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Take a Mindfulness Break Infographic

Posted on: March 31st, 2015 by admin No Comments

mindfulness break exercise

Hooked on Anti-Depressants

Posted on: November 18th, 2014 by admin No Comments

According to an article in the Express, there are over 50 million prescriptions written for anti-depressant drugs each year – enough for each adult and child in the UK. Our consumption of happy pills has increased five times since 1991. Is it working? Studies suggest we are not any happier.

The figures taken from Mind’s website show the Government’s Health and Social Care Information Centre increase of prescriptions from 22 million in 2000 to more than 53 million in 2013 and Mind’s Chief Executive Paul Farmer stated that, “We must remember that while antidepressants can be very effective for some, they are not the solution for everyone and they should never be used as a first-line treatment for mild depression.

“The World Health Organisation predicts that by 2020, depression will be the second leading cause of disability throughout the world. As we near this next landmark it’s important that GPs are prepared and have a full range of treatment options available for patients experiencing depression.”

Joanna Moncrieff, a leading psychiatrist and senior lecturer at University College London called the figures “shocking”. She added: “These figures suggest we are medicalising people’s distress and suffering. However, we do not have good evidence that these drugs make people better. Over the long term prescribing drugs so readily encourages people to feel they cannot sort problems out. We have numerous reports that some people have great difficulty coming off drugs and suffer serious and long-term damaging effects of withdrawal.”

“These figures suggest we are medicalising people’s distress and suffering.” Joanna Moncrieff, a leading psychiatrist and senior lecturer at University College London

Are we any happier? The BBC News’ website published an article discussing happiness on May 2, 2006.

According to the article, British people today aren’t as happy as those who lived in the 1950’s even though people are earning more. I guess it’s true that money can’t buy us happiness.


In the Happy Documentary it charts economic growth against our happiness is static. You can watch this clip here:

The Hedonic Treadmill means we all have the default level of happiness that we go back to after the elation of newness wears off – we want more than we had before and always will. Further the documentary charts what contributes to our happiness – breaking it down it’s 50% genetic disposition, 10% circumstantial and 40% is intention. That means you have a huge influence on how you respond to difficulties which determines how happy or unhappy you are.


When I saw the documentary I was surprised that so little is put to circumstance, but it makes sense. In mindfulness we learn about how to regulate our attention intentionally and respond skilfully to difficulty – mindfully. This means that when we are faced with a difficult situation we know we have choice in how we respond – we are empowered by choice. This choice point is important and could it be that with medication we are disempowered to learn to cope with difficulties as we expect the medication to take the edge off of emotions so we are not as affected – essentially numbing us so we can not feel it?

What do you think or feel about that? Drop your opinions below!


Practice Evenings

Posted on: November 5th, 2014 by admin No Comments

Practice evenings will begin in March 2015. The practice evening is open to those who have already familiar with mindfulness based meditation and are looking to enrich and sustain their practice. Please note this is not a teaching course, but the aim is to help guide participants by directive practice and reflection on all aspects of mindfulness, meditation, awareness, attitudes and intention.

The practice sessions take place the 1st Thursday evening of each month from 19:00 to 20:30 at Mappleborough Green Village Hall – click here for address and locations map. Advanced booking is required, options available are below. There may be some Thursday evenings that are not available due to the hall being booked for special events and voting dates please bear this in mind.

Drop-In Mindfulness
Drop-In Mindfulness

Drop-in Mindfulness Meditation Evenings
1st Thursday evening of the month from 19:00 to 20:30
Booking will be confirmed.

Price: £10.00

USD $16.78


Q & A Depression and Practising Mindfulness

Posted on: October 16th, 2014 by admin No Comments

Last night a participant asked about how to practice MBCT with depressive / lonely thoughts.

Q: Depression… Everyone experiences depressed mood at some point in their lives. A depressive episode can last for days, weeks or months. How can we be mindful when we can even seemingly get up out of bed?

