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Mindfulness - Mark Williams

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Authors: Mark Williams,Dr. Danny Penman / Format: Paperback / Date of publication: 05 May 2011 / Genre: Lifestyle / Subcategory: Popular Psychology / Publisher: Little, Brown Book Group / Title: Mindfulness / ISBN 13: 9780749953089 / ISBN 10: 0749953089 / Alternative title: Mindfulness: A Practical Guide to Finding Peace in a Frantic World / Alternative ISBN 10: 074995308X

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      18.12.2011 09:42
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      An easy reading book to assist sufferers of depression

      This is the most difficult review I will ever write and my intention for doing so is not to gain sympathy or pity, but simply to try and help others who are also suffering. I pondered for weeks about posting this online and publicising my illness, particularly as this is so very personal to me, but I want other sufferers to know that they are not alone.

      ~~ A little background information ~~

      Whilst I would not normally state why I made a book purchase it is relevant in this case, as obviously this is not the type of book that I would have simply selected from the shelf for a little bedtime reading. On 30 June of this year I awoke to what I believed would be a normal day and whilst I had being feeling stressed for several months prior I did not feel that anything was any different that morning. However, whilst attempting to get ready for work I found myself breaking down and sobbing my heart out.

      My job is considerably hectic where I supervise a large team of dispersed staff and I have a high level of responsibility. Whilst I always consider myself to be methodical and well organised I had found that work was getting on top of me and I was struggling to prioritise and focus on specific tasks. My husband summed up my feelings in one sentence, which was "everyone wants a piece of you" and I couldn't agree more as that is exactly how I had been feeling for a long time.

      To cut a long story short, a visit to my GP gave the diagnosis that I suspected and I saw that dreaded word "Depression" hand written on my Fit Note. My immediate thoughts were that I was not normal, that I was another statistic and me of all people couldn't be suffering with depression. I was a strong confident person, chaired meetings with large groups of people, I was my husband's carer, so I couldn't be ill. However, I was and whilst I do not wish to harp on about my illness and what happened next, I sought the treatment and support that was available to me.

      I hated being out of control of my feelings and worried how people would react as society have placed a stigma on that word "depression" and as a consequence, I kept my illness from many people. Over time I learned to accept that this was me and that I had depression and instead of feeling negative I needed to be positive and focus on the good times in my life as opposed to those when I was feeling low. A book that was recommended to me by a professional was Mindfulness: A Practical Guide to Finding Peace in a Frantic World. I would point out that this is not an academic book and as a consequence, does not offer difficult reading. It is a book that needs to be read from cover to cover and I now tend to dip in and out to refresh my mind about specific areas. The aim of the book is to assist sufferers of depression to learn to manage their condition as opposed to the illness managing them.

      ~~ How did the book help me? ~~

      The book was written by a Professor of Clinical Psychology, namely Mark Williams and Dr Danny Penny, which gave me faith that I was not going to be reading nonsense and that they knew what they were taking about. The book is based on fact and extensive research as opposed to personal opinion and I have to admit that I was initially apprehensive when opening the cover as I did not know what to expect and part of me was a little scared. The pages are of a good quality with the text being presented in an easy to read font and after digesting only a few lines I felt myself relating to the words on the pages.

      I am finding the first chapter extremely helpful as it's as if the book was written about me and I'm sure that any other sufferer of depression would feel exactly the same. Worrying is one of the biggest problems with sufferers of the illness, particularly at bed time when thoughts often fill my head when I need to sleep. I can totally relate to this as the following day I would be exhausted and as a result, feel ill with that horrible lack of sleep headache.

      The chapters within the book, which are broken down with numerous tasks and exercises based on breathing and changing the ways of thinking are accompanied by a CD, which offers various simple practices that are easily introduced into everyday life and are based on Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy. I have to admit that I was very dubious about playing the CD as I envisaged a voice to suddenly give out dozens of hmmmms, which would drive me absolutely insane, but this is not the case.

      Simple breathing exercises are explained and are easy to follow and these focus on remaining calm and relaxing the mind whilst focusing on something more positive. Concentration is placed upon each breath and allowing negative thoughts to be released. I was extremely dubious about this technique and initially felt it a sheer waste of time, but over the weeks I found that this helped me to release a fair amount of stress. The book advises that clinical trials have evidenced that 50% of sufferers have benefited from the therapy, which is as powerful as anti-depressants and obviously without any nasty side effects.

