For most people the first lightbulb moment when they experience mindfulness or CBT is the realisation that we can change the way we think.
- Think about what that means for just a moment:
- We can understand the triggers that produce our anxiety
- We can choose to respond to an event in a rational or irrational way
- We can choose to engage with negative feelings or not
- In other words, we can learn to be reflective rather than reflexive.
Beth Wood of Prospero Theatre and Andy Barker, a CBT specialist believe that there is almost nothing more important than this. Beth and Andy have been working for the last year on a programme, Mind Fitness, which fuses mindfulness and cognitive behavioural techniques, using interactive exercises to ensure maximum impact through experience.
Andy explains ‘It is believed that one in four young people experience suicidal thoughts and rates of depression among teenagers have risen by 70% in the last 25 years. Nearly 300,000 young people in the UK today have an anxiety disorder. Mind Fitness can certainly help with a number of existing conditions but it is primarily a preventative tool. As we realised how effective and powerful a tool this is, we stared to wonder how it was that this isn’t being taught in schools.’
Beth continues ‘Both Andy and I come from a theatrical background. I have worked extensively in inclusive and educational theatre using drama, drama therapy and interactive learning as educational tools. Mindfulness centres around bringing your attention to the present. There are many parallels with an actor training to be ‘in the moment’ which is why it first grabbed my attention. We found that we had a whole bank of exercises and techniques that could be adapted to develop the Mind Fitness programme. We fuse Mindfulness with CBT, which focusses on changing unhelpful beliefs that underline or determine our decisions and responses. The practice of Mindfulness enables us to achieve a physical and mental state in which those changes can take place and take root.
The Mind Fitness programme has been piloted in a wide variety of settings from special schools to boardrooms. The journey varies through these different environments but the destination is the same. A place in which each individual is able to determine their mental and emotional response mechanism.
We have found that most companies are keen to demonstrate that they take their corporate social responsibility seriously and many are already implementing plans to facilitate wellbeing in the workplace. With this programme the increase in staff Resilience and decrease in stress also impacts swiftly on their bottom line.
‘I’ve always believed’ says Beth ‘that one of the most important aspects of any learning is learning not to get in your own way. We self-sabotage on all sorts of levels from an early age, particularly in the implementation of change, because we are creatures of habit. Mind Fitness is the way to stop this happening.’
‘That results’ Andy continues ‘in the unleashing of enormous potential. We see people gain immeasurable confidence, motivation and passion. They can determine their paths and set their goals. Just as importantly they have tools to establish much more productive relationships, both in their personal and professional lives’.
Today the effects of Mindfulness and Cognitive Techniques are clearly evidenced by neuroscience. It is a fact that the amygdala, the brain’s emotional response mechanism, passes on sensory input to the part of the brain where higher learning and decision making happens. But if you are stressed and high levels of cortisol are present, the amygdala simply does not pass this information on. Instead it instigates a flight, fight or freeze mechanism.
Just pause to consider that this means. At the moment in your life when the most important things are happening and you need to be thinking most clearly, you aren’t. The impact on business decisions, relationships and self-esteem cannot be overstated.
Mindfulness sessions come with a work book to enable participants to continue the practice. For details of forthcoming sessions and blogs on Andy and Beth please go to www.mindfitness.training.