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Mindfulness is a way of paying attention to whatever is happening in our lives in a non-judgmental way. There is a good evidence-base for the benefits of mindfulness for depression, well-being, stress and physical health, and growing support for the benefit of mindfulness for health-care practitioners.

We offer several different options for practising mindfulness for students and staff at the university.

Weekly drop-in group for students and staff

All students and staff are welcome to join a weekly drop-in group currently held on Microsoft Teams at 1pm every Wednesday.  This includes a 25 minute mindfulness practice and a chance to ask questions and share reflections at the end for those who want to. There is no need to participate verbally if you don’t wish to. Please join on Teams.

Mindfulness for students

We are very pleased to be able to offer an additional mindfulness course for students this year, kindly funded by the Alumnae and facilitated by Amy Spatz. Amy is also a lecturer in Clinical Communication at SGUL, as well as a Mindfulness Teacher.

5-week Introduction to Relational Mindfulness

Relational mindfulness harnesses the power of mutual support and interpersonal responsiveness in service of clear understanding and release - Gregory Kramer

Join SGUL facilitator and mindfulness coach Amy Spatz for a 5-week journey to improve your capacity for mindful presence both alone and while relating. The course was designed and evaluated with the help of medical students at SGUL to reduce stress, increase self-compassion and improve efficacy with a series of practices designed to gradually lead you to a steadier sense of ease.

The supportive group format provides transformational opportunities for self-connection and insight. The relational guidelines are helpful for both experienced and novice meditators, although for those who are experiencing acute emotional or physical distress, this may not be the right time, and it may be better to seek urgent advise from your GP instead.  If you are unsure if the course is right for you, please contact Amy for a discussion.

You will be provided with a handbook to read and work through during the course. It is advisable to practice meditating regularly throughout the 5-weeks to maximise the benefits. However, past participants have also reported transformational outcomes despite practicing very little in their own time due to the power of the relational practices. 

Meeting for 2 hours per week (Wednesdays, from 6-8pm ) over Teams, we will experience the benefits of authentic yet compassionate ways of being which can transform the ability to relate in beneficial ways both within ourselves and to others.  There is an orientation on May 11th. The course begins on May 18th and ends on June 15th.  

Places are limited. Please register online here: https://counselling.sgul.ac.uk/sgul/register/?form=regGroups

The information on your form will be shared with Amy Spatz as the facilitator.

Mindfulness for staff

We are pleased to be running a 6 week Mindfulness course for staff this summer term on site.

The course consists of six, 1.75-hour sessions and includes 20 minutes of home practice per day between sessions. Through guided meditations, group dialogue, individually tailored instructions and home assignments, you will learn the essential principles of mindfulness and techniques to build your personal home practice and access the wide-ranging benefits well beyond the course.

Places are limited so please make sure you can attend all the sessions, which will run from 5pm - 6.45pm on Wednesdays.

The orientation session is 25th May

Session 1: 8th June

Session 2: 15th June

No session on 22nd June

Session 3: 29th June

Session 4: 6th July

Session 5: 13th July

Session 6: 20th July

The key learning points include:

  • A variety of formal and informal mindfulness meditation practices, which involve using the breath and body as a focus for being aware of our experience in the present moment;
  • Understanding the physiology of stress and how to self-regulate our moods, so that we are better able to pause in challenging situations and respond rather than react automatically;
  • Recognising the patterns of worrying and self-criticism that often generate more stress; and how we can relate to ourselves with a more accepting and kind stance;
  • Mindfully communicating;
  • Developing practical self-care tools to help us thrive, perform at our best, and build resilience.

The structure of the course and home practice will follow the outline of the bestselling book: “Mindfulness: a guide to finding peace in a frantic world”, co-authored by Mark Williams, who has been at the forefront of  mindfulness research in the UK and co-founder of the MBCT programme.

Please register online here: https://counselling.sgul.ac.uk/sgul/register/?form=regGroups

Prerequisites

There are no -prerequisites apart from attendance at an orientation session and none for the drop-in. Mindfulness includes learning a secular meditation, practising together in a group (physical or online), perhaps closing your eyes. If you think you would find this challenging, for eg, you are suffering from a mental illness or a recent trauma or bereavement, please contact us to discuss. You may also wish to attend the orientation session to find out more.

Mindfulness FAQs

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What is mindfulness?

Mindfulness is a way of paying attention to whatever is happening in our lives in a non-judgmental way. It has increasingly been found to be a very effective way of approaching many of the problems that we, as humans, suffer with in our daily lives, including depression, stress and anxiety, and an effective way of improving our performance. Mindfulness approaches involve regularly practicing a series of exercises, including meditation, which help us to see habitual patterns of the mind, as well as finding opportunities to be present in daily life.  

What are the benefits?

Many people completing 8 week mindfulness courses report lasting physical and psychological benefits including the ability to cope more effectively with stress, pain, depression and anxiety, improved sleep, more energy, concentration and enthusiasm, and an ability to respond rather than react to the pressures of life.  There is a good evidence-base for the benefits of mindfulness for depression, well-being, stress and physical health, and growing support for the benefit of mindfulness for health-care practitioners.

What are the risks?