      The worst problem with suffers of depression is the downward spiral of negative thoughts, which subsequently cause anxiety, stress and even worse. Throughout the book are various meditation techniques, which take only a few minutes, but are easily incorporated into my busy day and it is during these quiet times I am able to restore some peace and harmony into my life.

      The book is not claiming to take my depression away and I am fully aware that I will suffer from this awful illness for the rest of my life. However, it has and still is enabling me to learn coping techniques although a little patience is required. I would point out at this stage that whilst I have received the diagnosis of depression I am still me. I am normal and I am still the same kind hearted and loving person that I was prior to my breakdown. Whilst this is something that has never happened to me, there are many people in society that do not understand the illness and consequently mock those who suffer. I am still me.

      A huge problem with my depression, which probably relates to the majority of those who suffer from the illness is self-judgement where I would often critically analyse myself and ask myself why. I learned from reading the book the reasons why the mind automatically causes us to do this where we take ourselves back to a previous emotional state and the body's natural reaction is to try and ascertain how we dealt with the situation. As a result, negative thoughts creep in and the downward spiral begins all over again.

      Depression can become a vicious circle if I allow it to take over my life and the book has taught me how to overcome this, but I have to admit that this does not always work. However, that is one of the problems with depression, as there will always be good days and bad, but now the good days far outweigh the bad ones. There is a section on breaking routine and stepping outside of our comfort zones whereby we add a little randomness to our lives. For example, to sit in a different chair whether it be at home or at a restaurant and in doing so we are giving our minds and bodies a different perception of sights, sounds and smells. I found this quite difficult, particularly as I would describe myself as a creature of habit, which would probably be the case for so many people.

      I do not intend discussing the entire book, which consists of twelve chapters and 276 pages together with the accompany CD, which contains eight different meditations with focus being placed on different parts of the body. I am focusing on just a few chapters to give you an idea of what to expect and as someone who is a chocoholic I have to tell you about the chocolate meditation where I was required to choose a bar that I had never eaten before or not for some time. This was a really good exercise as it made me focus on the smells and taste although I found myself repeating this one several times! Throughout the book are various meditation techniques, which are contained within a darker block of text, so they are easily identified. The book focuses on assisting the reader over an eight week period after which the reader should be able to manage their depression and the book has taught me not to take things for granted, to release negative energies and how to rebalance my life.

      I cannot admit to my life being all hunky dory because it is not and I have suffered a number of relapses, but I feel I am able to put things into perspective with what I have learned from reading the book and to move forward. Living with depression is never going to be easy, but I will not allow it to rule my life as we are only on this earth once and I intend to enjoy the time that I have here. One of the most beneficial things I have learned from the book, which enables me to relax is the "thought stream", where I need to sit and look at the make believe stream and imagine my thoughts as leaves as they gently float away. This is extremely therapeutic, particularly as I ensure I have a quiet room and a beautiful smelling candle burning. Many people wrongly believe that depression is a state of mind, but this is not the case. However, the mind can help manage the condition by learning different techniques to rid the body of negative energy and to replace it with positive energy and thoughts.

      ~~ Would I recommend this book? ~~

      Most definitely, as it has helped me so much and will continue to do so. I accepted all of the professional support that was offered to me and used this as an aid to help me through that long journey of depression. I cried the first time I read the book as I could relate to so much of it and it helped me realise that I was not alone. Consequently, it receives 5 stars from me.

      ~~ Price and availability ~~

      I purchased my copy from Amazon, which at the time of writing is £6.76 for a brand new paperback, from £13.57 for a used hard covered copy and £5.99 for Kindle.

      The book was written by Mark Williams and Danny Penman
      ISBN 978-0-7499-5308-9
      Published by Piatkus in 2011

      I apologise for this being such a long review, but it was extremely difficult to condense it into anything less. I hope that others in the same situation as me will find support from this book and use it to aid them along the road to recovery.

      Thank you for bearing with me.

      This review will appear on both Dooyoo and Ciao under the same user name.

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