Mindfulness teacher, Health Psychologist, Lecturer, Mother (and course director for the MSc Health Psych at Coventry)
- It’s available to everyone.
Plain and simple, anyone can develop a mindful life. Who is in the shower with you? Just think about it, how much shower time do you spend focusing on the refreshing feel of the water and the scent of the soap? Or are you thinking about your boss, neighbour, mother in-law?
- It’s not about getting rid of difficult thoughts and feelings.
People come to sessions hoping to be free from suffering, and yes mindfulness will eliminate suffering to a degree, but it’s not about changing our thoughts or suppressing our feelings.
- It’s about cultivating an ability to ‘be’ with difficult thoughts and feelings.
What does a small child do if you ignore them when they cry? They just get louder and likewise regarding difficult emotions, they just become stronger. Mindfulness enables us to allow difficult thoughts and feelings to pass through, to not become stuck and repetitive.
- It’s all about the practice.
You don’t develop muscles overnight, it takes work. Mindfulness and meditation abilities improve quickly with regular practice, and that only needs to be 10 minutes a day to begin with.
- It’s about getting in touch with sensations in the body.
During meditation, being curious about ‘unsound’ tensions and pains often helps them to subside. Giving some attention to something that wants to be felt can make all the difference.
- It’s not about analysing our thoughts.
Every day we get tied up in knots trying to understand and get to the bottom of our experiences and feelings. Just sitting with your breath, focusing on sensations in the body and paying attention to an emotion can do so much more for our mental and physical health than hours of analysis.
- It’s excellent in terms of increasing awareness.
With gentle regular practice an awareness develops. An awareness and ‘wisdom’ if you like, that gives us insight, so that we react less, miss less opportunities and understand a whole lot more.
- It’s not about clearing the mind during meditation.
Honestly it isn’t! What happens if you try not to think about anything? A whole rampage of thoughts flood in. It’s like training a puppy, each time the puppy wanders off you gently bring him back. So with mindfulness, when the mind wanders kindly invite it back to the breath, to the moment.
- It’s all about calming the chattering mind.
Bringing more focus to the present moment and practicing mindfulness meditation – following the breath, just generates a calmer mind. You are retraining your mind to a natural state, from chaos to calm.
- It’s simple and effective if taught with compassion.
Mindfulness isn’t complicated and one of the most important elements when being taught mindfulness is compassion. We can do anything mindfully but with compassion we do it better.
Follow Dr Elizabeth Sparkes on Twitter: www.twitter.com/lizzeduarte
‘Mindfulness’ seems to be everywhere at the moment, though ironically this doesn’t necessarily mean it is widely practised, even by those of us who’d like to embrace it.
Students on our MSc Health Psychology course have the opportunity to learn about the theory behind mindfulness-based interventions in healthcare, as well as practical techniques. They also have a chance to critically evaluate mindfulness-based interventions and explore the evidence for their efficacy.
Induction for new students on the Health Psychology masters will take place on Tuesday 22nd September 2015 in the Charles Ward Building.
|Time||Description||Content to be covered||Room|
|09:45 – 10:00||Generic Course Info||Arrival and Registration||CW217|
|10:00 – 10:15||Generic Course Info||Formal welcome by Jane Coad||CW217|
|10:15 – 10:30||Generic Course Info||An Introduction to the Student Rep System||CW217|
|10.30 – 11:15||Generic Course Info||Studying at Coventry University (Emma Sleath, MSc Forensic Psychology Course Director)||CW217|
|11:30 – 12:15||Generic Course Info||Studying at Postgraduate Level (Liz Sparkes, MSc Health Psychology Course Director)||CW217|
|12.15 – 12:45||Generic Course Info||Moodle Briefing (Valentina Mosconi, Learning Technician)||CW217|
NB: This extended time can also be used to collect student cards from the Student Centre
|2.00 – 2.30||Generic Course Info||Library Induction Session (Sally Patalong, Subject Librarian)||CW217|
|2.30 – 4:00||Course Specific Info||Introduction to the Health Psychology Masters
Liz Sparkes, MSc Health Psychology Course Director and Carol Percy, Senior lecturer in psychology
|4:00 – 4:30||Course Specific Info||Queries/Students to Collect Student Cards||CW215|
Now that they are back with us in Coventry, some of our MSc health psychology students have reported on their recent visit to Sri Lanka. As their pictures and personal reflections demonstrate, this was a unique opportunity to do some serious work, supported by our academic partners at the Colombo Institute of Research and Psychology, experience the distinctive culture of Sri Lanka, and enjoy some encounters with wildlife.
“Visiting Sri Lanka as part of the MSc Health Psychology course was an amazing experience. Six of us travelled to Colombo to take part in a 10 day experience consisting of academic visits as well as cultural trips. We were welcomed by the staff at Colombo Institute of Research and Psychology, who ensured we were looked after during our visit. We were involved in a number of academic sessions, discussing mental health issues with a panel of professionals, which provided insight into the Sri Lankan culture and its relevance to mental health in the country. We also partnered up and took undergraduate classes where we were each able to deliver a lecture.
The lecture I delivered was on Pain and Pain Management; I outlined the history of our understanding of pain, introduced some key theories and then went on to discuss pain management programmes. I also asked the students to get involved in a seminar activity whereby they got into groups and developed an intervention. I feel this was a key experience for me as I really enjoyed it and felt my confidence in presenting and delivering a lecture has increased significantly. The students were very welcoming.
