“Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction completely changed my life. Once I could observe my anxious brain, I had so much more control over my response. Now I observe when I’m ruminating about the past or worrying about the future and remind myself to take a breath and bring my attention to what’s in front of me. Generally I’m far presently more okay than my anxiety tells me I am, so doing this helps me feel much better.” -S
Mindfulness is the practice of bringing all of our awareness to the present moment in a way that expands our consciousness and heightens our awareness of our emotional, cognitive, and physical experiences.
WHAT TO EXPECT
When practicing mindfulness, a person focuses their attention on emotions, thoughts, sensations, and the surrounding environment in an accepting and non-judgmental way.
This is often easier than it sounds, and does not require you to stay still and silent. Many people choose to practice mindfulness with a “crutch”—for example, a coloring book, music, play-doh, or other activities that pleasantly engage the senses. While using “crutches,” one can practice brief periods of observing the sensations they inspire. They might notice new thoughts, judgements, or distractions, and then practice gently drawing their attention back to the activity. Using “crutches” to practice mindfulness typically makes it easier to practice without them later on.
There are a number of different evidence-based mindfulness treatments. Some of Viva’s clinicians use Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR), which is taught in group settings in the area. MBSR was initially developed to treat depression and anxiety symptoms in cancer patients, and was soon expanded for individuals with chronic pain. It’s shown to be one of the most effective interventions for both chronic pain and ongoing medical treatment. It’s also become a key component of many therapies, for reasons detailed in the next section.
WHAT DOES IT TREAT?
Neuroimaging shows that after just 6 weeks of daily, 30 minute mindful practice, brain areas related to learning, memory, emotion regulation, “self-referential processing, and perspective taking” measurably change to become larger and denser. Mindfulness is often used to treat stress, anxiety, depression, recurring negative thoughts, emotional reactivity, working memory, reduced focus, and relationship issues