Personal Intensive Therapy in Retreat by Dr. Jeremy Alford

We live in peculiar times, where more is no longer enough and too little is a scary thought. Everyone seems to be in some kind of a race, driven to do more, to do bigger, bolder, stronger better than anyone in order to gain more or win against one another. Fostering a spirit of unique division as opposed to embracing our unique differences by coming together and fostering a spirit of unity as opposed to one of threat and fear should be a mantra. Instead of: ‘me against you’, it could become ‘me with you’. The notion of ‘separatism’ is an important psychological factor in the development and maintenance of mental il–health. Of course, it is not the only contributing factor. Other contributors to poor mental health will include genetics, nutrition, environment as well as other social aspects namely, culture, politics, economics and other more specific individual stressors such as personal family dynamic and history.

Today, millions of people are affected by some kind of mental illness all over the world. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), it is estimated that 300 million people are affected by depression alone, along with 60 million struggling from bipolar disorder; a condition characterized by frequent episodes of both mania and depressive symptoms. Other mental health conditions such as anxiety disorders, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), eating disorders, dementia and schizophrenia all seem to be on the rise. Only less than half of the population with a mental health illness actually gets treatment. The rest either 1) do not talk about it out of fear or shame of stigma, 2) do not know where or who to turn to, 3) do not have access to mental healthcare services. For those people that do have access to a mental healthcare service, will find help through specific mental health organizations, private clinics or hospitals. However, in recent years a more holistic approach to treating mental health has emerged, providing opportunities for people to get a more wholesome evidence-based treatment. An example of this are the residential treatment centers and rehabs that have mushroomed in various countries around the world. They provide recovery treatments in more comfortable home-like settings as opposed to traditional psychiatric wards. These seem to provide the type of environment conducive to healing and recovery, more so than in a typical hospital or office in a clinic.

As a Clinical Psychologist, with a specialization in clinical hypnotherapy and biofeedback therapy, I adopt an integrative Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) approach in my practice. CBT is the most widely studied therapy intervention that is evidence based and provides clear strategies to helping people improve their quality of life, manage as well as recover from ailments such as depression, various forms of anxiety, trauma, relationship issues, eating disorders, addictions as well as chronic pains, in a relatively short space of time. With almost twenty years of mental health experience, working ith people from around the world in traditional clinical settings, i.e. private clinics, hospital wards and residential treatment centres; I discovered ever since arriving in Bali that the natural environment of the island is in its core a very healing and therapeutic one. Many people from around the world travel to Bali for various forms of healing, detox and recovery mainly through alternative medicinal approaches such as yoga, meditation, tai chi, acupuncture, homeopathy, herbalism, energy work, breath work and the list goes on. Each of these approaches has something beneficial to offer and for many people, assist them in powerful transformational ways. Recovery after all is a process that is personal to each and there is not one but many ways of achieving it.

I have been collaborating with Daisy Retreat as well as running my own retreat program, exactly the same as Daisy Retreat, offering person centered integrative CBT programs to people struggling with various issues from burnout to anxiety, depression as well as couple issues, who have the opportunity to be accommodated at our beautiful host resort, where every person or couple has their own private room and space to carry out important introspective work in full anonymity and confidentiality. Since this is neither a clinic, nor a hospital, it provides a unique opportunity for each to be more at ease in therapeutic work. During an eight day or more intensive therapy program, we have noticed that every person and couple were more readily open and committed to the process which could result in them returning home with more clarity, understanding and more importantly, strategies that would allow them to pursue their recovery. Integrative CBT along with mindfulness practices such as meditation and yoga is a great combination to adopt. To find out more about our retreat package, click here.

In this day and age, we owe it to ourselves to take a step back, slow down, to reflect and be brave enough to challenge our mindset. For it is this that will ultimately free you from your burden.