An eye opening experience for me was a visit to the Colombo mental health hospital and also the private day care facility for individuals with psycho-social problems. Services are still developing and I gained an insight into the need for psychology to become more of a focus in Sri Lanka. Taking part in therapeutic sessions such as expression therapy was also very engaging as this is something I had not been involved in before. From an academic perspective, it was really positive to see that Sri Lanka’s focus on psychology is progressively increasing and to hear that concepts such as mindfulness are also developing is fantastic.
Tourist visits included a trip to a beautiful Elephant Orphanage where we got to ride and bathe the elephants. We also visited a Buddhist Temple, Gangaramaya, which allowed us to experience an important aspect of Sri Lankan culture. The country as a whole was amazing – the contrast between the traffic and run down areas and the well developed areas was really interesting to see. I would highly recommend this trip, as it was well worth it and one I will always look back on.” [Anjulie]
“Our trip to Sri Lanka was one I will never forget, not only was the trip educational and revealing but it was fun and inspiring. Giving my first lecture on addictions and rehabilitation was an exciting experience if slightly nerve racking. The students attending the lecture were engaging and questioning. The difference between the institution and our university were few, students were passionate about psychology and about promoting psychology within Sri Lanka. As well as these elements of the trip we enjoyed trips to the beautiful hill country of Kandy where we spent the day with elephants and visiting the famous Temple of the Tooth. A day by the beach, at the old Governor’s house rounded off the trip of a life time.” [Holly]
“My lecture was about stress management; both from an internal perspective (e.g. mindfulness) and an external perspective (e.g. outside agencies delivering stress inoculation training or CBT). I think for me this really pushed me out of my comfort zone and was something I was terrified of doing. But when I got up to talk, I really enjoyed it and I think the students liked and responded positively to my lecturing style. It was a really good opportunity to enhance my public speaking and it also taught me a lot about myself. The place that impacted me the most was the Mental Hospital. I saw big cultural differences in diagnosis and treatment, and saw just how cultural taboos can impact these factors. These cultural inequalities tie in with my specific research interests so this trip provided me with an invaluable insight into this area. I found that speaking to professionals at the University and the psychiatrist at the private day care centre to also be very interesting. Overall, the trip was fascinating and I’d highly recommend going. It was a great opportunity to see how life differs, and also a great international experience to put on my CV!” [Prabneet]
Our course director Liz Sparkes is a passionate teacher of mindfulness. Together with Suryacitta Malcolm Smith and Gaynor Quilter she established The Midlands Centre for Mindfulness and Compassion. This is a collaboration between Coventry University and Be Mindful Now – a Community Interest Company.
Health psychologists are particularly interested in mindfulness because of its effects on
- Emotional and psychological well-being
- Reduction of anxiety
- Ability to manage difficult situations
- Lowering blood pressure
- Quality of life
Students on the MSc Health Psychology at Coventry will have the opportunity to learn more about the theory of mindfulness, acquire some basic practical skills and consider the evidence base for mindfulness and related interventions.
In the meantime, for interested people (non-health psychologists included) there are a last few places left on the upcoming Mindfulness course at Coventry this August. Find out more at http://www.mindfulnesscic.co.uk/mindfulness-courses
Coventry is about to enjoy a three week festival celebrating the city’s diversity: Positive Images. The festival is in its 21st Anniversary year, and there are plenty of events of interest to health psychologists, including Coventry Healthy Walks, Be Active, Be Healthy; Dosti: The Big Lunch for older South Asian people; Healthy Minds, Mindfulness Meditation, Physical Activity classes, Stress Free Living, and my personal favourite: Disco Soup. This last is a public event where “everyone is invited to peel veg that would otherwise go to waste and cook a delicious soup to eat and share together. And all this whilst listening to good music!” The venue is Broadgate, Coventry on 13th June 2015 between 12 noon and 3pm.
For full details of all the events please visit the festival’s website at http://www.positiveimagesfestival.co.uk/2015/05/17/progamme-2015/
All our MSc students have the opportunity to participate in Coventry University’s Global Leaders Programme. For the 2014/15 academic year this includes a trip to Sri Lanka.
Students from the MSc Health Psychology will visit Sri Lanka for ten days, following a programme organised by our international partner Colombo Institute of Research and Psychology. They will learn about the healthcare system, health issues and the wider culture in Sri Lanka. Students will also engage with counselling initiatives and deliver invited lectures to CIRP students on health psychology topics. Our group will also support students with research going on in CIRP.
Further details of future opportunities for international trips will be provided during induction week. For further information about Coventry’s Global Leaders Programme click here.
Staff and students on our MSc Health Psychology combined learning with relaxation towards the end of their first term, as they enjoyed a couple of days together at Village Urban Spa. The break formed part of our Stress Health and Illness module and included learning and support sessions linked to upcoming coursework, as well as an opportunity to learn about mindfulness and meditation.
Student feedback was extremely positive:
“We all loved it! It was really nice to get away with people from the course and get to know everyone better”.
“The Spa break was a fun way of demonstrating how to ‘de-stress,’ as part of the Stress module. It was a great way of getting to know each other more and spend time with each other outside of uni!”
We hope to offer another spa day for the 2015/16 academic year (most likely in December), so look out for further details when you come to induction day.
All our MSc students are eligible to join Coventry University Global Leaders Programme. As well as many networking and personal/professional development activities, this may also involve trips overseas, organised, supported and subsidised by the university.
Two of our current students are active participants in Global Leaders. One has travelled to Hong Kong and the other will soon be visiting India. Further details of their adventures to follow.
Find out more about Global Leaders by clicking on the link above, or follow them on Facebook.
If you would like to suggest a site for students to visit, please do get in touch.