17 January 2014
For the first time in Northern Ireland, Aware Defeat Depression will be offering Mindfulness sessions to people across Belfast and Londonderry free of charge starting in January 2014. In today’s world, we are caught up in our worries and concerns about the future or we are captives of our past with our hurts, sadness, bitterness and regrets.
We are slaves to our thoughts, convictions, emotions and preferences. Today, we are rarely in the present moment and we have lost the ability to get there. Being still in the present moment frees us from our thoughts and emotions and sets us free.
Mindfulness or awareness is the ancient practice of being in the moment and this is achieved by focusing on one of our senses, be it touch, vision, hearing, taste or smell. Observing our breathing, for example, for one minute brings us into the present, the now. As we notice our chest or our abdomen moving as we breathe effortlessly, and stay focused on this, we begin to step outside our thoughts and feelings. It is a skill anyone can acquire and gives us a more enlightened understanding how we have become enslaved by our thoughts and emotions. Awareness is a skill for everyday living.
The practice of Mindfulness can be especially helpful for people with mental health problems such as depression, anxiety or those with a chronic physical illness.
Mindfulness practitioner, Frank Liddy is the co-founding Director of the Belfast Mindfulness Centre. Frank is committed to developing Mindfulness in Belfast and Derry/Londonderry. Frank believes that people who are more mindful are less likely to experience psychological distress, including depression and anxiety.
Explaining exactly what Mindfulness is, Frank says,
“Mindfulness is a way of paying attention to the present moment. It’s about bringing awareness to our thoughts and feelings, without being too judgemental on ourselves. It is a method for observing what is happening right now in the world around us. By becoming more aware of our thoughts and feelings in this way, we are preventing becoming wrapped up in them therefore making it easier for us to manage them.
“Mindfulness practice is different to any other form of talking therapy. Its aim is to teach us how to become present to what’s happening now. When people practice mindfulness, they are encouraged not to aim for a particular result but simply to ‘do it and see what happens.’
“I am very excited about this partnership with leading mental health charity, Aware Defeat Depression to deliver Mindfulness across Londonderry and Belfast. Each session is specifically designed to empower and enable participants with knowledge, skills and practice. I am committed to the development of mindfulness within Northern Ireland as a technique which can prevent relapse of depression, and encourage a more contented, compassionate living.”
Chief Executive of Aware Defeat Depression, Siobhan Doherty is very excited about this new project and believes it will be helpful for many people. Siobhan said,
“We offer a wide range of services for people with depression as well as a variety of programmes teaching the importance of looking after your mental health and promoting emotional resilience.
“We are very lucky to be in the position to work alongside such a highly-regarded Mindfulness practitioner, to offer this form of therapy to people free of charge.
“We have Mindfulness programmes beginning in our Derry Office and various other locations across Belfast in January. Each programme requires participants to attend a 2 hour session per week for 6 weeks. During these sessions, the Mindfulness practitioner will look at mindfulness in further detail and outline what it is and importantly, what it is not. The other sessions incorporate developing the practice of mindfulness through exercises, which can then be developed over the
duration of the programme.
“I would encourage people to visit our website at www.aware-ni.org for more information on mindfulness and how to register your interest in attending.”
Mindfulness is very new to Northern Ireland, but it is a mediation technique used throughout the world. It is practiced by a lot of well-known celebrities including Meg Ryan and Goldie Hawn who acts as an advocate for Mindfulness mediation.
A little bit closer to home, NI celebrity chef Paul Rankin also practices mindfulness in his spare time. Paul said,
“Folk often talk about trying to live in the moment, which is easier said than done. The practice of mindfulness helps me to live in and more appreciate the moments of my life. Surprisingly it takes you away from your chattering mind and lets you
see and enjoy what's happening right now. I find it helps me cope and realise just how much good stuff I have in my life. It's
a real gift!”
Dr Patrick McKeon, Chairperson of Aware Defeat Depression and Consultant Psychiatrist at St Patricks Hospital, Dublin endorses Mindfulness as a treatment for people with depression and anxiety. Dr McKeon said,
“We can be so busy in our lives that we miss the meaning of now. Mindfulness practice has been shown to help prevent recurring depression and is an effective treatment for anxieties and worries. It is an essential skill for everyday living”.