Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy For Dummies®

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Table of Contents


About This Book

Foolish Assumptions

Icons Used in This Book

Beyond the Book

Where to Go from Here

Part I: Introducing Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy

Chapter 1: Improving Your Wellbeing with Mindfulness

Placing the Power in Your Hands: Discovering MBCT

Encountering the term MBCT

Drawing on Buddhist philosophy

Developing from CBT

Integrating mindfulness and CBT into MBCT

Recognising the Need for a Mindful Approach

Addressing the shortcomings of CBT

Going beyond traditional therapy

Enjoying the Benefits of MBCT

Seeing the evidence of success

Fearing past and future experiences

Choosing to live in the now

Perusing even more ways that MBCT can help you

Chapter 2: Deciding to Lead a Mindful Existence

Understanding Your Problems

Feeling that you can’t cope

Wanting to make a change

Breaking the cycle of mental anguish

Developing an Understanding of Yourself

Opening up to yourself

Studying your personal thought patterns

Preparing for the Challenges Ahead

Facing your fears

Jumping over hurdles

Recognising the importance of everyday practice

Looking Forward to Long-Term Balance

Living in the moment

Accepting reality

Reducing suffering

Becoming your own best friend

Chapter 3: Putting Mindfulness into Practice with the Eight-Week Course

Creating a Personal Practice that Works

Setting yourself goals

Making the practice part of your daily routine

Making time, not finding time

Drawing up a schedule

Keeping a practice diary

Dispelling the Myths

Feeling that you lack the necessary experience or knowledge

Assuming that mindfulness is all spiritual mumbo-jumbo

Distinguishing between meditation, mindfulness and awareness training

Believing that you can do it by yourself

Being Actively Mindful: Theory Rooted in Practice

Practising oriental disciplines

Adapting old techniques

Joining body and mind

Focusing on each individual task, and being present in the moment

Discovering the Advantages Awaiting You

Adding up the benefits

Tailoring the benefits to you

Living healthily

Slowing right down

Helping yourself and others

Introducing the Eight-Week Course

Going over the core skills

Casting a look over the weeks to come

Part II: Sailing Your Personal Ship – the Eight-Week MBCT Course

Chapter 4: Preparing for the Voyage – Week One: Practising Mindfulness and Stepping Out of Autopilot