A: Low mood states can cause a reverse motivation – it’s the “I’ll do it when I feel up to it,” which we may not feel like for some time and we may not think we will ever. Practicing mindfulness we need to have motivation that is the “I do this even if I don’t feel up for it.” The key is to understand that intention and motivation for practising is what calls us to take action, even when we don’t feel like it. We understand that practising mindfulness, we create an anchor in the present moment where we can create a space around problematic thinking patterns, more readily. The practice is the teacher.

Depression can be pervasive because we cannot see past the fog of it. It’s heavy and we feel weighed down by the enormity of our being. Winston Churchill described his depression as a “black dog” that followed him everywhere. The World Health Organization has this wonderful video that shows us about the black dog of depression is like:

Depression can be caused by life circumstances such as loss – losing a job, death of a loved one, end of a relationship. It can be a product of overwhelm – having been fighting too long to try to be happy, we make ourselves miserable. It can be a chemical imbalance within the brain – lack of serotonin and an influx of other stress related chemicals such as cortisol. It can be related to lifestyle – poor nutrition, lack of exercise, exasperated health problems. Perhaps it all of the former that are contributing to a cycle of depression. Whatever the catalyst for depression, it’s our relationship to it that matter most.

When dealing with low mood states in a depressive episode, it’s important to understand that rumination is often at the foundation of it. Rumination means to chew again and again on what has already been chewed.

rumination and mindfulness





The second definition above is “to engage in contemplation.” In low mood states, this contemplation and ruminates in a pessimistic pattern of thinking that discounts all positives in our life. We see and think about the problems we have experienced in the past and anticipate that this is the way it will always be. There is a sense of hopelessness to this. Our mind is full of the black dog… and we cannot see our way out of it. Every avenue of thought ends with things not changing and the fuels the hopelessness. We become more disconnected from life and this can fuel feelings of loneliness.

black dog mindfulness for depression

Image from WHO










When our mind if full of depression and this gives rise to feelings of hopelessness and loneliness, learning a new skill such as mindfulness can prove quite difficult. It is recommended that although you can cultivate an understanding of mindfulness practice, the actual practice is best saved until you are out of your depressive episode. Episodes have a lifespan – at some point you will begin to feel a bit better – and in that moment, when you decide that you are willing to do something different is the time to begin the practice. The reason is that with your current mindset, you may be experiencing reverse motivation or the actual practice difficult. The experience of difficulty creates a barrier to the practice as you evaluate the difficulty of practising as meaning something about your abilities or capabilities or it’s yet more evidence of perceived inadequacy or that it doesn’t work. This feeds into a negative loop that deepens the feelings of hopelessness.

This negative loop is a pattern matching process in the mind that occurs and reinforces the depressive cycle which can make a person more susceptible to depressive moods and refreshing those losses again. For example, you begin to feel sad, you may not even know what you are sad about, you may look for a reason why you are sad, perhaps you do have a reason to be sad – your mind will reawaken like and similar thoughts of sad times in your mind creating a more profound and persistent state of sad. You begin to ruminate on this state with thoughts such as, “Here we go again. When will it end this time? I really cannot stand any more of this. It’s all so hopeless.” The negative thought loop on a downward spiral and you’re feeling more and more depressed and lonely. The black dog is here again. How long will he stay?

People experiencing depression can benefit from practice if they are beginning to get to a point of hopefulness – even the smallest spark to be willing to do something to change their thoughts to something more resourceful. This change is, “I want to feel better.” This intention to feel better can bring you to the very action to find support for yourself – through an empathetic friend, therapist or counsellor – or learning a skill which gives you a sense of mastery such as mindfulness.

Mindfulness can help you at this point to change your relationship to your black dog. Just like in the video – you learn to manage it differently. You learn to settle the unsettled mind. Tame the intrusive thoughts through practice and take mindful action to be kind to yourself – eat well, exercise and engage more with life – all a part of a healthy and contented lifestyle. I tell participants that, “Compassion is the opposite of rumination.” It is the practice of clearly seeing your suffering and meeting it with kind action.

