Mindfulness program expands to help women

Women who have experienced sexual, family or domestic violence are being encouraged to join a successful James Cook University program aimed at improving mental health through meditation.

To be run in conjunction with The Women’s Centre in Townsville, the Mindfulness Intervention for Navigating and Decreasing Stress—Women (MINDS-W) project aims to assess the effectiveness of using mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) to improve the mental health of women in North Queensland.

JCU Associate Professor of Psychology Wendy Li said she was able to expand the program thanks to a grant from Women’s Health Research, Translation and Impact Network, and was encouraged by positive feedback in treating military veterans using MBSR at The Oasis Centre and 1 Million Strong gym.

“Many survivors of violence often suffer from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and this program may be helpful in not only treating that condition, but also reducing anxiety and depression,” she said.

“The Women’s Centre has been very supportive as they would like to offer some further treatment options for women who are on their waiting list for services.”

MSBR focuses on using several different types of meditations aimed at increasing attention to feelings of well-being and reducing stress and worry.

Program participants undertake eight weekly 2.5 hour MBSR sessions, practice mindful meditation at home six days a week, and complete questionnaires in order to assess the effectiveness of the treatment.

Mindful meditations include eating meditations, body scan, attention-focused meditations, sitting meditations, walking meditations, yoga meditations and group sessions discussing recent stressful experiences.

“It’s a group intervention where we invite participants to share how they feel after a meditation and what kinds of body sensations and emotions they have experienced during a meditation,” Associate Prof Li said.

The Women’s Centre coordinator Cathy Crawford said she hoped the program would have a “large part to play” in treating the impact of trauma on women.

“The program will give women a space to recognise things that are triggers for them and provide some skills and knowledge around how to manage anxiety with knowledge and skill that can be used in their daily routine,” she said.

“We will be keen to continue our partnership with JCU and Associate Prof Li around this program as it moves forward.”

Associate Prof Li said she was hoping to recruit 30 participants split into three groups for the pilot study.

For more information about the Mindfulness Intervention for Navigating and Decreasing Stress—Women project, email [email protected], visit the JCU MINDS Facebook page or click here.

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