A friend studying mindfulness for her depression recommended Ruby Wax’s book Sane New World: Taming the Mind, and we also went to see RubyÂ do her show about it, at Bury St Edmunds. I still struggle to concentrate well enough to read properly so I’ve got the audiobook, which is read by the author.
Ruby set about understanding her own depression by studying psychotherapy and then neuroscience, undertaking a masters degree at Oxford University. She explains the workings of the brain and mind in understandable terms, and how, because our brains have not evolved to cope with the constant stimulation and pressure of modern life, we may develop mental health problems as a result.
It is a hopeful book though. Neuroplasticity – or the ability of the brain to form new neural pathways – means we can train ourselves to react differently to the negative commentary in our heads that arises from stress and general living, and in doing so, to feel much better. Ruby Wax is a great believer in using mindfulness as the way of retraining the mind. She outlines many scientific studies that indicate its effectiveness in reducing depression and other physical problems, and improving mental health and ability. She explains how to practice mindfulness and gives many simple exercises to try.
There is a lot of technical information in the book that I found difficult to concentrate on, but I will listen to it again until I feel I have really understood howÂ mindfulness works. In the meantime, I will try and develop a mindfulness habit.