Brad Woolridge's Mental Health Blog #2: Mindfulness


SU President Brad Woolridge - Mental Health Blog

Expanding my Knowledge - My 1st Mindfulness and CBT Workshop

So, on Wednesday 8th February I travelled over the bridge to Oxford to start a 5 session course in Mindfulness and Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT). Not really knowing what to expect or what I had gotten myself in for, it was certain to be an eye-opener for me.

What have I got myself in for?

After finally managing to find the venue, park, and then the right room I had arrived. The session had just began by the time I got there, but participants had been encouraged to pair up and share the reasons why there were there and what they were hoping to get out of the course. I quickly realised my reasons were quite different from many others when we shared our thoughts with the group!

We moved on to the first task for the day, which was one I found difficult! We all had a raisin placed in our hands. My first thought was to eat it, however, this was not the task.

We were asked to visually examine the raisin, move it around in our hands, and feel its texture. We were then asked to smell the raisin and sense the aromas’ that surrounded it. Finally, we were told we could put it in our mouth, but not eat it immediately, which was my first instinct. We were then asked to examine it in our mouths before beginning to chew. At this point I ate the raisin within seconds. Our next instruction being “please don’t eat the raisin yet”. Well, I didn’t quite pass this early task with flying colours.

The message behind the task was relevant though:

How much do we miss by doing what we instinctively think? Do we really take everything in?

As soon as the raisin was placed in my hand I just wanted to eat it, but there is so much we miss out on by doing so. This isn’t to say we must examine every bit of food so carefully, but perhaps now and then, take the time to appreciate what we are doing/eating! We become so set in our ways at times, that we turn on auto-pilot mode and miss out on things. This change in our thoughts aimed to represent what mindfulness is all about.

Body Scanning

We moved on to a “body scan” exercise next, which involved lying on a yoga mat, controlling your breathing, and working around the body trying to focus on specific parts. A combination of being slightly ill, and never doing anything on this nature before meant it all felt quite alien to me. I struggled to stay focused on the task, and instead my mind started to veer off on tangents! However, I was informed that recognising that I had gone off task and returning my thoughts to the exercise represented mindfulness, actively recognising my thoughts and returning to the task!

Lunch followed and the afternoon session was of a similar nature, practising the mindfulness exercises. My first experience of mindfulness and CBT had been an interesting one, and left me intrigued. Is this for me? Am I doing it right? But I’m willing to persevere and see what I can take from it.

In Summary

My take-home thoughts for the day:

  • How often am I on auto-pilot mode and fail to fully engage with what I’m doing
  • Mindfulness is different for everyone, but the ability to consider your thoughts means you’re on the right lines
  • Sometimes we need to slow things down, and appreciate what we are doing/eating!

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