Few therapies are as versatile as mindfulness therapy. It can be used along with many other therapy types for an eclectic mix, or it can be used by itself as a standalone therapy. Based on Eastern practices, mindfulness is being used in hospitals, schools, the military, and psychotherapy. Learning more about this powerful technique is the first step to dealing with physical and mental issues.
What Is Mindfulness Therapy?
While mindfulness can be used in many different ways, mindfulness therapy is a unique style of psychotherapy. Still, before you can understand what the therapy is, you need to know what mindfulness is as a general practice.
Mindfulness is a method of becoming more aware of yourself and your environment. You notice your thoughts, feelings, and physical sensations in a nonjudgmental way. Mindfulness is always set in the present moment because that is the only time you can consciously direct your awareness moment by moment.
Mindfulness has been used in Eastern medicine, religious practices, and daily life since ancient times. More recently, it has been incorporated into many aspects of life in Western countries.
Mindfulness Therapy Definition
Mindfulness therapy, also called mindfulness-based therapy, is psychotherapy that uses mindfulness to promote good mental and physical health.
Who Can Mindfulness-Based Therapy Help?
Mindfulness therapy can help anyone, especially those who are new to the practice of mindfulness. It can help people with mental health issues like depression, addiction, anxiety, and other mental conditions. It can also help you if you have physical problems that are causing or caused by your mental health issues.
Types Of Therapy That Incorporate Mindfulness Techniques
Nearly any type of therapy can make use of mindfulness. Some types of therapy rely heavily on mindfulness techniques. These include Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction, Dialectical Behavior Therapy, Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, and Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy.
Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Therapy
Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn, Ph.D., founder of the Stress Reduction Clinic at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, pioneered mindfulness in hospital settings. He worked with high blood pressure and pain, psoriasis, anxiety, immune response, and other physical ailments related to stress. MBSR has also been used for relationship problems, type 2 diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, and heart disease.
Out of his experiences teaching mindfulness, Kabat-Zinn developed Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction. Programs for MBSR can take place in a variety of places, from hospitals to wilderness retreats. Patients are taught how to practice mindfulness meditation. Then, they are guided through mindfulness exercises such as mindful walking or mindful eating. The goal is for patients to learn and practice mindfulness well enough to incorporate it into their daily lives to reduce symptoms of physical and emotional problems.
Dialectical Behavior Therapy
Dialectical Behavior Therapy, a cognitive-behavioral therapy, teaches clients to learn and use new skills during group sessions. It also includes individual psychotherapy sessions. Dialectical Behavior Therapy recognizes and works to increase understanding of change and acceptance and how these opposites interact to bring healing.
Mindfulness meditation is not typically used in DBT. However, other mindfulness exercises help patients become more self-aware. In DBT, awareness is focused on the thoughts that come to mind at the moment.
The goal is to become more mindful, regulate emotions more effectively, become more tolerant of stress, and interact with others in more rational and effective ways.
Acceptance And Commitment Therapy
In Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, you learn how to practice mindfulness in exercises designed to foster a greater awareness of your emotions. During these mindfulness exercises, you learn to stay with what is happening in the present moment, not to let your life run on auto-pilot.
The ACT can also help you deal with pain by allowing you to detach from the thoughts surrounding them. When the thoughts are separated from the emotions, the feelings can subside. You can assess your situation more rationally and make better choices.
Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy
Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy is a later development of Kabat-Zinn’s Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction. MBCT was first pioneered by Zindel Segal, Mark Williams, and John Teasdale as a therapy for people who suffered from recurrent depression.
MBCT uses mindfulness meditation to teach people about the different modes of mind related to moods. You also learn how to change your attitudes towards these modes of thinking. The process starts with simple mindfulness instructions, like eating or walking mindfully. Eventually, mindfulness exercises focused on negative moods promote self-care by giving you access to your thoughts about what to do about sadness and information about your present-moment condition.
Mindfulness Therapy Techniques
The number of different mindfulness techniques is virtually endless. No matter what you’re doing, you can do it mindfully. In fact, the goal of mindfulness therapy is to help you develop an attitude of mindfulness that informs every part of your life. The following are just a few of the techniques used in mindfulness-based therapies.
Mindful meditation is a method of sitting still and noticing whatever comes to you nonjudgmentally and in the present moment. You may notice feelings, thoughts, and physical sensations. Memories may come up for you, too.
