Mindfulness is about existing in the present, just as you are. It involves cultivating an awareness of what is happening for you right now – what thoughts you are thinking, what emotions you are feeling, what sensations you are feeling in your body, what information your senses are taking in. I know it can be very helpful for me as a way of grounding myself but it is also a struggle given my experience of dissociation. This can make it challenging to exist here, now, as myself. If it feels too difficult to do that, my brain will dissociate as a protective measure. But with time I can hopefully learn to feel safe existing and being present as myself.
Evidence for mindfulness
Mindfulness has been shown to have an effect on anxiety and depression in a number of cases (1, 2, 3), including for older people, and is currently recommended by NICE to treat recurrent depression. A 2011 study reported that the effect of mindfulness can even be seen as changes in the structure of the brain.
My experience with mindfulness
I had my first experience with mindfulness in 2017 as part of recovery from depression, attending two separate courses in small groups. One was a structured course of MBCT (Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy) and another was run by a local recovery college. I have since also attended online mindfulness groups during the Covid-19 lockdowns.
I found that mindfulness was effective in lifting my mood, made me pay more attention to how I spend my time, and increased my capacity for self-compassion. I also valued the sense of community I got from the mindfulness groups I have attended.
This blog was actually created as a space for me to write about my mindfulness practices. My very first blog series on here was recording my attempt to practise mindfulness at least once a day, every day, for a month. As you will probably see, I didn’t manage to complete that! It has been a challenge over the years to keep up a mindfulness practice. This has been due to me struggling to maintain routines and build habits because of my poor mental health.
Despite the practical difficulties around practising, I remain sure of the benefits of mindfulness. Recently, my dissociation has been identified and I have learned more about how little I am usually in touch with my body. I know that mindfulness can be a powerful tool for feeling grounded and present in your body, so I am keen to do more and have it as part of my day-to-day, as a habit and resource that I can use for the rest of my life.