A charity dedicated to helping you improve your mental health and wellbeing.
To download Positive Mental Training go to downloads
British Journal of General Practice editorial here.
On our website you can find simple exercises to help you feel better straight away – follow our video on breathing on the right, (just 4 minutes of breathing calmly can have an immediate effect on how we feel) or listen to (or download for free) the audio tracks, in Relax Now - these are the first two tracks of the Positive Mental Training programme.
How does it work?
Depression is caused by a lack of good feelings (positive emotions). There are 2 ways to boost positive emotions, one is through the body and one is through a change of perspective. These are inextricably linked, in terms of emotions the mind and the body are one entity.
Depression is a condition of emotional distress, and emotions are experienced in the body. One of the differences between positive mental training and standard therapies is that we first focus on relaxing the mind through relaxing the body. Whilst many people will recognise that if the body is tense then we are wound up and may react inappropriately to situations and see only the negatives, however relaxation is seldom used in the treatment of mental distress. At the start of the programme we use jacobson relaxation, which encourages people to relax by first learning to recognise their tension, and ‘stomach breathing’ which is breathing with the diaphragm, and is demonstrated on the Scottish government website (see right hand column). By changing the information feeding back from the body to the brain, these techniques increase positive emotions.
The second strand to positive mental training is to change perspective, to ‘transform’ the way we see the world, to train ourselves to always see the positives, the potential in every situation but without becoming dangerously over-optimistic, to be able to still assess risks effectively. In depression it is difficult for people to feel good when experiencing or thinking about things they would normally (in a non-depressed state) consider happy events (family events, socialising), good feelings are blocked because they compare their current low state with the happy event and actually feel worse. Positive Mental Training changes your outlook on past and present difficult events, which boosts your good feelings which then reduces bad feelings, rather than only reducing bad feelings without increasing good (which many psychological programmes do). Bad feelings have a purpose, they try to protect us by keeping us safe, but this involves withdrawing from connections with people and life in general. We may feel bad because a situation is making us unconsciously remember a bad event (see Why do I feel so Tense and ‘How Positive Mental Training helps stress and depression’ ) and making our bodies tense and winding us up mentally. If we experience positive emotions this changes; our body and brains tell us we are safe and can engage with the world, we smile and help others and say and think positive things generally, we see opportunities and take advantage of them. Our research with McGill University has shown that Positive Mental Training can help us overcome the block to feeling good in depression, helping us find good feelings when thinking about or experiencing bad times. Positive emotions change the way our brains function, we solve problems easily, we are better at calculation and mental flexibility, our memories are better, ,we can appreciate other peoples points of view and our basic outlook changes from withdrawal (defensive) to approach (engagement), we become outgoing and sociable, because of this sociability others then respond to you positively – if you smile spontaneously and help others and listen to them, others will usually smile back and say positive things to you. This causes a positive feedback loop, an upward spiral of positive emotions in depressed people, pulling them out of the downward spiral, helping them to re-engage with the world and flourish. Research with Kings College in London suggests that positive mental training is clinically and cost effective in moderate and severe depression. The changes are not hard work, the audio tracks leads you gently into a different mindset where you no longer block good feelings, changes your thinking to outgoing/sociable without you needing to make an effort or even noticing apart from listening to the programme, so that problems become solutions, and difficulties become challenges, and your brain has all the resources it needs to sort them out.
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Positive mental training has been shown by research in 2004/5 to be safe and effective in depression. Since it was introduced into the NHS doctors have also found it effective in anxiety and panic; also other illnesses related to the effect stress has on our body, irritable bowel syndrome, fibromyalgia, chronic pain and others. See the research papers here.
Positive Mental Training is safe and easy to use and over 50,000 people have been given it by NHS staff.
Positive Mental Training has been validated by research as an occupational health programme to treat burnout, depression and stress at work. It is widely used by NHS staff who have undergone training for their own benefit.
For a useful summary of mental training in primary care go to the RCGP News feature feb 2011
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