Over the course of the past several years, psychotherapists have increasingly turned to mindfulness as a means of therapeutic recovery. Mindfulness meditation has since become an important element in the treatment of numerous problems, ranging from unresolved trauma to anxiety and depression. While mindfulness has been a major component of Eastern medicine for centuries (the cultivation of mindfulness has its roots in Buddhism), it is just now being studied scientifically. Mindfulness meditation has since been found to play a vital role in overall happiness and well-being, and has been widely accepted as a viable means of recovery from various disorders.
What is Mindfulness?
Mindfulness occurs when we actively participate in the present moment – when we carefully observe our feelings and thoughts without judging them as good or bad. Most of us have an innate tendency to dwell on the past or anticipate the future, often without even realizing that we are letting the present moment pass us by. Especially now, in the age of the iPhone, it is altogether too easy to slip out of the here and now. As we lose connection with the present moment, we lose sight of how we are feeling and what we are thinking. Our minds become clouded with to-do’s and should-have’s, and our preoccupations quickly drown out any sense of serenity we may have awoken with.
There are numerous mindfulness techniques, including:
- Mindfulness Meditation
When we practice basic mindfulness meditation, we sit quietly and focus our attention on our natural breathing, or on a word or ‘mantra’ that we repeat silently to ourselves. As we meditate, we allow thoughts to arise and pass without judgment or criticism, and return our focus to our breathing.
- Urge Surfing
When a craving arises (either for an addictive behavior of chemical substance), we acknowledge them, cope with them, and allow them to pass. We pay attention to the way our body feels as we experience the craving. Rather than wish or pray for the urge to be taken away, we remind ourselves that it will inevitably subside eventually.
We pay attention to our emotions, and allow ourselves to feel them without judging them as good or bad. We give our emotions names, and practice naming them in a relaxed and accepting state. “I am feeling frustrated, and that is okay.” We understand that our emotions will constantly change.
When we practice sensory mindfulness, we pay attention to our senses. We notice what we are seeing, smelling, tasting, hearing, and feeling. We name our sensory experience without judgment, and let it go.
- Body Sensations
When we practice mindfulness in our body sensations, we pay close attention to the way that our physical body is feeling. We focus on tingles, itches, and aches. We focus on our heads down to our toes, and accept sensations without judgment as they pass.
Mindfulness and Depression
Mindfulness can be extremely beneficial when it comes to treating symptoms of depression – symptoms which often leave the afflicted completely debilitated. The cognitive symptoms of depression (forgetfulness, distorted thinking, and an inability to focus), can have negative repercussions on all areas of a person’s life. Interpersonal relationships will suffer, it will become far more difficult to maintain a career, and overall motivation will dwindle significantly. Negative thoughts can lead to worsening depression, and may even result in suicidal ideations.
An increased ability to focus on the here and now has been shown to help alleviate negative thoughts. How? Those who practice mindfulness on a regular basis will eventually become aware of their negative thought processes, and will be able to acknowledge and accept their thoughts without judgment. They will begin to understand that their thoughts are not an accurate reflection of reality; but rather, fleeting feelings that they can recognize and let go of. Distorted thoughts begin to hold less weight.
Of course, seeking professional help for symptoms of moderate to severe depression is vital. However, mindfulness meditation has proven to be a highly effective form of supplemental care. We at Next Chapter have experienced huge success in treating those who struggle with depression as a primary disorder, and always incorporate mindfulness strategies into our comprehensive curriculum of care. To learn more, please reach out today.