Meditation and Mental Health

Breathe in, hold for four seconds… breathe out, hold for four seconds. This is an example of “square breathing”, one of the many anxiety reducing techniques taught at a recent workshop about coping with stress and anxiety.

Held at the Whitby Public Library on January 20th, the seminar was run by Bonnie Pedota, an author and counsellor who works with the Canadian Mental Health Association.

Though the audience was small, each member seemed thoroughly intrigued by the content, showing no hesitation to take part in demonstrative exercises.

The group was shown how to effectively meditate, and was educated on the benefits of cognitive behavioural therapy, referred to as CBT. This type of therapy revolves around the idea that changing a person’s negative thoughts into positive ones can affect their feelings in the same way, giving them an overall brighter outlook on life.

As the evening continued, Pedota encouraged members of the audience to share their own personal methods of beating anxiety.

“I have a Siberian husky… a very high energy dog, and you have to exercise them regularly or they’ll destroy your house,” audience member Andy Brown said with a laugh. “That’s something I look forward to.”

Pedota has first-hand experience with why it’s important to be knowledgeable about anxiety coping mechanisms. She experienced her first panic attack at age 24 while on a trip to Paris, an attack so severe that she “thought she was really going to die”. This lead her to discover that she suffers from panic disorder. After this discovery, she began educating herself in spiritual psychology, and eventually wrote her first book about her experiences with mental health issues.

“The spiritual thing was rather spontaneous, it just kind of happened in my journey,” Pedota said. “I was looking for answers, and I started reading books, and it just resonated with me.”

Now more than ten years later, Pedota is married with children, teaches various workshops on stress and anxiety coping mechanisms, and works as a spiritual psychotherapist.

With related events such as Bell’s annual “Let’s Talk” campaign, where Bell customers recently helped raise over $6.1 million for mental health initiatives, these types of workshops are becoming even more prevalent in local communities.