Is mindfulness the cure for depression? No. Not in and of itself. It is a powerful tool to help you to break out of rumination and negative thought patterns by changing your relationship to it. You will learn the early warning signs of depressive relapse and take mindful action in a kind and compassionate way towards yourself that can bring lasting change. Your black dog may still come for a visit occasionally the length between visits and the duration of each visit will be shortened with your mindful mindset. “You are what you practice.” If you practice being sad, you’ll get really good at it and it will seem natural state of mind for you. Practising being mindfulness means you are practising a whole different way of relating to life from a present moment perspective, with motivation based on value, intention, and acceptance.

mindfulness for depression

Image from WHO

Free Intro to Mindfulness 23/10/14 nr Redditch

Posted on: October 3rd, 2014 by admin No Comments

mindfulness redditchFree Introduction to Mindfulness Meditation near Redditch in October
Date: 23/10/14 from 19:00 to 20:30
Mappleborough Green Village Hall nr Redditch (see locations map for address & map to centre)

Come along and discover what mindfulness is and how you can use it to live more fully in the present moment which can help with managing stress, depression, anxiety and enhance your wellbeing. Enter your name and registration form will be sent to you and your booking confirmed.

An 8-week MBCT near Redditch course begins on 30/10/14 – you can book online here.

For those who intended but didn’t, or attended and want to take advantage of special offer you can do that here:

8-week MBCT - nr Redditch
8-week MBCT – nr Redditch

Special Offer Price
8-Week MBCT Course – Redditch (Mappleborough Green)
Each Thursday evening from 19:00 to 21:00
Oct 30; Nov 6, 13, 20, 27; Dec 4, 11, 18
Available Qty: 10

5 Common Errors Made in Mindfulness

Posted on: July 29th, 2014 by admin No Comments

In the course of my teaching Mindfulness over the last ten years, I have found a number of common errors when establishing errors mindfulnessmindfulness in our daily lives. The following describes the errors and how to correct them.

Error 1. Not Understanding the Necessity of Repetition 

Mastery of any skill requires repetition. If you are wanting to learn to live mindfully, you must first commit yourself to practicing mindfulness daily. Mindfulness is something you practice until it’s something you are. There are no short-cuts or quick fixes. It’s more than an intellectual understanding it’s experiential. The saying goes, “The practice is the teacher.”

In the same way you would master a physical skill, such as riding a bike or playing an instrument, you wouldn’t expect to become proficient in the skill by attending a seminar or reading a book about it. In fact, it has been said that the magic number for mastery of a new skill is set at 10,000 hours.

Consider this: How many hours have you spent in your lifetime repeating detrimental and irrational thoughts about yourself? This has been practiced by repetition to the point you probably believe those thoughts at an emotional level where belief turns into a knowing. Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy teaches you to step back from patterns of thought so you can look AT them from a point of non-identification rather than FROM them in a fused way.

Breaking old habits or patterns of thought will take you committing yourself to the practice both formally through meditation practice where you learn to watch your thinking and use the breath and the body as an anchor and in more informal settings when the mind is apt to wander such as brushing your teeth, taking a shower or whenever we find ourself in situations or circumstances where we are tempted to react based on habit or compulsion.

The more you practice and commit yourself to learning the skills by reading books, watching videos and dedicating yourself to mindfulness, all the better to master this practice and let it teach you to live in the present moment with the empowerment of choice.

Error 2. Expecting to Fix Yourself

Participants come to the course looking to “fix” something about themselves. Perhaps they have suffered from anxiety, depression or feel the strain of stress in their lives. They see themselves as a problem to solve and mindfulness becomes the antidote to cure their problem.

In mindfulness we learn that the present moment is the only moment that is real and  when you really begin to experience this truth you recognize that all the stories you’ve told yourself and the concept of who you think you are stems from having your mind in the former present moments of your personal history. This doesn’t mean that what happened to you is trivial or unimportant or that you are ‘nothing’ and that your concerns are not real. What it does mean is that you learn to see the concept of yourself as just that; an accumulation of experiences to which you have applied meaning, implication and consequence. You are the author and editor of your life. This takes skill and deep understanding that thoughts are not facts, just your verbal relationship with reality.

Consider this: By considering yourself a problem that needs to be fixed, you create a pattern of thought that keeps the problem in place. It’s the thoughts themselves that are the source of your concern, so by learning to change your relationship to your thinking – the concept of yourself changes. You recognize that you are not a problem to solve and there is nothing to fix. You can just BE who you are really which has little to do with your verbal relationship with the external world.