Preparing Yourself and Your Surroundings

Creating your practice space

Making yourself comfortable

Uncluttering Your Mind

Letting go of worries and concerns

Entering the now

Exploring Your Physical Self Mindfully

Understanding the importance of taking your time

Engaging in the body scan practice

Becoming aware of your mind wandering

Slowing Down and Living Your Life Mindfully

Performing everyday activities mindfully

Eating with awareness: Raisin exercise

Making time for regular practice

Recording your reactions and responses

Reviewing Your Accomplishments This Week

Chapter 5: Plotting the Course – Week Two: Cultivating the Right Attitude

Getting Your Bearings on the Course

Going Deeper into Self-Awareness

Listening mindfully: A ten-minute sound meditation

Engaging in your mindful routine

Retaining your awareness

Dealing with Barriers to Practising Mindful Exercises

Suggesting changes to maintain motivation

Staying focused and committed

Coping with Setbacks, Pain and Emotions During Your Practice

Trusting your own judgement

Accepting difficult emotions

Knowing your physical limits

Observing the Wandering Mind

Regulating the breath: Mindful breathing exercise

Exploring automatic thoughts and the connected feelings

Taking note of thoughts throughout the day

Reviewing Your Accomplishments This Week

Chapter 6: Setting Sail – Week Three: Developing Physical Awareness

Getting Your Bearings on the Course

Applying Mindfulness to Your Body’s Senses

Seeing mindfully: Making a short mind-movie

Getting physically in touch with daily tasks

Finding the breathing space: An emergency meditation

Allowing awareness of sight, sound, breath and body

Engaging Your Body in Mindful Movement

Discovering movement exercises

Stretching yourself

Going for a stroll: Walking exercises

Observing Mindfulness in Daily Movement

Getting up in the morning

Preparing a mindful breakfast

Exercising mindfully throughout the day

Retiring for the night

Making a Note of Unpleasant Events

Reviewing Your Accomplishments This Week

Chapter 7: Weathering the Storm – Week Four: Dealing with Difficulties

Getting Your Bearings on the Course

Exploring and Explaining Stress

Grasping the nature of stress

Hearing the good news

Dealing with Unhelpful Thoughts

Being with negative thoughts

Creating more helpful thoughts

Addressing Your Anxiety Demons

Attending to an anchor of awareness – or two

Using mindfulness with unpleasant tasks

Coping with Troublesome Thoughts

Tracing your stressful thought patterns

Sitting with difficult thoughts

Strengthening your position by finding new perspectives

Reviewing Your Accomplishments This Week

Chapter 8: Navigating Troubled Waters – Week Five: Relinquishing Attachments

Getting Your Bearings on the Course

Allowing the Presence of Painful Thoughts, Emotions and Memories

Staying with discomforting thoughts

Developing the coping breathing space exercise

Tackling Troubling Past Experiences

Bringing painful experiences to mind

Seeing your past as the midnight movie

Pre-empting future events

Coping with strong emotions

Resisting the urge to fight or run away

Maintaining a gentle approach

Beginning a new relationship with your experiences

Using storytelling to understand suffering

Unchaining Yourself from Attachments

Noticing strong attachments to the past

Co-existing with aversion

Understanding the importance of acceptance

Letting go of the desire for quick fixes

Jettisoning pleasant attachments too

Reviewing Your Accomplishments This Week

Chapter 9: Going with the Current – Week Six: Accepting the True Nature of Thoughts

Getting Your Bearings on the Course

Demystifying Thoughts: They’re Less Peculiar Than You Think

Understanding how your thoughts affect your moods (and vice versa)

Distinguishing your thoughts from facts

Relating to your thoughts in a new way

Parting the Waves of Self-Doubt

Bringing awareness to your thoughts

Performing the pebble meditation to consider deeper thoughts

Writing to yourself about your thoughts

Approaching difficult thoughts in a longer meditation

Visualising problems and ­problematic people

Being Kind to Yourself

Treating yourself well with the kindness meditation

Remembering real moods occurring during real events

Avoiding self-criticism and -judgement

Releasing unhelpful emotional habits

Finding inner peace by sitting with your thoughts

Reviewing Your Accomplishments This Week

Chapter 10: Coming Into Port – Week Seven: Looking After Your Own Wellbeing

Getting Your Bearings on the Course

Taking Positive Steps to Look After Yourself

Taking a break: Fixing your focus mindfully

Maintaining and developing your practice for your benefit

Beginning your day with a treat

Rebalancing Your Daily Life

Identifying your daily drainers and possible rechargers

Alleviating feelings of anger

Stabilising your mood

Having Fun for Fun’s Sake

Treating yourself

Not overindulging

Dealing with Threats to Your Wellbeing

Remembering the good

Finding the right response

Linking your actions to your moods

Improving how you feel through what you do

Sitting with spacious awareness

Reviewing Your Accomplishments This Week

Chapter 11: Looking Beyond the Horizon to the Rest of Your Life – Week Eight: Living Mindfully

