Join Us

8 Ways to Manage Anxiety and Depression with MBCT

articles May 06, 2023
MBCT, anxiety, depression, management

Learn eight actionable steps from Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT), designed to support mental health challenges, including anxiety and depression. 

Anxiety and depression are two of the most common mental health challenges that people experience today. The pandemic has only intensified this, and people are struggling more now than ever. While there are several traditional treatment options available, many people are turning to mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT) to help them cope.

What is Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy?

Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) is a psychotherapy program designed to help individuals manage their mental health challenges, including anxiety and depression. It combines the principles of cognitive therapy with the practice of mindfulness meditation to help individuals relate differently to their negative thought patterns and reduce their symptoms. MBCT is typically delivered over an eight-week period and consists of weekly group sessions that last two to three hours each.

Why Mindfulness is a Great Tool for Managing Anxiety and Depression?

Mindfulness is a powerful tool for managing anxiety and depression because it helps individuals become more aware of their thoughts, feelings, and bodily sensations. By becoming more aware, individuals can recognize adverse thought patterns and learn to respond to them in a more constructive way. This helps individuals break the cycle of negative thinking that often leads to difficult mood states.

8 Ways to Manage Anxiety and Depression

Step 1: Recognize Automatic Pilot. This refers to the tendency we have to operate on autopilot, going through our day-to-day lives without much awareness of what we're doing. By recognizing this automatic and more reactive way of living, individuals can start to become more aware of their thoughts, feelings, and behaviors that inevitably arise throughout the day.

  • Practice: Practice mindfulness meditation for a few minutes every day. Start by focusing on your breath and becoming aware of any thoughts or distractions that arise. When you notice your mind wandering, gently bring your attention back to your breath.

Step 2: Stepping Out of Autopilot. This involves learning to pay attention to the present moment, without judgment, with curiosity, openness and acceptance. With this more spacious awareness, individuals can begin to see what’s happening more clearly and respond more skillfully. 

  • Practice: Take a mindful walk or do a simple task, like washing dishes or brushing your teeth, while paying close attention to each sensation and movement. Notice when attention is pulled to thoughts and then gently guide the attention back to the activity.

Step 3: Gathering and Focusing Attention. This involves learning to direct your attention towards a particular object, such as your breath or a sound. This can train your mind to become more aware of the present moment and less distracted by adverse thoughts and feelings.

  • Practice: Practice mindfulness of the breath. Sit quietly, focus on your breath, and count each inhale and exhale. If your mind wanders, start over at one. Try this mindfulness of breath guided audio practice or this body scan guided audio practice which is foundational to the MBCT and other mindfulness-based programs.

Step 4: Recognizing Thoughts. This involves becoming more aware of your thoughts and learning to recognize when they are negative or unhelpful. By doing this, you can begin to challenge these thoughts and respond to them in a more constructive way.

  • Practice: Keep a thought diary about any pleasant or unpleasant events that came up throughout the day and write down the thoughts, body sensations and emotions that came up for you; finish off each diary entry with a reflection on the thoughts that are coming up for you now at the end of the day. This activity can provide you space from your thoughts, to gain perspective or offer a different way to relate to them.

Step 5: Allowing and Letting Be. This involves learning to accept your thoughts and feelings, without judgment or criticism. This will allow you to respond to them in a more compassionate and constructive way.

  • Practice: Practice self-compassion by imagining that you're talking to a friend who is going through a similar situation. What would you say to them to offer comfort and support?

Step 6: Thoughts Are Not Facts. Recognize that our thoughts and feelings are not always accurate or helpful, and that they can change over time. Over time, we can learn to let go of challenging thoughts and emotions.

  • Practice: Practice cognitive defusion by noticing thoughts arising and passing. Notice when you get caught up in thought and release and return back to noticing. If imagery is helpful you can imagine your thoughts as clouds passing by in the sky. 

Step 7: Responding with Wise Action. This involves learning to respond to difficult situations in a more constructive way, rather than reacting impulsively or negatively. This will help individuals learn to break the cycle of negative thought patterns and behaviors that contribute to anxiety and depression.

  • Practice: Practice taking a few deep breaths, gaining some perspective, or taking a mindful walk before responding to a difficult situation. This can help you respond in a more thoughtful and constructive way.

Step 8: Living Mindfully. This involves incorporating mindfulness into daily life, so that it becomes a natural and common part of everyday living. 

  • Practice: Practice mindful living by paying attention to the present moment, without judgment, throughout the day. Try to focus on one task at a time, and be fully present in each moment. At any moment you can ask yourself, “what is my intention right now? Where is my attention? And, how am I relating to this moment? Can I let it go, let it be or does it really need changing?”

If you’re interested in learning more about MBCT, check out the Mindfulness Tools for Anxiety & Depression online course provided by the Mindful Society Global Institute.

Health professionals and those seeking a more mindful life can use these insights to improve their mental health and overall well-being. While mindfulness may not be effective for everyone, for many, it can be a transformative experience.

 Michael Apollo MHSc RP is the founder of the Mindful Society Global Institute. Prior to founding MSGI in 2014, he was the Program Director of Mindfulness at the University of Toronto. He is an educator, licensed mental health clinician and certified facilitator in Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction and Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy.


Hofmann, S. G., et al. (2010). The effect of mindfulness-based therapy on anxiety and depression: A meta-analytic review. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 78(2), 169–183. 

Segal, Z. V., et al. (2018). Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy for depression. Guilford Publications.

Kuyken, W., et al. (2016). Efficacy of mindfulness-based cognitive therapy in prevention of depressive relapse: An individual patient data meta-analysis from randomized trials. JAMA Psychiatry, 73(6), 565-574

Chiesa, A., & Serretti, A. (2010). A systematic review of neurobiological and clinical features of mindfulness meditations. Psychological Medicine, 40(8), 1239–1252. 

Kabat-Zinn, J. (2013). Full catastrophe living: Using the wisdom of your body and mind to face stress, pain, and illness. Random House.

Williams, J. M. G., Teasdale, J. D., Segal, Z. V., & Kabat-Zinn, J. (2007). The mindful way through depression: Freeing yourself from chronic unhappiness. Guilford Press.


The content in our blogs is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your health provider with any questions you may have regarding your mental health.

Join our weekly newsletter for insightful articles and free events

Be the first to learn about upcoming FREE events, receive early bird pricing for courses and stay in touch withĀ weekly newsletters!