Posts Tagged ‘mindfulness’

Sane New World

Thursday, November 24th, 2016 | Books

Sane New World: Taming the Mind is a book by Ruby Wax. Wax is a well-known comedian but what you might not know is that she is also a trained therapist with a masters degree in mindfulness-based cognitive therapy.

This book is all about how to use mindfulness to solve mental health difficulties, narrated through her own struggles with depression. Her own anecdotes really add some sparkle to the book and there is a lot for anyone with depression to identify with in here and think “yes, me too!”. It’s also funny, as you would expect from a big-name comedian.

She also knows her stuff. Her round-up of what parts of the brain do what, and her round-up of the evidence for mindfulness-based therapies have both proved excellent starting points for research.


Hear and Now

Tuesday, April 26th, 2016 | Reviews

Hear and Now is a meditation app that focuses on deep breathing. It only takes a few minutes to do: you hit go, it gives you a 40 second warm up, 12 guided deep breaths and then a cool down. At the end it reports back on how you have done.

Results were mixed. You self-measure how you feel at the start of each session (very stressed, stressed, relaxed, very relaxed). I never felt any better after it. It feels like quite a big jump between each point, though my mood never really changed anyway.

The feedback is a little confusing. For example, it might tell me that my pNN50 has increased from 0.38 to 0.50. It has an explanation of what pNN50 is, but so what? What am I supposed to do with that information? I suppose it could potentially be useful if it fed back into Apple Health, but it doesn’t.

At the end you get an overall breathing quality from 0% (rubbish) to 100% (perfect). This varied from day to day. One day I got 44%, over days I got 20%. It said keep practicing to improve it but after two weeks I had not improved. It was just random. Critically, it doesn’t tell you how to improve or what you are doing incorrectly.

I did like the fact that is was so quick to complete every day. However, I did not feel I gained any benefit from it.



Tuesday, March 29th, 2016 | Books

Mindfulness, “the life-changing bestseller”, is a book by Mark Williams and Danny Penman that offers an eight week course on mindfulness. If you have not come across mindfulness before, it is an attempt to take the clinically-useful bits of meditation and put them into a framework that improves people’s mental health.

I’ve now done it all, and it hasn’t changed my life.

The book comes with a CD that includes guided meditations. It’s 2016, so I don’t have a CD player, or an optical drive on my computer. In the past four years of not having one, this has been the first time it’s really been a problem as I couldn’t find all of the audio tracks online. In the end I had to resort to using my PS3.

It gets quite time consuming as you go on. In week five for example, you are doing three meditations per day: 8 minutes, 8 minutes and 10 minutes. This is more than half an hour once you had set up and cool down times. That is quite a lot. The default reaction of some is to say “just half an hour a day to improve your mental health? Surely that is worth it?” They’re probably right, but half an hour is still a long time. I could use the same time to go for a run every day, and look after my physical health, something which I don’t find time to do.

Nevertheless, I did want to give this an honest go, so I did make the time. Did it provide some benefit? I’m not sure. I don’t feel any different. However, given that I am not measuring my anxiety on a daily basis, and that you would expect to see fluctuations anyway, I find it very difficult to objectively say whether I have seen an improvement. However, it does not feel like I have. Perhaps I need some high-anxiety situations to come along to truly find out.


The mindful walk home

Wednesday, February 3rd, 2016 | Health & Wellbeing


My mindfulness book has recommended that I do one thing a day and really concentrate on it. I decided to do my walk home. I usually listen to an audiobook on the walk to and from work, so I decided to skip one of those and ‘be mindful’. Evening made the most sense as there was more light.

Here is what I noticed:

Not thinking about things is really difficult

Like super-difficult. My mind has no off switch. It wants to think about things. They are loads of things to think about. It doesn’t even need to search for things: there are already a bunch of topics rolling around in there that need some CPU time. How is one supposed to banish it all? I suppose that is the exercise.

The world is really noisy

Cars, planes, trains, alarms. They all make loads of noise. And when you are not allowed to think about anything, you think about that. It occurs to me that train tracks properly run alongside rivers because rivers have the flattest and most consistent ascent. However, that means the one potential haven of peace and quiet in cities often has trains running alongside it. The mode of transport I passed most frequently was the canal boat: all of which were silent.

I miss my thinking time

My mind jumps from topic to topic, but I actually enjoy most of the thoughts. My walk is good imagination time. I don’t really want to experience the world. It’s Leeds. It’s cold, dark and full of ugly buildings.

I don’t feel like I usually miss anything

According to the books, people experience this great awakening about how much of life they have been missing out on. I did not experience any of that. I probably did notice things more, but nothing that was interesting or memorable. It was just the regular world that is always there.