We are now aware of the need to exercise regularly and eat well to keep our bodies fit and healthy. There is nothing wrong about sharing with your friends that you are trying to lose weight or have started a new gym programme. But why is it still so difficult to share with others about feeling down, worried or exhausted? We often associate this with weakness because we take mental health for granted and probably because, from a young age, we are often asked not to cry and not to be angry. This brings us in a state of disconnection rather than be taught to positively deal with our emotions and find the resilience within. We expect our minds to be present and strong and to sustain whatever experience we go through. However the reality is far from that, and knowing ourselves and learning how to deal with life’s challenge is a key asset for life, for finding our happiness and balance.
We know the benefits of mindfulness on those issues and that’s where a technique like Sophrology can help to make a difference.
The Origins of Sophrology
Sophrology is the brainchild of Professor Alfonso Caycedo, a neuropsychiatrist who was interested in looking at the mind from a different perspective to improve his patients’ quality of life.
Back in 1960, when he created Sophrology, mental health patients had access to limited resources to improve their state and Caycedo, as a young doctor at the time, wondered why we had to shake consciousness with electroshock treatments or insulin coma therapy to get results. He realised how little we knew about the different states of consciousness we can be in and decided to research what happened in a healthy state of consciousness in hope to find how to treat psychiatric issues with a gentler approach.
He travelled for three years in Asia to observe and learn from renowned Yogis, Buddhist monks and even met the Dalai Lama. As a result of these experiences, Sophrology is a modern approach to create balance in consciousness, inspired from the universal principles and ancient traditions from the East cleverly mixed with Western science. His method rapidly grew beyond the medical world and became not only a tool for psychiatric patients but for everyone to improve their mental state, create more harmony in mind and body and to grow positivity and awareness.
The technique is simple and practical: it uses a mix of relaxation, visualisation, breathing exercises, gentle movement and meditation to achieve a sense of well-being and access new potentials.
Like mindfulness meditation, Sophrology’s approach aims to train our ability to be less judgemental and live in the present moment while also offering a dynamic approach to positively integrate consciousness, ie, to achieve a sense of balance and awareness in body and mind.
Sophrology and Mental Health
Sophrology is very popular in France, Switzerland, Spain and Belgium where many practise it to improve their mental health. It is common to have a Sophrologist helping students to relax and build their confidence before exams, to use it in the maternity unit to prepare women for birth or in the corporate world to prevent burn out, reduce sick days and, therefore, improve productivity. Sophrology is also used, for example, by athletes to help them through their training and their sporting competitions, as it can reduce tension and anxiety before major events.
Research found that mindfulness meditation can provide relief from depression and anxiety in adults (see for example Psychiatric Times). Mindfulness meditation works on self-regulating emotions, attention and self-awareness.