I recognize that this may cause you some confusion – let it be okay that it does. Whenever we challenge old, limiting patterns of thought, a feeling of confusion may happen – this is a good thing! This means that the old patterns can fall away and what comes forth is a clearer understanding of what it means to be who you really are.

Error 3: Overthinking 

I have worked with clients who are very insightful about their concern, but still cannot seemingly learn to defuse from patterns of thought, problem solve everything and analyze every feeling they have. Thinking is the cornerstone to how we relate to life, however, relying too much on our thinking actually becomes part of why we feel stuck. Our thoughts are compelling and they help us to make sense of things and through your mindfulness practice, you learn to change your relationship to thinking and let go of the need to make sense of everything and analyze it.

I often say to clients that, “Some things are not meant to be understood, they are just meant to be felt.” This may seem easy to understand but by the very need to understand it we begin to trap ourselves into the mental gymnastics of making sense of everything, especially our feelings.

Consider this: Thoughts are thoughts. They are images, pictures, dialogue all woven together that tells you a story of what happened to you before now, what is happening now and what may happen in the future. Our minds think thoughts, that’s it’s job and it does it very well, but it largely happens automatically without inquiry as to whether these thoughts are true or false, real or imagined… and the need to make sense of everything becomes necessity and contaminates your present moment awareness to the point you are living in your thoughts instead of the realness of the moment.

Through practice you create a different relationship to your thoughts and the need to think your way out of everything is diminished and replaced with the contentment which comes from getting out of your head and into the present moment with mindfulness.

Error 4: Lacking Self Compassion

We are hard on ourselves. We’ve learned to strive for certain ideal of who we want to be and we compare this to the who we were before in the past and the who we are now and the who we want to be in the future and this form of striving means we always make the present moment not good enough. By cultivating mindfulness and self awareness we can open ourselves up to a more gentle, kind and compassionate way of being – letting go of comparison, striving mentality.

Consider this: Compassion is the clear seeing of suffering and meeting the suffering with kindness. Instead of ruminating, intellectualizing, striving or rejecting the present moment as not being up to par, we embrace it, even if it’s hard and we learn to open ourselves to be gentle. Suffering is an indication that more kindness is needed instead of layering the problem, avoiding or distracting ourselves, we turn towards and acknowledge it fully with kindness towards ourselves and others. Science is learning how compassion is good for us. This is the a new pathway to our ever evolving minds.

Error 5: Withholding Acceptance

Acceptance in a foundational attitude in mindfulness and it underpins everything mindfulness is. Acceptance is in essences the non-judgemental part of the definition of mindfulness (mindfulness is non-judgemental present moment awareness). In order to be non-judgemental we cultivate the attitude of acceptance. It’s simple really, but not easy. Acceptance is less an intellectual understanding and more an heart education – it’s a feeling more than a thought. I always teach that mindfulness is about uniting the mind and the heart – our intellectual and emotional states of being into balance. When we do so we are able to bring acceptance to things which we want to change.

In actuality, nothing can change until it is accepted. This is because it cannot truly be seen as it is without it. We must be clear in what how things affect us in order to be fully present with it. This takes a radical honesty that acceptance bring us. Clients / participants do not fully understand acceptance and believe it means you resign or submit to tolerate things you don’t like. This is not true. If there was something you didn’t like, you’d acknowledge it fully – you’d see it for what it is, how it is, right now and accept the impact it has on you, even if it’s uncomfortable. The key is to do so, without using acceptance as a way to change it. Acceptance is non-conditional and means you fully accept it, even if it’s uncomfortable, painful and you acknowledge  that. This is not approval, it’s not say you are enjoying the painful experience, it means you accept the truth of it and see / feel it clearly.

Consider this: Acceptance is practiced and cultivated. It’s an education and unification of the emotional and intellectual. Acceptance is transformative because it’s about letting go of the struggle you are having with things. When you do so, you release  the energy that was captured by holding on to the struggle which frees it up to be used for creative and meaningful changes.


