Tuesday, May 31, 2011

What is Mindfulness and Why is it Relevant to Depression and Anxiety

Think of your life is like a movie, and there is a "duality" in you.  That is, sometimes you are the Actor/Actress in this movie, but at times, the Director of the movie as well.  Now if I ask you the question that, "who do you identify with the most?"  Are you the Actor/Actress in the movie "of your life" or are you the Director most of the time?

If I ask you, "who are you?", and if your answer is, "Iam Karen and I have 2 young children and so and so", then you are identified with the Actress ie "your mind made self" and NOT the Director.  This is because, as a Director, you are not Karen who have 2 children ie you are not playing the role of the person in the movie as you are the Director.  Another notion for the "Director" can be, your "Pure Consciousness", your "Awareness", or some spiritual person may refer to this as your "Spirit" or your "Inner or Higher Self".  My hypothesis for a more scientific model would be your left side of the brain ie your logical side.  Whatever you call it is probably a bit academic.  What is important however, is that you are now aware that if you are so identified with your "mind made self" ie the Actor or the Actress in your movie, then you are not really in control.  The identity that is in control of your movie is the Director.  This is one concept for mindfulness ie to be identified with the Director of your life or your Higher Self, and NOT your mind made self, the Actor or Actress.

If you find the above explanation difficult to comprehend, then this is another way of looking at it.

Your mind is like a computer, and your identity and life events are stored in the hard drive of this computer.  How you behave and function is dictated by your operating system, which is in essence, your values and beliefs that have been determined by your personality, genetics, and your past.  Your computer runs on autopilot most of the time as it "reacts" to its environment.  Your reactions is determined by your values, beliefs and past conditionings.  For you to take control of your life again or reprogram some of your unhelpful reactions, or in psychology, we call this your maladaptive behaviours, you need to step back as the computer programmer.  In this analogy, to be mindful is to step back as the computer programmer and be able to identify what programs or reactions are not working well anymore, and then be able to reprogram it.  One can say that if people are not mindful enough, they are still operating on Windows 1.1 and finding that they are not functioning very well and still do not know why.  To clarify further, your operating system is your set of values that has been influenced by your past including your childhood past, and what was relevant or helpful then, may not be helpful now.  Hence, one needs to update his or her Windows/Operating Systems on a regular basis for it to function better in the current environment.  This is what Mindfulness, Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, and Acceptance and Commitment Therapy will help you to achieve.

We will expand these concepts further as the Blog evolves.

Dr Vin
Family Doctor

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