We spend much of our time holding onto the past and worrying about things that may or may not happen in the future. Mindfulness allows us to create and maintain a connection to our current experience of thoughts, feelings and bodily sensations without judging or avoiding, dwelling on or trying to change our experience.
By making mindfulness practices a part of our lives we can actually begin to observe and witness our thoughts, emotions and bodily sensations as they are occurring. We are not victims of our thoughts and emotions.
In the process, clarity and energy begin to emerge and change is generated.
Over time, this can allow us to develop the ability to routinely tap into the process of mindfulness and learn how to respond, rather than automatically react to life events, thoughts, emotions and physical sensations.
And this makes all the difference.
We can begin to experience change in our relationships with others, but even more importantly with ourselves. In fact, learning to be kind to ourselves, known as Mindful Self-Compassion, contributes to creating and maintaining healthy, fulfilling relationships.
Over the past 30+ years there has been a surge of research investigating the benefits of mindfulness practices for physical, emotional and mental health. Studies have demonstrated positive effects of mindfulness practices on such diverse issues as chronic pain, breast cancer and prostate cancer, anxiety, depression, trauma, loss and grief, stress and stress-related illnesses, pregnancy and childbirth, menopause, and PTSD in war veterans, and many others. Research indicates that mindfulness practices form the cornerstone of stress reduction, health and well-being.
I have been informing and infusing my psychotherapy work with Mindfulness practices for more than 25 years.
Mindfulness and traditional psychotherapy have natural intersections. In recent years clinical therapeutic applications have been developed that integrate and incorporate mindfulness work, thus enriching long-standing psychotherapeutic practices. One of these applications is Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Behavior Therapy, or MBCT.
MBCT was created to prevent relapse from recurrent episodes of depression.
In addition, MBCT is known to be helpful for people struggling with milder forms of depression, anxiety disorders, the effects of trauma and for relapse prevention in addiction disorders.
MBCT has also been found to alleviate symptoms of depression that can occur when people are coping with physical health conditions, for instance traumatic brain disorder (TBI), vascular disease, and cancer.
How Mindfulness helps
Negative thinking patterns and self-critical thoughts can be painful habits for many of us, and in excess they are central elements that automatically maintain depression, anxiety, and traumatic stress. At times these kinds of thoughts can become overwhelming, even paralyzing.
Mindfulness practices have been demonstrated to alleviate these patterns through generating and sustaining awareness of their presence.
As this awareness evolves, we establish the ability to observe negative thoughts. We recognize them as they are happening, and they become part of conscious awareness, no longer occurring automatically. We are able to see thoughts as just mental events that come and go from moment to moment.
This shift out of automatic thinking allows a very different relationship to overwhelming thoughts and emotions.