Free Introduction to Mindfulness Orlando 2015

Posted on: May 14th, 2014 by admin No Comments

Free Introduction to Mindfulness:

6:30pm to 9pm

Tuesday, 6th January 2015


The Center
946 N Mills Avenue
Orlando, FL 32803

This is a FREE introductory course for up to 60 people. Advanced booking is required as space is limited. There is no obligation and there we be no sales pitch! The purpose of the course is to bring secular Mindfulness-Based Interventions & Approaches to Central Florida. The course is open to everyone and is non-religious in content.

To read about the course, visit here.

To book your place on the free introduction please provide your details (REQUIRED):

Please enter your details and questions below:

Your Name (required)

Email (required)

Telephone (required)

If you’d like to leave a message or have other names of guests attending with you, enter here:

Choosing a Mindfulness Teacher

Posted on: May 9th, 2014 by admin 1 Comment

With Mindfulness entering mainstream popularity, it’s almost everyday you hear about in the news or see it in a story. Courses and training schools seem to be popping up everyday and I can foresee a surge in people jumping on the mindfulness bandwagon and profiteering from the demand.

There’s a lot of different types of mindfulness teachers out there, from different backgrounds and some even use the words “accreditation” or “licensed”  in promotion of their courses. In fact, it seems you can learn to be a mindfulness teacher in less than seven days, with no prerequisite or background in counselling or mental health for very little monetary investment, and without actually working with one client during your training and graduate with a “accredited” or “licensed” qualification based on displaying some knowledge of the subject matter. These fledgling graduates are let out into the world after a few days learning who will be providing “therapeutic” services to the public for depression, anxiety and trauma – which frankly, is alarming.

So how can you ensure you are learning from a teacher who has the experience, qualifications and necessary training or pick a mindfulness school? Here’s some advice:


There is no governing body in the field of mindfulness. Some people start teaching mindfulness after reading a book, whilst others spend up to 5 years of training before teaching mindfulness. When choosing a teacher or course provider, check they have undertaken a teaching certification that meets the requirements of the Good Practice Guidance for Teaching Mindfulness-Based Courses published by the UK Network of Mindfulness-Based Teacher Trainers. 

You may also be interested in becoming a Mindfulness Teacher – so what does “accredited” really mean? Truth is anyone can set up a training school and accredit their own courses – through themselves – with no external verifying professional body. When considering choosing a teacher training school, you will need to also check that the course meets the following Good Practice Guidelines for Trainers of Mindfulness-Based Teachers which states that a minimum standard for teacher training is to check that teacher trainer has had full teaching responsibility for at least nine mindfulness-based courses over a minimum of three years and the training pathway offered is a minimum of 12 months in duration.

Check your training school is on this list before applying.

UK Network of Mindfulness Based Teacher Trainers

You may also check that they are have association to a profession body, undertake supervision from a mindfulness teacher that does meet the requirements as stated above and are fully insured.


This is Your Brain on Mindfulness Meditation

Posted on: April 17th, 2014 by admin 2 Comments

Participating in an 8-week mindfulness meditation program appears to make measurable changes in brain regions associated with memory, sense of self, empathy and stress according to Sara Lazar, Ph.D., the study’s senior author in a press release.

A group of Harvard neuroscientists interested in mindfulness meditation have reported that brain structures change after only eight weeks of meditation practice.

“Although the practice of meditation is associated with a sense of peacefulness and physical relaxation,  practitioners have long claimed that meditation also provides cognitive and psychological benefits that persist throughout the day.”

For the study, neuroscientists enrolled 16 people in an eight-week mindfulness-based stress reduction course. The participants received audio recordings containing 45-minute guided mindfulness meditations  including the body scan, yoga, and sitting meditation and were instructed to practice daily at home. They were also taught to practice mindfulness informally by bringing their awareness, mindfully to routine activities that are mostly done mindlessly or automatically such as eating, walking, washing the dishes, taking a shower, and so on. On average, the meditation group participants spent an average of 27 minutes a day practicing some form of mindfulness.

