Mindfulness Based Therapy
Mindfulness, from a therapeutic perspective, is a conscious awareness of one’s present moment, that is often combined with other types of therapy, such as Dialectical Behaviour Therapy (DBT). Mindfulness involves maintaining an open, non-judgemental, and accepting stance about one’s experience. When someone practices mindfulness, their thoughts tune into what they are sensing in the present moment rather than rehashing the past or imagining the future. When there is an increased awareness of the thoughts, feelings, and behaviours hindering someone’s growth and progress, there can be an increased effort to modify our responses, to become healthier and more helpful.
Core Elements of Mindfulness:
There are four core features of mindfulness: observing, conscious awareness, describing, and being non-judgmental.
The first element of mindfulness involves observing one’s experience in a way that is more direct and sensual than being analytical. The art of ‘being present’ is to develop the skill of noticing when one has drifted away from the observing and sensing manner to the more rational manner. When this happens, people often think they made a mistake, or that mindfulness is not for them. However, mindfulness experts normalize these experiences, and encourage people to simply acknowledge it has happened, and then gently return to observing their present experience.
The second element of mindfulness consists of having an awareness, or the simple knowing what experience is actually happening in the present.
The third element of mindfulness relates to noticing the very fine details of what the experience entails, and keeping that to yourself, or sharing that with someone else.
The fourth element of mindfulness consists of refraining from evaluating the present experience as good or bad, or right or wrong, as well as refraining from trying to immediately control or avoid the experience.
Benefits of Mindfulness (not an exhaustive list):
- Reduced rumination
- Increase positive affect
- Decreased anxiety and negative affect
- Improved working memory
- Improved focus
- Improved quality of life
- Enhanced self-insight, morality, and intuition
- Empirical research has found mindfulness to be effective in treating anxiety, depression, stress, chronic pain, emotional/psychological distress
Types of Mindfulness-Based Activities (Not an Exhaustive List)
- Pay attention to the flow of your breath as it comes in through your nostrils, down through your belly, and back out
- If you prefer, focus solely on where you feel the breath most clearly (nostrils, chest, belly etc.)
- Whenever you discover you are lost in a thought, notice what the thought is and return to focusing on your breath
- Walk 10 steps in one direction, turn around and walk ten steps back
- Walk slowly enough that you can notice every movement involved in walking; the lifting of your foot, the movement of that leg, the shifting of weight from one leg to another, the planting of that foot (repeat for other leg)
Mindfulness off the cushion:
- Choose an activity (other than formal meditation) and do it mindfully
- Examples: brushing your teeth, doing the dishes, showering, eating lunch, waiting in line
- Do this activity without any added distractions (phone, TV, newspaper etc.)
- Do it slowly enough that you can notice every aspect of it
- For example, if doing the dishes: notice the sound of the water, its feeling on your hands, the texture of the object you’re washing
- If you get lost in thought, notice the thought, and return to mindfully doing the activity