Getting Your Bearings on the Course

Embracing a Mindful Life in Good and Bad Times

Pledging to Practise

Motivating yourself

Creating action plans

Keeping a progress diary

Having a Mindful Day, Every Day

Waking up

Breaking your fast

Journeying mindfully

Taking regular breathing breaks

Performing mindful daily actions

Communicating mindfully

Going to sleep

Embracing your experiences

Exercising mind and body

Developing Mindfulness Attributes

Remembering non-judgement

Having patience

Using childlike curiosity: Beginner’s mind

Trusting yourself

Working on non-striving

Accepting things the way they are

Letting go

Accepting the importance of commitment, self-discipline and intention

Keeping it simple

Giving yourself a reason to keep practising

Reviewing Your Accomplishments This Week

Part III: Developing Different Treatment Practices

Chapter 12: Stopping the Cycle of Depression

Staring into a Black Hole: Understanding Depression

Becoming depressed: You’re not alone

Knowing the common symptoms of depression

Identifying the causes

Observing the effects that feed depression

Breaking Down Common Symptoms: Your Personal Narrative

Searching for your personal signature

Noticing how depression affects you

Lacking drive or energy

Feeling helpless

Understanding why some people self-harm

Overcoming Unhelpful Thoughts

‘Snapping out’ of it

Believing that you’re against the world

Deleting the Depression Loop

Encountering a depression loop

Making time, not finding time

Following up on your progress

Using MBCT to prevent depression relapse

Believing that things can and will improve

Chapter 13: Breaking Free from Addiction

Discovering the Realities of Addiction

Filling a void – why people get addicted

Looking at common factors of addiction

Wanting to Stop: The Process of Change

Entering the sea of change

Meeting with others

Accepting who you really are

Believing in yourself

Letting go of addiction, mindfully

Starting afresh, now

Staving Off Relapse

Losing Control: Understanding Alcohol Addiction

Considering the symptoms of alcohol addiction

Discovering the dangers

Challenging the misconceptions

Believing that the problem is out of your hands

Going cold turkey

Remembering Helpful Lessons

Chapter 14: Relieving the Strain of Anxiety

Coping with Pressure

Understanding how anxiety manifests itself

Differentiating between the types of anxiety

Tackling Your Fears with Targeted Interventions

Developing a coping plan

Changing unhelpful thoughts

Intervening mindfully

Creating practice points

Making Peace with Your Fears

Understanding that your instincts are natural

Knowing that you can rise above your instincts

Accepting Anxiety as Part of Life

Pre-empting anxious feelings

Changing what can be changed

Allowing what can’t be changed

Sleeping it off

Remembering Helpful Lessons from the Course

Chapter 15: Nurturing Hope While Living with Pain

Grinding to a Halt: When Pain Stops You from Living Life

Understanding the nature of pain

Looking at different types of pain

Studying the effects of pain on memory

Hurting mentally

Maintaining Perspective

Waking Up to Life: Accepting Pain

Accepting and then responding

Recognising what your body can still do

Creating a new relationship with pain

Using Regular Coping Skills

Engaging in breathing practices

Achieving wholeness

Chapter 16: Finding Purpose and Meaning When You’re Older

Thinking About the True Meaning of Purpose

Redefining your concept of purpose

Reconnecting to your own sense of purpose

Finding Positive Aspects of Life

Surrounding yourself with positive people

Widening your experience of life

Cultivating motivation and inspiration

Dismissing nothing, including everything

Finding joy

Accepting Limitations of All Kinds

Trying to improve and develop

Dismissing the notion of ‘failure’

Rediscovering your strengths

Connecting Fully with the Life You Have Now

Setting yourself new goals and challenges

Moving forward one step at a time

Living in the now, whatever your age

Moving Gently, but Mindfully

Pressing palms

Cutting wood

Opening the chest

Flexing the spine

Chapter 17: Bringing Harmony to Your Life

Accepting the Importance of Mindful Living

Homing in on Domestic Mindfulness

Waking with an open mind

Getting up on the right side of bed

Enjoying your morning routine

Starting with a positive attitude

Preparing yourself for the rigours of the day

Relaxing and enjoying yourself

Winding down

Employing Mindfulness at Work

Focusing on each individual task

Making sure not to overload yourself

Responding to pressure and criticism

Knowing when you’ve done enough and setting up boundaries

Making time for mindfulness practice

Enhancing Your Relationships

Communicating mindfully

Being mindful of your body language

Noticing when and why moods change

Having realistic expectations and accepting the notion of change

Assessing Your Core Values

Looking at what makes people human

Seeing how your values agree or conflict with those of other people

Accepting the imperfection of human beings

Making Mindfulness a Shared Experience

Considering ways to share mindfulness with other people

Living in a mindful society

Part IV: The Part of Tens

Chapter 18: Ten Ways to Expand Your Mindfulness Experience

Dropping by the Enter Mindfulness Website

Checking out the Be Mindful Website

Visiting the Mindfulnet Website

Studying Mindfulness Formally: Centre for Mindfulness Research and Practice

Benefiting from Research at the Oxford Mindfulness Centre

Taking a Mindful Breath with Breathworks

Attending a Mindfulness Course in Scotland

Watching Spring, Summer, Autumn, Winter . . . and Spring

Changing Lives: Doing Time, Doing Vipassana

Following One Man’s Mindful Recovery: I Am

Chapter 19: Checking Out Ten Inspirational People

Thich Nhat Hanh: Spreading Mindfulness and Peace

The Dalai Lama: ‘My Message Is Love’

