T.I.M.E. stands for training individuals in mindfulness and excellence. The excellence is not based on gauging oneself against another, competing for the highest mark, or striving to climb the ladder of perceived success decreed by society. It is about being authentic and true to yourself, and having the courage to follow your own path, and being the best you can be.
The programme delivered over four weekly sessions is taught in a group format, with a minimum of eight participants up to a maximum of twelve. The sessions are designed to allow participants to reflect and explore initially how they have arrived at the situation they find themselves in, and to then see the beliefs, habits, and conditioning that keeps them stuck in this place.
time programme clients
Long-term Unemployed – Derwentside Employment Team
Long-term Unemployed with mental health issues. Derwentside Employment Team
Single Parents – Unemployed, Northumberland County Council
Unemployed 18-25 years – Northumberland County Council
Displaced Teenagers 16+ Northumberland County Council NHS Health and Well Being Apprenticeship Programme – County Durham NHS
Successful mindfulness project extended in schools
A pioneering project, which helps North East children develop essential life skills and coping strategies, has proved so successful it has been extended to a second year.
In an initiative believed to be a UK first, Consett-based social enterprise Living Mindfully was commissioned by Public Heath, County Durham Council to deliver The Living Mindfully in Schools Programme in secondary schools throughout the county.
And the scheme has proved so beneficial it is not only set to continue, but Living Mindfully hopes other counties will follow Durham’s lead and incorporate it into their school curricula.
Mindfulness, which is recommended by NICE (National Institute for Clinical Excellence), for depression, has also been shown to have a positive impact upon stress, anxiety, and chronic pain and can improve self-esteem.
Last year, Living Mindfully worked with teachers and pupils at 11 schools across County Durham and will work with a further nine in the coming year.
It will also hold five, specialist courses for young carers and children aged between 11 and 18 who may be vulnerable or at risk.
Consett Academy, County Durham, has already run mindfulness training for 12 students and two staff members, who now intend to become trainers for mindfulness, so they can implement their learning to support students at the school.
Assistant Principal, Mike Stokoe, said: “The students felt that the sessions offered something different and allowed them to see life from a new perspective. “They felt it supported them in controlling their stress levels and heightened focus in the key exam period. Mindfulness is now an approach that stakeholders at Consett Academy can choose to use to help them develop an optimum work/life balance and self-wellbeing.”
Living Mindfully’s Mindfulness in School project leader, Jill Cox, said: “Bringing mindfulness to the classroom allows the pupils to develop an awareness of their actions and reactions and the impact of these.
“Learning mindfulness at such an important developmental stage can benefit these children for the rest of their lives.”
For more information about Living Mindfully, its courses and referral requirements, call 01207 693909 or visit its website at www.livingmindfully.co.uk.
Consett Group Tackling Stress and Anxiety in Schools
A Consett group is helping children in school suffering from stress, low self-esteem and anxiety. The Living Mindfully In Schools Programme is operating in secondary schools across County Durham. Gary Heads is Managing Director of the group and told Metro Radio young people are in desperate need of support. “Times are changing so quickly, you have so many different things that can impact on well-being of children in school. The pressure of exams at an early age, we’re giving them that resilience to cope with the anxiety and panic attacks and stress.” The group want to roll out the course across schools all over the country as well as the rest of the North East.
Durham Police to offer staff mindfulness sessions to improve mental wellbeing
A NORTH-EAST police force has become one of the first in the country to offer training in innovative self-help techniques to help improve the mental wellbeing of officers and staff. With funding from the Department of Public Health, Durham Police has recently offered civilian staff and frontline officers the chance to take part in a five-week mindfulness pilot scheme. Mindfulness can help prevent a range of mental health problems, including anxiety, depression and stress.
