Mindfulness Practice


Some ways to practice mindfulness:

Mindful BreathingOne of the most basic ways of practicing mindfulness is to turn your attention to your breath: you can just focus on it as it is, without changing anything.  When thoughts arise, as they inevitably will, you can notice them without judgment, and redirect your attention to your next breath.

Somewhere I read that a relaxed person takes about seven breaths a minute.  By slowing your breathing, and focusing on the exhale, you are stimulating your parasympathetic nervous system, and physically calming your body down.  

Mindful Eating - One of my favorite objects to explore with clients is citrus: you can look at it, appreciate its shape, color, and beauty; feel it and observe its texture; score it with your fingernails, breathe in and smell the fragrant oils in the peel; you can taste the sweet, tangy, or sour flesh of the fruit, or the bitterness of the whites and peel; and you can notice how your body reacts to all of those observances and sensations.     

Progressive muscle relaxation - The sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems cannot be stimulated at the same time; in other words, you cannot simultaneously become more stressed and more relaxed.  In progressive muscle relaxation you methodically tense and release your muscles which leads to a whole body relaxation.

Visualization - I almost always use visualization with clients, especially if we are planning to do EMDR processing.  Your body and mind are connected; visualization, or active imagination, can create a physical feeling of deep relaxation, and peace.  Clients emerge from it feeling rejuvenated and energized; almost as if they've been on a vacation.

Mindfulness can help with pain management, or chronic pain - Frequently, pain is related to emotions; for some it can be a mere fact to be ignored, for others it can tap in to primal fears related to vulnerability or survival.  Mindfulness, can help reduce the emotional contribution to pain, and regulate the amount of focus given to the physical sensation of pain.

Mindfulness can help with addictionsAddictions invariably manifest with intrusive, obsessive, and repetitive thoughts and feelings.  "Thought stopping" is a practice of mindfulness that involves noticing and concentrating on a thought, or feeling state, for a short period of time, then interrupting it, and without judgment turning the mind to a preferred positive thought, that has been developed ahead of time.  This can be difficult in the beginning, so it is best to build facility by starting with less intrusive thoughts.    

“Being heard is so close to being loved that for the average person, they are almost indistinguishable.” ~ David Augsburger

Mindful Communication - When listening in a conversation, many people might want to jump ahead to their next talking point.  Mindfulness in communication might look like concentrating on active listening and engaging, staying in the moment, rather than giving advice or judging.  Whoever you're talking to is very likely to notice a difference in the quality of conversation, and feel appreciated and heard on a deeper level.

Mindfulness can help with depressionThere is a therapy called Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy that is designed to create a new relationship to the automatic thoughts that can trigger a depressive episode.  By interrupting these automatic thoughts, and noticing them without judgment, the theory is that you can control your reaction to them, disengage from them, and reflect upon them as processes external to the self, observe them, and move on. 

Mindfulness as a means of managing anxiety and panic - When working with clients who are in the process of experiencing a panic attack, I've found directed and detailed attention to something external and pleasing, to be very effective in calming the body and the mind.  Mindfulness can also help with self-consciousness and social anxiety; it can reduce the presence and impact of dual-thinking, and improve relaxation and engagement.

Mindfulness in the face of difficulty - Emotions are temporary, they crest and fade like waves.  Conscious awareness of this when facing difficulties can help to keep perspective, and hope alive.  Mindfulness practice can develop access to this awareness, making it easier to recall when in difficult circumstances.