As with all approaches, mindfulness is not for everyone and there may be other things that you would find more helpful. It is often not helpful to learn mindfulness in the midst of an acute crisis, although if you already have a regular practice, mindfulness can be very supportive at these times. It is very unlikely you would experience a serious adverse effect from practicing mindfulness within the context of a secular 8-week course. This does not mean it is always comfortable; in fact, learning to manage difficult experiences is one of the benefits of mindfulness for many people. If you do experience difficulty, please approach your mindfulness teacher for help.

Is mindfulness religious?

Mindfulness as taught in these courses is entirely secular, although many of the practices have their roots in Eastern traditions. People of many different religions and none come to secular mindfulness courses. 

How soon will I know if it's helping?
Often the most helpful way to approach a mindfulness course is to evaluate its’ effectiveness at the end of the 8 weeks. That’s because the way we routinely have of judging our experience is one of the things that can impact our well-being and may interfere with the approach we are exploring on a mindfulness course. Some people may find the mindfulness practice difficult in some way, but that does not mean it is not having an effect. In fact, how we learn to work with the difficulty might be key. Others begin to notice benefits in different ways, for example, relaxing significantly during a mindfulness practice, or noticing moments of calm or awareness at other times.  Similar to an exercise routine or learning an instrument, the benefits are sometimes hard to pinpoint, but you can notice an overall increase in well-being over time.
What if I miss a session?

If you do have to miss a class because you are ill for example, you will be able to read the course book for that session, and you will receive any handouts. Please let us know if you cannot attend for any reason, or are going to be late. If you know you cannot attend at least seven of the eight classes, please postpone doing the course at this time. Showing up, however you are on that day, is often important for learning mindfulness as well as for the other people in the group. Attending a class at a difficult moment may be exactly when you gain the personal insights you need.

What happens in a course?

The practices taught include a lying down meditation, sitting meditations, walking meditation and some gentle stretches which can be adapted to take account of any mobility difficulties or other physical limitations. Each session includes some time practising and some time talking in the group about participants’ experiences of each practice, and any useful learning that comes out of that.  There is no pressure to disclose information about yourself, your past or any other personal information in the group setting.  The level of your contribution to these discussions is entirely in your control, and may vary from week to week.    

Each week of the course you are given ‘home practice’, usually up to 30 minutes in length a day plus some additional activities. Using the audio tracks to guide you, home practice is not difficult, but it can be hard to fit into a busy lifestyle.  However, your commitment to home practice (and the important lessons you learn from it) will ensure that you get the best out of the course.  You may want to consider when and where you will do the home practise, and what might support you to do it, even when you don’t feel like it! The reasons we want to learn mindfulness can be very helpful to remember when we are struggling with doing the home practice.  

 

Resources

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Books
  • Brewer, Judson, The Craving Mind: From cigarettes to smart-phones to love – why we get hooked and how we can break bad habits (Yale, 2017, Yale University Press)

  • Burch, Vidyamala and Penman, Danny, Mindfulness for Health: A Practical Guide to Relieving Pain, Reducing Stress and Restoring Wellbeing (London, 2013, Piatkus)

  • Chaskalson, Michael, Mindfulness in Eight Weeks, (London, 2014, Harper Thorsons)

  • Epstein, Ronald, Attending: Medicine, Mindfulness and Humanity, (2017, Scribner)

  • Goleman, Daniel and Davidson, Richard, J, Altered Traits: Science reveals how meditation changes your mind, brain and body, (New York, 2017, Avery)

  • Kabat Zinn, Jon, Full Catastrophe Living, Revised Edition: How to cope with stress, pain and illness using mindfulness meditation (London, 2013, Piatkus)

  • Kabat Zinn, Jon, Wherever You Go, There You Are: Mindfulness Meditation for Everyday Life (London, 1994, Piatkus)

  • Orsillo, Susan. M and Roemer, Lizabeth, The Mindful Way through Anxiety: Break free from chronic worry and reclaim your life (New York, 2011, The Guildford Press).

  • Siegel, Daniel J, Mindsight: The New Science of Personal Transformation (New York, 2011, Bantam Books)

  • Wellings, Nigel, Why Can’t I Meditate: How to get your mindfulness practice on track (London, 2015, Piatkus)

  • Williams, Mar and Teasdale, John and Segal, Zindel and Kabat-Zinn, Jon, The Mindful Way through Depression: Freeing yourself from chronic unhappiness. (New York, 2007, The Guildford Press)

Audio tracks

For some meditations from the course book ‘Finding Peace in a Frantic World’ By Mark Williams and Danny Penman, click here.  (90 minute course)

You can download all meditations from the course book, free from SoundCloud by clicking here.

All the practices for the course: ‘Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy for Life (MBCT-L).

You can also access both short and long versions of meditations used on the course guided by mindfulness teacher, Michael Chaskalson, by clicking here.

Websites/YouTube

Jon Kabat Zinn; What is Mindfulness?  Follow this link to access a 5-minute YouTube clip of Jon Kabat Zinn, Professor of Medicine Emeritus and Creator of the Stress Reduction Clinic and the Center for Mindfulness in Medicine, Health Care, and Society at the University of Massachusetts Medical Center, describing mindfulness.  

Mark Williams; The Science of Mindfulness

A short video with Professor Mark Williams, from the Oxford Mindfulness Centre, describing some of the neuroscience of mindfulness.

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