It encourages people to become more self-aware and to live in the moment by spending less time anticipating stress or reliving bad experiences. As part of the pilot, staff could take part in a range of different activities, from meditation and one-to-one sessions with a mindfulness trainer, to using simple breathing techniques while at work. Led by Detective Sergeant Hannah Bell, the pilot also complemented the work the force has been doing with neuro-linguistic programming (NLP), which has seen more than 120 complete an NLP diploma. “At first I thought are people going to really want this, but people are really on board. They feel supported and involved,” said DS Bell, who recently won a British Association for Women in Policing award for her inspirational leadership. “Staff are more engaged and they are enjoying their roles more. People are also getting a better level of service. “We are doing this because we care about our staff and we care about the public and the people they serve.” Gary Heads, of Living Mindfully, which provides mindfulness therapists to organisations across the region, said the pilot scheme proved to be a success. “Although they had not experienced this intervention before the group were interactive and very committed to the course,” he said. “Our feedback shows that incorporating mindfulness training into the workplace can be beneficial in many ways not only from a wellbeing perspective but also in creating work/life balance, focus, attention and performance.” Sergeant Kay Howarth, who took part in the pilot, said: “I was initially sceptical about the mindfulness course. However I went with an open mind and it was life changing. “I am much calmer and much more self-aware, and use some of the techniques every day.” Her thoughts were echoed by Detective Chief Inspector Mick Callan, who said: “I wish I had received this when I joined the force in 1981. “Other organisations are missing a trick.”
Living Mindfully is pleased to announce that funding has been granted for the Living Mindfully 5-week programme to be delivered and researched at Sheffield Hallam University. The research ‘Improving Resilience and Reducing Compassion Fatigue in Pre-Regisration Students’, The Society & College of Radiographers, is expected to begin in October 2015.
SOMETHING really remarkable has been happening in County Durham in the last six years. Since 2009 growing numbers of patients who have complained to their family doctor about feeling over stressed have been referred to a little-known organisation called Living Mindfully. Based in Consett Business Park but offering its services at venues all over the region, the organisation provides fully trained ‘mindfulness’ therapists who teach stressed adults a mixture of techniques, including meditation, which is intended to reduce stress and equip people with ways to manage the stresses and strains of everyday life. The origins of mindfulness owes something to ancient Buddhist philosophy but is increasingly being taught as a non-religious, practical tool to help people cope. According to the Mental Health Foundation, which endorses mindfulness, more than 100 studies have now shown changes in brain waves activity during medication, with increased activity in the area of the brain association with positive emotion. Initially funded by the now defunct County Durham Primary Care Trust the scheme has proved so successful that it has been rolled out to neighbouring Darlington. Now funded out of the public health budgets of Durham County Council and Darlington Borough Council it has been taken up by more than 2,500 adults. More recently Living Mindfully has been commissioned by Durham County Council to take mindfulness into every secondary school in the county. All of this is no surprise to Gary Heads, the softly-spoken director of Living Mindfully CIC, which is orchestrating the mindfulness revolution in County Durham. “It has been hugely popular with patients and very successful in its results,” says Gary, who became convinced of the value of mindfulness when he used this approach to help long term unemployed people get back to work, after being commissioned by Job Centre Plus. We recently had a research paper published based on an evaluation of our work in County Durham over a four year period. It shows a significant improvement in people’s anxiety, stress, depression and even chronic pain.” An encouraging thing is that people are sustaining their improvements by practising the mindfulness techniques they have learned. “Mindfulness is a life skill which you can practice on an ongoing basis, ideally on a daily basis,” he adds. The scale of what is happening in County Durham came home to Gary after he gave evidence to the All-Party Parliamentary Committee on Mindfulness in Westminster recently.“I would say the scale of commissioning in County Durham is very unusual. I wouldn’t be surprised if we led the way in mindfulness although I can’t be 100 per cent sure.” While Gary has had a long-standing interest in Tibet and has read books by Tibetan spiritual leader, The Dalai Lama, he stresses that mindfulness has no religious context. “I have always had an interest in meditation and mindfulness is a lot to do with meditation, particularly in relation to helping people see habitual patterns of thought but there is no religious content whatsoever in mindfulness. It is a technique that can be taught.” Gary says he has been aware of the benefits of regular meditation for decades and says we now we have 40 years of research to back that up. He points to the way that mindfulness has taken off across the Atlantic as further evidence of its value. “In the United States, mindfulness is huge. In business you have organisations like Google who now have in-house mindfulness teachers and staff who have been practising mindfulness for quite a few years now.” With a background in coaching and a masters degree in mindfulness from Bangor University, Gary set up Living Mindfully as a social enterprise in 2009. “There was a lot of interest in the work I was doing for Job Centre Plus and then we got the contract from the NHS,” says Gary. With just two members of staff at the beginning Living Mindfully now has eight teachers, including five associate teachers. When GPs refer a potential client, who is typically suffering from anxiety, or depression or , very commonly, workplace stress, they are sent an application form to fill in. The teacher leading the course will go through the form, contact the client and explain exactly what they will be expected to do, so there are no surprises. Taught in different venues around County Durham and Darlington, mindfulness is typically delivered to a dozen people at a time in five weekly sessions, each lasting two-and-a-half hours. Sessions will teach meditation techniques, gentle stretching and mindful movement, group dialogue and discussions designed to promote greater mindfulness in everyday life. Clients will also be issued with a manual and CDs so they can continue the good work at home. Gary is excited about the next steps – moving into County Durham secondary schools. “It is a different programme, specifically designed for children. The aim is to train the teachers to train the children so it is embedded in each school. If you learn this in school it is a skill for life.”
