Bipolar Management- Meditation and Mindfulness

Song of the Day: Teardrop by Newton Faulkner (after Placebo).

Just signed up for the Chopra Centre 21 Day Meditation Challenge (of doctor/guru Deepak Chopra fame).

I think meditation is just what I need to help me focus on some of the changes I want to make in my life at the moment: eating more healthily and practicing yoga regularly are two of the main goals.

Meditation was incorporated into a course I completed on the NHS called Bipolar Management: Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy. Mindfulness is basically about living in the now, experiencing every moment now. In theory if we do this, rather than runaway with our thoughts in our heads, then we are more aware of what is going on for us in the present: are we stressed about something, or judging ourselves harshly? Etc. This was very useful in terms of noticing these thought patterns and then being able to deal with them from a calm, rational point of view (where the cognitive therapy bit comes in).

The meditation exercises on the course were all to do with noticing your bodily sensations (oo-er!) and paying attention to your breathing. The purpose is to get in touch with yourself right at this moment in time. This leads on to noticing your thoughts and how you are talking to yourself; are you planning, judging, criticising, worrying, etc. Emphasis was on not judging our thoughts or ourselves (eg. “I shouldn’t be thinking like that”), but being neutral and just being aware. A great side-effect was that it was all extremely relaxing (we were all lying on mats on the floor) and a few snores could often be heard from around the room! I was amazed to realize just how much time my thoughts are way in the future, planning or worrying about something, or criticising myself for having eaten so much, the house being a mess, etc. Meditation puts you in this wonderful state of mindfulness where you can learn to be compassionate with your thoughts about yourself eg: “It’s fine that my house may be a little untidy, no one will mind. My health is more important than a tidy house.”

Meditation is a great tool for noticing the beginning of a Bipolar mood swing and then being able to put any adjustments in place, in order to minimise a full blown episode. For example, if depression is starting to creep in, you may notice more self-critical or guilty thoughts and judgements; this may be a signal to stop doing so much work for a few days and take some time out for yourself- get a massage, talk to some friends about what’s going on at the moment, make time to do some yoga or relaxation exercises. Hopefully this can prevent further downward spirals and pick you up again.

My main problem with the meditation exercises we were given is making the time to do them- I do have time, I just seem to find other things to do! (Why are we so bad at staying still doing nothing?!) So I thought that maybe the 21 Day Meditation Challenge would be perfect way to get me on the straight and narrow again. To take part you can register here:

Chopra Centre 21-Day Meditation Challenge (this link is for the new challenge beginning in 16th July 2012).

Would totally recommend Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy to anyone with Bipolar, Depression or Anxiety issues- the NHS do run courses in some areas.

There are also some good books available on this topic:

The Mindful Way Through Depression (including CD of meditations), by Mark Williams, John Teasdale, Zindel Segal and Jon Kabat-Zin.

One-Minute Mindfulness: How to Live in the Moment, by Simon Parke.

Wherever You Go, There You Are: Mindfulness Meditation for Everyday Life, by Jon Kabat-Zin.

Practising the Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle.

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3 thoughts on “Bipolar Management- Meditation and Mindfulness

  1. James Claims

    I generally agree with you that introspection is a great way to find out where my moods are going and to help calm the mind in order to prevent the cycling. So much so that I spend at least a few minutes each morning, afternoon, and night analyzing myself for my mood journal. It might be helpful in getting you back into the practice of meditating to start small and record the results as a way to track your moods. Although, it cannot be understated how much one can learn by also viewing one’s behavior and finding common threads that occur when one is depressed and manic. I often find that meditating on my behaviors is one of the best ways to determine whether I’m trending one way or another.

    Also, a good book that I’ve found helpful is the Anxiety and Phobia Workbook. Lots of helpful ideas in it and it covers a great deal of ground in terms of anxiety which can also present in bipolar.

    Reply
  2. rachelmiller1511 Post author

    It’s interesting how, even with the same diagnosis, people can notice different behaviours that are leading them to mania/depression- I think they call them pro-dromal symptoms. One of my first depression symptoms is worrying constantly about my weight (typical girl thing I know, but I usually only worry about it 50% of the time :-D) and I also stop cooking our evening meal- can’t be bothered/can’t get motivated etc. They’re the two things that tell me I’m slipping a bit.
    Hypomania wise, I tend to start feeling very in touch with my spirituality- I think this is the first one I notice.

    Reply
  3. Pingback: Thought Addiction: The Ego vs The True Self « My Bipolar Life

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