During the meditation, you don’t dwell on these thoughts, feelings, or memories. Instead, you notice them and let them pass. Many techniques include noticing feelings like pain or anxiety and then turning your attention to your thoughts about those feelings.
One type of mindfulness meditation is the mindful body scan. This is often done lying down, but it can also be done very effectively sitting or even standing. You start the scan by focusing your awareness on your feet. You notice how your feet feel physically, any concerns you have about your feet, which foot you like the best, and other thoughts and feelings, as your therapist suggests. Then, you continue up your body, one area at a time, until you reach the top of your head. By this time, you are calm and focused.
Mindfulness meditation is a calming practice, but it is by no means an inactive one. Your mind is working consistently. It’s just working in a way you might not have experienced before.
Breathing exercises can help you settle into a mindful state. By breathing deeply in a controlled way, you focus your attention on your bodily sensations and emotions.
After the breathing exercise is over, you usually feel increased concentration and mental focus, partly because of the physical effects of breathing exercises and partly because your mind is relaxed enough to become clearer and less cluttered.
Nearly any physical movement can be done mindfully. For example, mindful walking means walking slowly, noticing every movement you make in the course of taking a step. As you become more experienced with physical movement with mindfulness, your therapist might prompt you to notice thoughts and emotions you have about this process of walking and the physical sensations associated with it.
In many of these techniques, the therapist gives you verbal cues to direct your awareness to specific aspects of the total experience you’re having. These words or sentences help you develop mindfulness skills you can use in your everyday life.
Two guided imagery exercises using mindfulness involve the not-dwelling aspect of the practice. One is to imagine your worrying thoughts as fluffy clouds in a blue sky. Whenever those clouds/thoughts come into view, you notice them and then watch them as they sweep away across the sky.
Another is to imagine your worrying thoughts as leaves gliding down a river with the current. In your imagination, you place a worry/leaf on the river as soon as it appears. Then, you watch as the river carries it away, allowing it to pass freely without trying to hold onto it or recapture it.
Mindfulness Techniques For Couples
Several techniques have been developed to help couples build their connection by being mindful of their thoughts, feelings, and physical sensations in joint therapy exercises. One of these exercises is to look deeply into each other’s eyes and focus on sending them loving messages through your eyes. Another involves looking into your partner’s eyes and focusing on their needs and strengths.
Bringing Mindfulness To Your Daily Life
Being mindful in a weekly therapy session is a positive thing. One of the greatest benefits of learning and practicing mindfulness techniques is that you develop a mindful attitude. Then, you can carry that beneficial attitude into your daily life and put it to work in your relationships.
Benefits Of Mindfulness Therapy
Mindfulness therapy has many different benefits and can help nearly anyone live a better, more satisfying, happier life.
Stress And Anxiety Reduction
Because mindfulness is a calming practice, you can reduce the stress causing your physical and emotional symptoms. Anxiety naturally decreases as you view the present in a nonjudgmental way. The thoughts are still there and can be assessed and dealt with rationally. Simultaneously, the stress and anxiety you feel about your circumstances are acknowledged and experienced fully in the present moment.
The Decrease In Depression Relapses
Mindfulness probably helps people who have never been depressed to avoid depression. What is known for certain is that it can be extremely effective in helping people prevent relapses. Depression is associated with certain thought patterns. Sometimes, you might have these thoughts when you aren’t depressed. If you are aware of these thoughts and in touch with your memories about how past depressions started, you can work on changing those self-destructive thought patterns.
The awareness that comes with mindfulness practice is in itself an amazing benefit of mindfulness therapy. When you learn to be mindful, you can enjoy every moment of your life to its fullest, including all the sensations and information that are a part of it. If you have bad feelings or negative thoughts, being aware of them in a nonjudgmental way can prevent you from letting them set you on a downward course.
Mindfulness practice can help you with emotional regulation, which is one of its primary uses, Dialectical Behavior Therapy. You don’t have to be doing DBT to benefit from regulating your emotions better, either. When you notice your emotions and are aware of how they influence you before you act, you can make better choices in expressing feelings of anger, sadness, fear, and pain. Mindfulness therapy can teach you to stop and become self-aware before you react to situations of everyday life.
Increased Flexibility In Responses
No two situations are completely identical. When you go about your life in an automatic, unmindful way, it’s easy to rely on familiar behavior patterns. Mindfulness therapy gives you the tools to be aware of new options to become more flexible and respond more appropriately to each present situation.
