitioner, there are times when you feel angry, stressed, depressed etc… It’s important to realise that options like counselling should still be available to you and don’t think for one minute that just because you have a regular mindfulness practice you will never need the help of a therapist or coach ever again.
The beauty of mindfulness, is that it gives you insight. With this you can navigate and review your emotions more readily. Doing this you may find that there are issues that surface throughout the process that really need talking about and what better way to that that than the talk therapies? There have been many clients and potential clients who have come to me and their issues have been outside of my remit and so I have referred them to a psychotherapist or IAPT.
So, what’s the point?
What mindfulness can give you is time and space between feeling an emotion and thinking a thought and reacting to it. This skill alone cuts out many issues which can increase our suffering, say for example outbursts of anger. The life skills gained while practicing mindfulness change your brain structure, helping you to be more positive and less likely to suffer with mental health issues. Less likely. It doesn’t eliminate the chances completely, and certainly not for more serious and complex mental health problems.
That being said, many of the strategies and techniques used in mindfulness keep us away from the edge in times of need. This is what we want! Strategies that work with our issues, while we are working them out or learning to live with them. Sometimes, it is just that. Learning to live with problems or illness. Sometimes we have to live with chronic pain or grief, there’s no way around that. That’s why I believe everyone should learn mindfulness so that they have those tools in their toolbox in times of need and to build resilience, because as Rocky says; “The world ain’t all sunshine and rainbows“
There is no point waiting until the eleventh hour to learn to practice mindfulness. That’s like waiting until the morning of a marathon to start training. Learn while you have energy, learn while you have self-motivation, learn while it’s easier. It will still have positive effects if you start learning during a bout of depression but it’s substantially harder to stick to anything and make sense of it. Prevention is better than the cure, right? Ok, maybe it’s not complete prevention but it has been shown to be more effective at preventing depression in people who have had 3 or more bouts of depression than chemical antidepressants. Pretty impressive right?
But I’m fine!
Ok, so you are fine? You aren’t in the pits of despair or stressed out? Great! That’s amazing news. Then you are in the 20-40% of lucky people not suffering from it. This fact alone makes you a perfect student for mindfulness, you will find it easier to learn since stress effects the learning centre of the brain. Now is the optimal time to prepare for darker days, because life is full of ups and downs so be prepared for the downs. If you are stressed, down or depressed that’s ok too, you can still learn to practice mindfulness. Yes, it may be harder and yes it may take longer but the benefits of the techniques and exercises you learn during the process will lessen the strength and length of the episode.
In dark times
Back to the counselling point again! As I said, mindfulness isn’t a cure-all so there will be times where counselling is a good idea. Don’t wait, if you feel that you could do with talking about things then do look for a good therapist. It’s great if you have friends to talk to but they are not trained listeners and they will give unsolicited advice which isn’t always in your best interests (not on purpose). A counsellor will help you to find the answers you need yourself, they won’t tell you what they think you should do and they give you safe space to vent, feel, and be heard. This is sacred.