Magnetic resonance images (MRI scans) of everyone’s brains were taken before and after they completed the meditation training, and a control group of people who didn’t do any mindfulness training also had their brains scanned. After completing the mindfulness course, all participants reported significant improvement in measures of mindfulness, such as “acting with awareness” and “non-judging.”

mindfulness meditation brain function

The MRI scans show startling evidence that mindfulness participants brains were affected with increased gray matter concentration within the left hippocampus, the posterior cingulate cortex, the temporo-parietal junction and the cerebellum these brain regions involved in learning and memory, emotion regulation, sense of self and perspective taking.


Britta Hölzel, the lead author on the paper says,

“It is fascinating to see the brain’s plasticity and that, by practicing meditation, we can play an active role in changing the brain and can increase our well-being and quality of life.”

Sarah Lazar also noted,

“This study demonstrates that changes in brain structure may underlie some of these reported improvements and that people are not just feeling better because they are spending time relaxing.”

Here’s Sarah Lazar TEDx talk discussing the findings in this video:

Mindfulness Courses in Orlando

Posted on: April 10th, 2014 by admin 1 Comment

mindfulness orlando

Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT/MBSR) Course in Orlando, Florida

Brenda Bentley, certified mindfulness teacher and therapist will be delivering the Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) in a 6-week structured format in Orlando, Florida beginning in January 2015.



About the course:

This course offers participants an opportunity to explore the 8-week Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy programme in a 6-week format. MBCT integrates MBSR but has added cognitive exercises to help participants to change their relationship to problematic thinking patterns and unwanted mood states.

Please note that this course does not equip participants to teach the MBCT programme, but will help to establish or deepen a personal meditation practice, which forms a necessary foundation for training to become an instructor (UK Network for Mindfulness-Based Teacher Trainers, Good Practice Guidelines).

The course follows the standard MBCT curriculum which was developed for treatment resistant depression out of Oxford University in the UK but this course has been modified for a general audience who would like to learn how to change their relationship to their thoughts and learn to manage their emotions in a mindful way.

MBCT is an established approach in the UK, but relatively new in the USA where MBSR was developed so this is a unique opportunity to discover and learn a deeper understanding of mindfulness-based interventions.

The course is delivered in a engaging format which includes theoretical  presentation and practical experience of the foundational guided meditations of MBCT. Although Mindfulness has a rich history in Buddhism, this course of MBCT is secular and is suitable for everyone. The course includes all materials including 50+ page handbook, guided meditation MP3s, presentation notes and other resources.

Who is this course for?

The course is open to anyone who is interested in learning MBCT for personal development or those with some familiarity with cognitive therapy for depression who would like to explore the possibility of integrating this approach in their practice. The core aspect of the course is to teach people to principles of mindfulness and how they can integrate both a formal and informal practices into their daily lives. To learn more about the curriculum click here. To learn more about the aims click here. Read what other participants have said about their experience click here.

About the teacher:

Brenda is a qualified Mindfulness Teacher and accredited therapist in private practice with a particular interest in working with people suffering from anxiety related concerns. Brenda benefits from years of experience in delivering the content to groups and has a engaging and friendly manner. Having managed her own anxiety disorder with mindfulness, she has a unique position within her understanding of these concerns. Read more about Brenda Bentley.

Free Introduction to Mindfulness:

January 7th – 2015 – 6:30pm to 9:00pm

More details and RSVP here.

Dates for the weekly course:

Each Wednesday 6:30pm to 9:00pm
January 7, 14, 21, 28  – 2015


Wednesday – January 7th – 6:30-9pm
– Introduction, Waking Up From Automatic Pilot & Relating Directly to Now

Wednesday – January 14th – 6:30-9pm
– Problem Solving Mindfully & Recognizing Aversion

Wednesday- January 21st – 6:30pm-9pm
– Exploring Acceptance & Thoughts Are Not Facts

Wednesday – January 28th – 6:30pm-9pm
– Looking After Yourself with Mindful Self Compassion & Living Mindfully

Upon completion all participants will receive a certificate of completion. The course includes comfort breaks &  light refreshments.


The Center
946 N Mills Avenue
Orlando, FL 32803

To register interest or for more information contact below:

Please enter your details and questions below:

Your Name (required)

Email (required)