Jon Kabat-Zinn: Mindfulness in Medicine

Ram Dass: Expressing Gratitude

Eckhart Tolle: Living Moment to Moment

Melissa Myozen Blacker: Teaching Mindfulness

Buddha Maitreya: Living the Path

Rick Hanson: Examining the Mindful Brain

Jenny Ronayne: Studying Autism

Kristin Neff: Focusing on Self-Compassion

Chapter 20: Surveying (Almost) Ten Inspirational Places to Visit

Plumbing the Heights of Mindfulness at Plum Village

Attending Quiet Days at the London Insight Meditation Society

Finding a Home from Home at Findhorn

Channelling Your Inner Bruce Lee at Shaolin Monastery

Exploring the Buddha’s Teachings at Gaia House

Retreating to the Countryside at Trigonos

Enjoying the Food (Mindfully!) at The Abbey

Getting the Best of Both Worlds: West-Östliche Weisheit, Benediktushof

Visiting The Well at Willen

About the Author

Cheat Sheet


When I was young I learned to sing and read very early on but, my mum tells me, I refused to learn how to read the time. Clocks and watches were my enemy. They spoilt my games and forced me to do things I wasn’t ready to do at that moment. I resisted until I was seven years old, and then the world got me!

Little children are naturally mindful. They don’t want to look at a clock to determine whether playtime is over or whether they’re hungry or not; they just play until they’re tired or until their stomach rumbles. They enjoy sweets without worrying whether the next portion is going to taste just as good as this one; they climb onto climbing frames and roundabouts in the park because doing so is exciting; they build sandcastles even though they’re going to be washed away by the sea. They don’t feel guilty about just being and not doing much. They live in the moment completely.

Unfortunately, most adults have lost this immediate experience of life. Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (or MBCT as you’ll see throughout this book) may be a way to return, at least temporarily, to these moments of joy, these moments of simply tasting life.

MBCT was developed to help people help themselves. It features in-depth training in meditation and moment-to-moment everyday awareness. More precisely, you can see mindfulness as bringing your awareness deliberately to the present moment and accepting what you find, as opposed to judging it or wanting to change it.

I can’t stress enough the importance of being able to just experience life, rather than rushing through it. When you look at your life, do you find yourself being calm and centred, joyful and relaxed? If so, congratulations! The majority of people find that they’ve less and less time for being, despite all the technological advances you can dream of. In fact these are often your bane rather than your saviour. Perhaps you too find yourself using your mobile or computer tablet while eating, travelling, crossing the road or even when having a conversation.

If you belong to this latter category of ‘human doings’ (rather than ‘human beings’), this book is for you. I demonstrate numerous ways of stepping out of autopilot and moving back into moments of simply being alive. My hope is that this book reminds you that being alive is special and that every moment counts and is precious, because it’s all part of your life experience.

About This Book

Everybody’s talking about MBCT: newspapers and magazines are writing about it; books are being published on it; YouTube is bursting with short videos explaining how to do it. Perhaps a well-meaning friend even gave you this book as a gift. The purpose of Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy For Dummies is to introduce you to the concept of MBCT, the whys and hows, and whether it may be a life skill that can benefit you. Being a For Dummies book, you can choose to pick up a couple of useful tools and meditations or a whole bag full of them, depending on what you choose to read and how much you feel you want to experiment with mindfulness.

This book is helpful for the beginner, who wants a taste of mindfulness and maybe to take things further step by step, as well as for the more experienced meditator, who may find a number of new insights and perspectives on the subject.

I want you to read this book in the way that helps you most. I’ve done my best to create something that gives you the insights and tools to help you cope better with the various upheavals that life may throw at you. I sincerely hope that you don’t need to read all the chapters. You may, however, gain deeper insight into MBCT and the human condition if you skim-read what the different chapters are about: go on, take a peep.

I include many anecdotes, stories, examples, poems, and so on, but place these in grey-tinted boxes called sidebars so you can choose to read or skip them. They enrich your experience (stories and poems have this great way of unfolding complicated facts so that you can feel the truth rather than just know it), but these sidebars aren’t essential to practising mindfulness so skip them if you want to.

Foolish Assumptions

In my line of work I meet many individuals who struggle with aspects of their lives, including clients and therapists alike. So I assume that every person can benefit to a larger or smaller degree from this book. I also assume that you’re genuinely interested in finding out what MBCT is and how it may help you.