You’ll need to wear something that’s not too tight, so that you can move and breathe comfortably. We practice breathing meditation, sitting, walking, mindful movement, and a body-scan, which is usually practised lying down. We will provide mats, cushions, and blankets for everyone. If you prefer to use your own equipment, that’s fine by us. At all times you’ll be offered the choice of whatever position is best for you (so if you feel uncomfortable lying down, for example, you may want to sit in a chair for the body-scan).
No! All our practices are designed to suit all levels of physical ability and mobility. The aim is to notice the body and the breath in stillness and in movement, rather than to move in any particular way, or achieve anything. You can, for example, do the mindful movement exercises sitting on a chair, and will be given guidance on how best to adapt any activities to your own needs.
Although we often use the breath as a focus of attention in meditation, we encourage noticing the breath “as it is” rather than trying to achieve any particular type of breathing. Sometimes, we suggest a different focus (maybe the sensations in the soles of the feet) so that you can shift your attention from the breath when you feel that would be best for you. We will talk about this when we have our telephone call before you start the course, and take your advice on what might be helpful for you..
People who have completed the course say that what they have learned has helped in various ways, sometimes finding new responses to symptoms of depression, anxiety, stress, physical illness and pain. There are also some reports of increased energy, self-esteem and confidence, as well as improvements in relationships with others. We make no promises, as it depends on lots of factors, but turning up, doing the practice and keeping an open mind can bring about some interesting developments!
People like you! Participants on our courses are drawn from all walks of life, adults who have identified a need to learn a more mindful approach. Many people are looking for new ways of responding to difficulties such as anxiety, pain and illness, particular stressors such as work, family or relationships, or maybe a wish to become a more mindful professional, manager or parent. What brings you here is less important than your commitment to practice and learn. Our shared “humanness” and the differing perspectives and experience in the group usually prove to be a significant source of support and learning.
Mindfulness practice originates from the Buddha’s teachings and is some 2,500 years old. Over the past thirty years or so, mindfulness has been brought into the West and applied widely to respond to the stresses and strains of modern life. Our courses are based upon ancient wisdom and modern science combined. There is no religious content to our courses.
Meditation is not necessarily about getting rid of thoughts. Thinking goes on all the time, sometimes it’s helpful (like when you are concentrating on writing a shopping list or a report) and sometimes it’s not (like when you’re trying to read a book and your mind keeps wandering off to worry). Our aim is to develop a different relationship to the “uninvited” thinking, to respond to it rather than react, and to avoid getting pulled into long trains of thought that affect our moods and behaviour. We’ll be teaching that as part of the course, and as wandering thoughts come in time and time again, we’ll get plenty of practice.
You will be asked to practice, using guidance on CDs, for 30 minutes every day for the duration of the course, and will need to commit to finding the time and space to do this, or defer until a more suitable time. The course without regular practice is not likely to be helpful in any great measure. We will also invite you to carry out some mindful “tasks” as part of your daily routine, although these won’t be extra to what you normally do in a day. For example, we might ask you to choose a routine activity, such as making a cup of tea, and do that mindfully (we’ll teach you how to apply mindfulness to activities in session one).
