Mindfulness-Based Therapy

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What is Mindfulness-Based Therapy?

It's sometimes referred to as mindfulness-based therapy, mindfulness therapy, or mindfulness-based cognitive therapy, but let me start with what mindfulness is since that is really the foundation of this approach. I have two favorite definitions of mindfulness:

The first is a classic from Jon Kabat Zinn, “Mindfulness is awareness that arises through paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment, non-judgmentally, in service of self-understanding and wisdom.”

The second is from the Greater Good Magazine, “Mindfulness means maintaining a moment-by-moment awareness of our thoughts, feelings, bodily sensations, and surrounding environment, through a gentle, nurturing lens.”

Research has found several benefits of mindfulness practice:

  • Reduced stress levels.
  • Improved overall well-being.
  • Reduced symptoms of anxiety.
  • Reduced symptoms of depression.
  • Improved mood.
  • Improved emotional regulation
  • Improved attention and memory.
  • Improved decision making and problem solving.
  • Associated with lower blood pressure.
  • Improved immune function.
  • Improved sleep quality
  • Enhanced empathy and compassion.
  • Enhanced social connection.
  • Improved communication skills and reduced conflict.
  • Reduced cravings and decreased impulsivity.
  • Improved pain management.

As you can see, mindfulness can not only improve mental health, but a variety of aspects of our lives!

Okay, but what does this look like in therapy (that is why you’re here after all, right)?

As you probably know, anxiety, burnout, guilt, irritability, shame… really any of the unpleasant experiences that we have as a human, can be quite sneaky. They can start with a little worry or self-criticism in the back of you mind, a mild fatigue, or avoidance in the activities you usually want to attend, and then it spirals until it’s not so subtle anymore but affecting multiple areas of your life and leaving you feeling terrible.

In mindfulness-based therapy I help you cultivate an awareness of your thoughts, emotions, and body so that you can recognize symptoms or triggers earlier and then respond to these in a skillful way so that it doesn’t spiral.

How do we cultivate that awareness?

Regular mindfulness practices, like meditation. WAIT, don’t leave yet! I know what you’re thinking “I can’t clear my mind”, “I can’t sit still for that long”, “I don’t got time for that!”, or something like that right? Hear me out. Mindfulness meditation and other practices don’t actually require you to “clear your mind” or stop thinking (you can read more about what mindfulness meditation is here). You can absolutely cultivate mindfulness with shorter practices as well, even just a one-minute meditation can do wonders and help you cultivate awareness. There are also several other practices that can help you cultivate awareness including:

  • Formal walking meditation
  • Mindful walking
  • Standing meditation
  • Yoga, Tai Chi, Qi Gong, and other mindful movement
  • Daily activity practices (brushing your teeth, showering, petting a pet, drinking/making coffee, eating, etc.)

I also like to teach other practices that not only help with cultivating awareness, but also cultivates other helpful mind states and moods including:

  • Joy
  • Loving-kindness
  • Self-compassion
  • Compassion for others
  • Gratitude
  • Generosity

What the heck do I mean by responding in skillful ways?

We often respond in autopilot to early unpleasant experiences and triggers like beating ourselves up for not getting things done, avoiding friends and family, not engaging in enjoyable or productive activities, getting caught in unhelpful stories about how we should have done something different, just to name a few. As we respond in these autopilot, unskillful ways we can fall into a spiral.

When you start recognizing early warning signs in the mind and body or stressors that could lead to a spiral, it gives you the opportunity to respond earlier in ways that prevent that spiral. All of the practices that we use to cultivate mindfulness can also be used in response to these experiences and triggers. In addition to those other skillful responses might include:

  • Changing the way you relate to the experiences from resistance and judgement to acceptance, kindness, non-judgement, patience, letting be, or letting go.  
  • Recognizing that thoughts are not facts.
  • Self-compassion practices such as self-compassion breaks, compassionate soothing touch, visualizing being with someone who loves and cares for you.
  • Redirecting attention to the present moment- what is, rather than what if.
  • Mindful journaling.
  • Engaging in a nourishing activity mindfully.
  • Breaking down the experience to thoughts, emotions, and body sensations.
  • Bringing a non-judgmental attention to how this is showing up in the body.
  • Using cognitive-behavioral strategies such as finding evidence against unhelpful thoughts or developing more balanced thoughts.
  • Intentional problem solving and decision-making (not the repetitive autopilot kind).
  • Practicing relaxation techniques (these are slightly different than mindfulness practices).

In addition to preventing spirals of difficult experience, over time mindfulness practices can help us live with peace even when we experience difficulty in life, whether that is external stressors or internal thoughts and emotions.

To learn more about me, my philosophy, and approach click here.

If you’re ready to start mindfulness-based therapy inWisconsin I would love for you to schedule a free 15 minute consultation call to find out how I can help you!