Is it the right time for me to start mindfulness?
People often contact me who have heard about mindfulness and feel sure that it can help them, but are not sure whether it’s the right time in their life to begin. Concerns include personal issues such as relationship breakdown or illness, significant life events and the number of other commitments they have.
Whether it is the right time for you to go ahead is a question for us to answer together, which is why I provide an invitational pre-course questionnaire prior to signing up to any of my programs. It is a chance for you to inform me of anything that might impact the suitability of the course at this time in your life. We then discuss any concerns, and reach a decision on whether to go ahead now, or later.
Why timing matters
Frequently we come to mindfulness or decide to investigate it when we are going through a tough time. This is completely natural – when we are feeling healthy and happy and everything is going “to plan”, it is not the obvious time to seek out ways to maintain that. As a society we are more used to a reactive approach – if something goes wrong we look for a solution. This mindset does appear to be shifting as we become increasingly conscious of the importance of an holistic approach to our health – getting enough sleep, eating a balanced diet and keeping physically fit are now largely accepted as fundamentals.
When it comes to our mental health though, a preventative approach is not yet the norm. The whole concept of mental health is much newer to our collective radar, the phrase itself still heavily loaded and often conjuring extreme images of psychosis, dementia, personality disorders and the like. Until recently it was seen as a concern affecting a small proportion of the population that we likely didn’t identify with, and was confined to clinical settings, so it’s no wonder we are less familiar with the many ways in which we can keep our minds healthy.
Thankfully, the reality is increasingly being recognised, i.e. that in much the same way as we can have a common cold all the way through to terminal cancer, mental health exists on a spectrum too. And we have a big role to play in staying at the healthy end of that spectrum when we are already there, and in getting back to that end when we become unwell. Mindfulness undoubtedly plays a huge part in this, but there are points on the spectrum where it is more or less appropriate, and we will look at these to help you determine whether now is the right time for you.
I am happy and healthy, is there any point in me learning mindfulness now?
Yes! This is the perfect time to start a mindfulness course. Life inevitably has ups and downs and stressors will always be present. Learning these skills while you are well gives you the best chance of staying that way.
I am very busy
The catch-22. It is said that mindfulness will save you more time than it takes you, but there is no denying that undertaking an 8 week MBCT or MBSR course is a significant commitment. Sessions last 2 hours, once a week over an 8 week period, and home practice is a key part of the program, lasting up to an hour each day. Nobody just happens to have a spare hour a day, so taking the course will require you to carve out time in your schedule for your home practice. For many people, this is one of the most transformative experiences of partaking in the program.
In no way do I underestimate how much we all have on our plates, but I do know that we can get trapped in an endless cycle of busyness, and having been there myself, and now having taught countless others, I feel fully confident in saying that what you will take from committing to this program will serve you for years to come, and will leave you wanting more of where that came from. Anything truly worth doing, requires sustained effort, and mindfulness is no different.
I am going through a significant life event
New job, moving house, just had a baby, divorcing… all significant life events. And typical of the reasons you may be investigating mindfulness in the first place. In deciding whether to go ahead with a course during such times you may wish to consider whether you can realistically commit to attending the sessions and having a good stab at the home practice. Another consideration is that during the course, we turn toward our difficulties, which can be a difficult experience at any time, but if something is particularly raw for you, you may want to wait until that has been processed.
I am happy to talk through this with you and come to a joint decision on whether it is the right time in your life for you take a mindfulness course.
I have depression, is it suitable for me to do a mindfulness course now?
Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy was designed specifically to treat people who have suffered with recurrent depression, as though it is possible to treat and recover from depression, the problem we often see is that it can come back.
Traditionally the program was taught to people when they are well, rather than in an active episode of depression. However, more recently it has become apparent that the key factor in determining whether mindfulness is appropriate during an active episode, is whether the experience is familiar to you.
If, for example, you are experiencing depression for the first time and everything is new to you, it could be very difficult for you to take part in the course and you may prefer to take it when the symptoms have subsided. If, however, you are familiar with the experience you are currently having, then the program may still be suitable.
In both scenarios, your personal preference and intuition important deciding factors, and if you are under the care of a clinician, it is advised you discuss this decision with them as well.
I have a mental health condition, is mindfulness suitable for me?
If you have an existing mental health condition, please check with your primary care provider/GP whether it is suitable for you to take this course at this time. I would be happy to speak to you and them about what the course entails if this is helpful.
Please note, mindfulness is not a form of therapy, and I am not a therapist. I am a trained mindfulness teacher working in non-clinical settings. For those of you experiencing significant mental health issues, you may be better served by completing a mindfulness course in a clinical setting which is possible within the NHS.