Benefits of Meditation | Choices Retreats Bali by Dr. Jeremy Alford

Taking a moment to take a step back from your busy schedule to sit down without having anything other to do then to simply be with yourself for ten, fifteen, twenty, thirty or more minutes each day, with your eyes closed, is something many of us struggle with. The very idea of sitting alone, being with your thoughts is strangely frightening for some. The quest for knowing oneself can seem daunting and so many of us will prefer to stay far away from the process of introspection and self-exploration through avoidance by constantly keeping ourselves busy.

I often hear people say that they cannot meditate. That this is not for them or that they tried but it didn’t work, or that they cannot empty their mind from thoughts. Clearly, many seem to have some misconceived understanding of what meditation is. For one: meditation is not about emptying one’s mind of thoughts. It doesn’t work that way. The natural state of the mind is to have thoughts. Therefore you will always experience thoughts coming and going through your mind. It is the frequency and quality of thoughts that will vary and sometimes you might have experiences of being thought free, even though that is not the goal. Becoming aware of thoughts without judging them is what meditation is. 

 Everyone can meditate because it is something natural within each of us. It is something that you deliberately tap into and practice. It will not just happen to you and nothing negative can happen as a result of practising meditation. It cannot trigger anything emotional within oneself if it is not already there to begin with. The benefits of regular daily meditation are numerous and many studies have shown how it reduces stress, improves concentration, encourages a healthy lifestyle, increases happiness, slows ageing, increases self-awareness and has many physiological advantages for the heart, the immune system and our overall hormones responsible for our mood and quality of thoughts.

 The more one meditates the better quality of life one experiences. There are many ways of initiating oneself to meditate. Some will repeat a sound, or a word silently in their mind; others will count from to 1 to 6 on each inhale and exhale; others will listen to music or a melody in the background or focus their attention on specific sounds whether birds chirping, or the sound of their breath as a point of focus to help attain a deeper level where none of these techniques are even required. These are only various strategies to get you started, even guided meditations.

Whether you are struggling from various stresses, have reached burnout, or are experiencing anxieties or depression or some trauma, then meditation will be very helpful when combined with cognitive behavioural therapy. In fact, yoga is a wonderful practice to discover and is a great mind and body re-connector.

Source: Benefits of Meditation | Choices Retreats Bali by Dr. Jeremy Alford

Take A Deep Breath | Choices Retreats Bali by Dr. Jeremy Alford

Breathing in through your nose, deeply, while blowing your tummy out, like a balloon and then gently exhaling through your mouth, all the way to the end of the breath. There is a natural pause between each inhale and exhale. There is no need to rush. In fact, the more you take your time, the better the exercise and the more effective results you get. You can repeat the cycle for as many breaths as you find helpful, or at least enough times that you can notice a physical and mental sense of calm and ease. Alternatively, you could simple target repeating a series of ten breaths each time you engage in the exercise. And if needed, you could choose to repeat as many series of ten breath in a row depending on how comfortably regulated you would like to be. 

This basic exercise is called the abdominal breathing and it is such an effective coping tool. In fact, what makes it so effective is because it is a tool that is with you, in your pocket or in your bag wherever you are. Every time you find yourself getting caught up by negative emotions or have a thought that you don’t wish to have that crosses your mind, you can use this abdominal breath.

 You could do it sitting, lying down or even walking. The only rule is not to cross your arms and legs for the blood circulation to flow more loosely. If you really want this exercise to become an automatic response whenever needed, the best way to make that happen is through practice. Practice makes perfect as the saying goes. So one way to develop this new useful habit is by repeating the exercise in the morning as you wake up and in the evening before you go to bed, whether you are feeling good or not. And of course, to remember to apply it throughout the day whenever you notice some form of dis-ease kicking in.

 If you found this exercise beneficial do comment and share. 

You might also want to check out our upcoming retreats centred on Mindfulness. 

Source: Take A Deep Breath | Choices Retreats Bali by Dr. Jeremy Alford