Increased Clarity And Concentration
Mindfulness techniques, in all their varieties, increase your mental clarity and concentration. These exercises clear your mind of lingering thoughts, doubts, and feelings that are a part of the past rather than the present moment that you’re dealing with right now.
Mindfulness for couples is a relatively new field, but researchers have found that more mindful couples in their relationship are more satisfied with it. Mindfulness in a marriage has been shown to enhance each partner’s ability and desire to avoid aggression.
You can start mindfulness therapy right away with a licensed therapist at ReGain.us. When you choose online therapy, you can practice mindfulness exercises with your therapist in the place that’s most calming and comfortable to you. Once you learn this wonderful practice, you can bring mindfulness to your personal life, work, and relationships that mean so much to you.
"My experience with Priscilla has been immensely helpful in better understanding myself and providing me with the tools to see my life and relationships with more clarity and compassion."
“Shannon is very knowledgeable, and skilled in knowing how to use that knowledge to help others. She is also very compassionate and encouraging. I was skeptical about using a counseling service, but this experience has been incredible. I highly recommend Shannon to anyone who needs guidance or help through a difficult time in life. I gave her some enormous challenges, and nothing has been over her head. She has been a tremendous help to me.”
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
In clinical psychology, the mindfulness technique consists of being fully present at the moment and having an intense awareness of how you are feeling without judgment or interpretation. Using the mindfulness technique, exercises (also known as mindfulness-based interventions) such as breathing methods and guided imagery are used. Mindfulness can be helpful for anxiety, depression, and other mental health disorders.
Mindfulness is its own type of mental health therapy. Mindfulness-based interventions can be used in other therapy types such as Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) and Acceptance and Commitment Therapy. Mindfulness-based interventions and mindfulness practices are also used in a group setting for different types of therapy.
In and of itself, mindfulness requires you to be fully present and aware of what is happening around you and how you feel without passing judgment or trying to interpret the situation. It can help with negative thoughts, chronic pain, recurrent depression, and other types of physical and mental health disorders.
Mindfulness, also referred to as Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT), is not the same as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy or CBT. However, they are two different therapy types; however, research shows that MBCT is just as effective as CBT. CBT has a focus on changing negative thought patterns to influence emotions and behaviors positively. It’s a very analytical type of therapy, which differs from the mindfulness practices and mindfulness-based interventions used in MBCT.
MBCT also focuses on identifying negative thoughts, but it also uses mindfulness-based interventions to help you avoid negative thought patterns in the first place. Breath focus, body scans, and sitting meditation are often used during therapy sessions and clients’ daily lives, making this type of therapy more experiential than analytical.
Mindfulness therapy can be used to treat anxiety, depression, chronic pain, and other physical and mental health disorders because it teaches you to respond to stress with an intense awareness of the present moment. This then allows for more adaptive ways to handle difficult situations rather than becoming anxious. Mindfulness therapy for anxiety may include mindfulness-based interventions like setting intentions, doing guided meditations, going for a walk, and journaling.
One positive effect of mindfulness is that it reduces stress. Mindfulness also enhances self-control. A third positive effect of mindfulness is that it lowers your blood pressure and heart rate through therapy, mindfulness-based interventions, and mindfulness practices.
Mindfulness has been proven to reduce anxiety, depression, and other mental health disorders in several different ways. In the case of anxiety specifically, mindfulness-based therapy creates space in your mind so that your worries can no longer take over completely. Mindfulness-based interventions also help you to explore the causes of your worries and anxiety calmly. Mindfulness practices also help you handle uncomfortable or difficult feelings without feeling the need to pass judgment or analyze them.
In mindfulness therapy, you learn to be completely aware of the present moment and accept your thoughts and feelings without judgment. You may do this through therapy, mindfulness-based interventions, and practices such as body scans, mindfulness meditation, gentle stretches, and urge surfing. Mindfulness therapy focuses on increasing your awareness of the specific thoughts, emotions, and behaviors that hold you back in life.
There are six main types of mindfulness: breathing space meditation, body scan meditation, movement meditation, expanding awareness meditation, Loving-Kindness meditation, and Observing-thought meditation.
Breathing space meditation involves focusing on breathing sensations to cope with a difficult emotion or situation. Body scan meditation is when you focus on each body part one by one. