Mindfulness is about stabilizing. Studies have shown that people who have experienced trauma can benefit highly from this type of work. (Cullen, 2011). When people have experienced trauma, they can be challenged with high levels of stress, anxiety and depression at any time.
When we increase focus, stress and anxiety decreases, and as insight increases, depression may also be reduced. The implications of effective mindfulness on these specific features are truly significant and the more studies that are being done, the stronger the evidence of effective results of mindfulness.
When a person experiences trauma, racing thoughts and chain reactions of distressed thinking and intense emotions are more frequent, more intense and can last for longer periods of time. The thought pattern easily becomes negative and thereby creates greater levels of anxiety and depression, especially if ignored.
What mindfulness does is brings us into the present moment. Being in the present is provides direct opposition to the racing thoughts which are based in the past, thoughts about things that have happened, or based in the future, worrying about things that might happen. When we practice mindfulness, we pull away from these past and future thinking patterns and redirect ourselves into the moment, grounding ourselves in the present where we regain the ability to address the negative emotions of anxiety, stress and depression that are associated with our thoughts.
We can, for example, tell ourselves that in the present moment, there is nothing bad or harmful occurring to us. We are most likely sitting or lying quite comfortably in a safe place where we can focus on slowing down our breathing and letting the negative feelings go as we exhale. We can ground ourselves and regain our stability, acknowledging the feelings but proving to ourselves that in this present moment, we are okay…we are fine…and we are safe.
We have managed to regain control over the intense emotions that were beginning to overwhelm us. We have become more aware, more able to calm ourselves and less of a victim to our run-away thoughts.
Kabbat-Zin (1994) provides this definition of mindfulness: “paying attention in a particular way; on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgmentally.” We are actually doing an awful lot although it seems we are doing nothing. We are freeing ourselves and giving ourselves permission to just be in the moment. And it is extremely soothing. It is like allowing our mind to float and just immerse itself in now.
It is very important for people to work out their own form of practicing mindfulness, something that works for them. I strongly advise people to do some research on it and see what feels like it might be a way to begin your personal journey.
Remember that the point is NOT to empty our thoughts but rather to pay attention to them in a purposeful way without judging them and then refocus attention onto whatever it is you were focusing on prior to the thought popping up. Mindfulness is a journey of exploration, discovering sounds, textures, shapes, temperatures, things that always exist but that we don’t focus on because we are not being mindful to them.
If you are just starting out, I suggest just a 10 minute exercise in which you find something to focus on, an object to look at or hold perhaps. It is wonderful if you become adept enough at it to practice it when you begin to notice any negative thoughts or symptoms that you are trying to decrease such as depression, racing or distressing thoughts, etc.
There is a wealth of information available on mindfulness as more and more people are finding it beneficial to many different situations they encounter. I would love to hear from you about your mindfulness journey and results. Feel free to comment or contact me directly.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Judy is a licensed clinical social worker and has worked extensively as a counselor with children, adolescents, couples and families. Judy’s professional experience in the mental health field along with her love of writing, provide insight into real-life experiences and relationships. Her fresh voice and down-to-earth approach to living a happier, more meaningful life are easy to understand and just as easy to start implementing right away for positive results!