Mindfulness is an area that is receiving a lot of attention in the media and research for its psychological and physical benefits . However, it is not a new concept. Mindfulness originates from Buddhist philosophy and directly translates to “awareness.” Mindfulness means paying attention in a particular way: on purpose, in the present moment, and nonjudgmentally.
Why practice mindfulness? Recent research studies indicate that regular mindfulness practice can be helpful for a number of physical and mental problems, including chronic pain, skin conditions, cancer treatment, immunity, depression, anxiety, ADHD, bipolar, panic disorders, personality disorders, and other stress related disorders. Current theories and brain research indicate that regular mindfulness practice can increase compassion for others and oneself, resulting in improved self-esteem and relational functioning.
How do we do it? Incorporating mindfulness is about cultivating acceptance of self, others and life. A key component of mindfulness is breathing meditations, which involves non-judgmentally observing your breath by redirecting your mind to refocus each time it wanders off to other thoughts. Every time you redirect your focus back to your breath, you are improving your ability to regulate your emotions and stress response, thereby increasing your tendency for positive mood and overall well-being.
While breathing meditation is a large part of a mindfulness practice, I will also introduce you to other techniques, including body scans and guided imagery meditations, as well as activities aimed at increasing awareness and keeping you present in your life.
Identifying a traumatic event (a single or repeated exposure to real or perceived threats to safety) may be straightforward when talking about physical, sexual or emotional abuse. However, other events may be felt as traumatic based on a person’s individual experience of the event. Many factors that can make something traumatic for one person but not another. Therefore, the focus in therapy is less on the event itself but rather on one’s experience.
Therapy addresses the emotional, physical and mental responses we have to trauma. While for some people, a traumatic experience or event may feel like a past memory, for others it may feel very current and flashbacks or re-experiencing the trauma may occur. Therapeutic work will explore and address emotions and behaviors in an effort to help you understand, tolerate, reduce and manage emotions, thoughts and body sensations that are left from the trauma. Recent studies in neuroscience are helping us understand that when someone experiences trauma, the brain typically moves out of a thinking position and into an instinctual mode, where flight, fight or freeze response come from. These responses are mechanisms for survival and protection. However, we can sometimes get stuck in these responses, which can become challenging for our relationships and daily functioning. Therapy seeks to create a safe and trusting environment where healing trauma can take place.