If you’re having trouble with the concept of mindfulness you should know that you are not alone. If you’re not quite sure what mindfulness has to do with therapy and why you should care then I invite you to keep reading. I’m going to make it clear why mindful therapy is so powerful in helping people just like you.
Most often, our attention is on the past or in the future where we are self-focused, ruminating, or obsessing about our day. This leads to problems like anxiety and chronic stress. Using mindfulness you can strengthen the part of your brain that helps focus and sustain attention.
Intention shapes mindset and directs attention with purpose. This will help you stay present in the here-and-now. With focused attention and purposefully directed intention we begin to recognize when we are obsessing, overthinking, or cruising on autopilot. This allows you to apply the intention to focus with openness, curiosity, and gratitude.
New Yorkers sometimes get a reputation for having a bad attitude. When we are mindful, we start to see the habits of our mind – comparing, judging, defending, blaming, needing to be right, or do it right, or feeling not enough. With mindfulness, we start to see our own mental patterns and habits and can begin to practice strengthening a positive and receptive mind.
Like any skill, it takes practice to master the skillset. My job is to help you learn and practice so you can start fully living!
Here’s a summary of several evidence based and well known therapies based on mindfulness.
Mindfulness-based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT)
MBCT is designed for people who suffer repeated bouts of depression or chronic unhappiness. It combines the ideas of cognitive therapy with meditative practices and attitudes based on the cultivation of mindfulness.
Recent research has also shown that people who have been clinically depressed three or more times in their life find that learning mindfulness-based skills help to considerably reduce their chances of depression returning.
What does MBCT help treat?
- Anxiety and depression
- Food and eating issues
- Low mood and negative thoughts
- Body sensations such as weariness and sluggishness
MBCT helps people separate themselves from their thoughts and moods and teaches them how to recognize their sense of being, and aims to give participants the necessary tools to combat depressive symptoms as they arise.
ACT is based on behavioral therapy and one of the essential components of ACT is to encourage values-guided action. ACT is also about taking mindful action and includes mindfulness skills as well as encouraging one to take action that is based upon their own values and in ways that will ultimately enrich their lives.
ACT is different than many therapeutic approaches in that it does not focus much on symptom reduction. One of the goals of ACT is to help people deal with the inevitable pain of human experience through the process of mindfulness.
ACT believes that…
- people can live fulfilling and enriched lives by using the ACT principles regardless of symptoms
- human suffering is natural and normal and a common experience of all humans
- suffering is due to human language as our mind creates suffering through negative self-talk and undesired memories and thoughts arise
The six core therapeutic processes of ACT include:
- contacting the present moment
- committed action
Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT)
DBT is a cognitive-behavioral therapy that teaches clients to learn and use new skills. It is called Dialectical Behavior Therapy because it recognizes and works to increase understanding of change and acceptance and how these opposites interact to bring healing.
Mindfulness meditation is not typically used in DBT. However, other mindfulness exercises help patients become more self-aware. In DBT, the awareness is focused on the thoughts that come to mind at the moment.
The goal is to become more mindful, to regulate emotions more effectively, to become more tolerant to stress, and to be able to interact with others in ways that are more rational and effective.
Techniques used in MBTs
During meditation, you notice whatever comes to you nonjudgmentally and in the present moment. You may notice feelings, thoughts, and physical sensations. Memories may come up for you, too. You don’t dwell on these thoughts, feelings, or memories. Instead, you just notice them and let them pass.
One type of mindfulness meditation is the mindful body scan. This is often done lying down, but it can also be done very effectively sitting or even standing. You start the scan by focusing your awareness on your feet. You notice how your feet feel physically, any concerns you have about your feet, which foot you like the best, and other thoughts and feelings as your therapist suggested. Then, you continue up your body, one area at a time, until you reach the top of your head. By this time, you are calm and focused.
Breathing exercises can help you settle into a mindful state. By breathing deeply in a controlled way, you focus your attention on your bodily sensations and your emotions. After the breathing exercise is over, you usually feel increased concentration and mental focus, partly because of the physical effects of breathing exercises, and partly because your mind is relaxed enough to become clearer and less cluttered.
Nearly any physical movement can be done mindfully. For example, mindful walking just means walking slowly, noticing every movement you make in the course of taking a step. As you become more experienced with physical movement with mindfulness, your therapist might prompt you to notice thoughts and emotions you have about this process of walking and the physical sensations associated with it.
Two guided imagery exercises using mindfulness involve the not-dwelling aspect of the practice. One is to imagine your worrying thoughts as fluffy clouds in a blue sky. Whenever those clouds/thoughts come into view, you notice them and then watch them as they sweep away across the sky.
Another is to imagine your worrying thoughts as leaves gliding down a river with the current. In your imagination, you place a worry/leaf on the river as soon as it appears. Then, you watch as the river carries it away, allowing it to pass freely without trying to hold onto it or recapture it.
Bringing Mindfulness To Your Daily Life
Being mindful in a weekly therapy session is a positive thing. One of the greatest benefits of it is that you learn and practice mindfulness techniques until you develop a mindful attitude. Then, you can carry that beneficial attitude into your daily life and put it to work in your relationships.
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