I certainly don’t assume any existing knowledge about MBCT, mindfulness, cognitive behavioural therapy, meditation or Buddhism.

I lead you gently through the subject and hope that this book becomes a good companion to you over the next few months or years.

Icons Used in This Book

If this book is your first For Dummies one, you may not be familiar with the icons used throughout the book. Even if this is your umpteenth For Dummies experience, remembering what they stand for is still useful:

tip.eps This icon points out ideas to help you make your mindfulness voyage smoother.

remember.eps This icon features essential pieces of guidance that you may want to note down in your diary or read a few times until they sink in.

warning_bomb.eps Sometimes, you have to watch out for specific problems, and I provide advice on avoiding the pitfalls that other people have fallen into beside this icon.

trythis_cognitive.eps Beside this icon you find exercises, practices and meditations that lead you through something new and inspiring.

jargonalert.eps Here I demystify therapy language that you may not have come across before.

playthis_e.eps This book comes with a selection of guided MBCT meditations and exercises. This icon draws your attention to those meditations and exercises for which you can download accompanying audio tracks.

Beyond the Book

As you walk your journey of discovery into the world of MBCT, you can augment what you read here by checking out some of the access-anywhere extra goodies I’ve hosted for you online.

You can find the book's e-cheat sheet online, at The at-a-glance ideas and tips I offer in this cheat sheet can help you to make room for mindfulness in your life, and to bring mindful attitudes to everyday activities.

I’ve also recorded a selection of guided meditations and exercises to go along with some of those I’ve included in the book:

check.png Track One: Introduction

check.png Track Two: Making yourself comfortable, Chapter 4

check.png Track Three: The body scan practice, Chapter 4

check.png Track Four: Ten-minute sound meditation, Chapter 5

check.png Track Five: Mindful breathing exercise, Chapter 5

check.png Track Six: Allowing awareness of sound, breath and body meditation, Chapter 6

check.png Track Seven: Sitting with difficult thoughts meditation, Chapter 7

check.png Track Eight: Sitting with spacious awareness exercise, Chapter 10

check.png Track Nine: Mindful walking exercise, Chapter 12

You can access these audio tracks online, at

Additionally, you can also find bonus content online, at, which includes an extra Part of Tens chapter: 'Ten (Plus One) Tips for Developing Mindful Attitudes'.

Where to Go from Here

I’ve been leading MBCT courses for more than a decade, and over the years I’ve discovered plenty about what works and what doesn’t. I do my best to convey this knowledge to you, so that you can make practical use of it in your own time and at your leisure.

You can read this book in any order you like. I suggest, however, that you read Chapter 1 initially and then skim through the Table of Contents to pick out what seems most interesting to you. If you have a specific issue you want to tackle quickly, you can turn to the relevant chapter in Part III, such as Chapter 12 for depression or Chapter 16 for handling retirement, for example.

My guess is that when you understand how essential mindfulness is for surviving mentally and physically in this frenetic world, you may feel inspired to engage more deeply and start the eight-session voyage into mindfulness that forms the core of this book in Chapters 4 to 11. Whether you choose to take eight weeks or eight months, these sessions are the best way of getting your head round the topic and installing enough mindful ways of being into your brain and daily life.

If you get infected with the mindfulness bug, you may even set up a group with others and meditate together. Sitting in a circle can be particularly powerful and unifying; connecting with others and experiencing kindness. Be well!

Part I

Introducing Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy


pt_webextra_bw.TIF For Dummies can help you get started with lots of subjects. Visit to learn more and do more with For Dummies.

In this part…

check.png Grasp what purpose mindfulness-based cognitive therapy has and how it is used as a treatment tool, and discover how it can enable you to tackle and live with problems, struggles and challenges.

check.png Know the importance of experience and of being in the present moment as central aspects of mindfulness-based cognitive therapy.

check.png Understand yourself and the problems you face in your life today, and get motivated to make a real change for the better.

check.png Learn how to use mindfulness-based cognitive therapy to let go of pointless ruminative thinking and to help you focus on now.

check.png See the benefits of regular mindfulness-based cognitive therapy practice, and prepare yourself for and successfully personalise an eight-week voyage into mindfulness to suit you.