Each session is different, so it’s far better to plan to do the course when you can attend all the sessions, so that you can move through the materials with the rest of the group. We know that life isn’t always predictable, though, and if you have to miss a session through some emergency or illness, we’ll work around that as best we can.
Each group’s development is different, and can be affected by a new person joining, so we don’t invite participants to cross from one course to another. However, if you have had to drop out of a course before mid-way due to significant illness or bereavement, we will offer you a place on an alternative course in the future if there are places available.
You’ll be asked to say your name at the beginning of each session, and will have the chance to take part in discussions about the meditation we are practising together, and what we are learning from it. You will never be asked to tell your story, or made to feel that you have to share any personal information with the group. Indeed, we tend to step out of the story of our lives, and use the sessions to explore the here and now, and the potential for new ways of responding to life’s ups and downs.
We realise that coming to a group can be challenging, and will spend some time getting to know you on the phone so that we can offer some support to you when you arrive. We would not normally advise that you bring someone to support you, as this can change how you and the other members of the group experience the course. If two people from the same family apply, we would usually suggest that they join separate groups, for the same reasons.
We try to find rooms with facilities that will make everyone feel welcome and comfortable. All our daytime courses, and almost all the evening courses (one is upstairs) are held in fully accessible venues with accessible amenities. If you are unsure about whether the room will be accessible to your needs, please contact us to discuss this and we will try to assist in any way we can.
Like any other course of learning, there are times when it may be easier or more difficult to take it all in, depending on what is happening in your life, and what challenges you are facing!
Whilst mindfulness is a helpful response to many difficulties, the course can be challenging. Applicants who have had bereavements, major traumas or transitions in the past 12 months are usually advised to wait a little longer, as part of the course encourages “turning towards” difficulty, and this may interfere in the healthy processing of loss or grief.
Experience has shown that meditation practice is difficult to sustain for people who are currently dependent on substances, including alcohol, although it can be a helpful approach to support those who have experienced dependency in the past.
We would also recommend that anyone currently experiencing acute depression may be best to wait until this has settled or is being successfully managed with medication. Those experiencing chronic depression may benefit from attending between episodes.
Although mindfulness is being researched as a response to specific mental illnesses and conditions, our training and experience does not cover all of these, so the courses we offer are more general and may not always be suitable. Due to these limitations, we would not usually offer places to anyone currently experiencing dissociative disorders, psychosis, schizophrenia, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, severe self-harm, suicidal intent or actions.
Research tells us that the embodiment of mindfulness in a teacher or facilitator is a crucial component of teaching it effectively to others. It follows, then, that in order to incorporate it into professional practice, it is necessary first to experience and practice it for yourself. Some of our past participants have gone on to deliver mindfulness training or use it as a basis for therapeutic work, but have begun by attending an MBSR 8 week course (sometimes preceded by an Introduction to Mindfulness Day) and taking a full and active part as a participant. (7 day Teacher Development Retreats, providing a foundation of learning how to teach mindfulness based approaches, usually ask for a minimum of one eight week course as a participant and a year’s practice, as access criteria). We’d be happy to advise anyone considering this route, and can offer support, training and teaching practice to a small number of mindfulness practitioners.
For all our 8 week courses in Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction, you will need to complete and sign an application form and send this in, with a £50 deposit. Download info and booking form. We will then contact you by phone to discuss your application, and to talk through the course with you. If you live in County Durham and Darlington, Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction courses are available to you as an NHS service. Simply ask to be referred by your GP or designated health care professional (eg counsellor, OT), and we will contact you when we receive the referral. See Courses and Events page.
Once you have completed a course you will be offered the opportunity to attend monthly practice groups, and 2 All Day Practice Retreats per year, so that you can continue to practice together with others and be supported in developing mindfulness in your daily life and work. All of these events are optional. There is no charge for these practice groups and retreats, but you will be invited to make a donation, which we pass on to our chosen charities, Tibet Relief and Amnesty International. We also have a Facebook members’ page, where we share ideas, links and chats on mindfulness related topics.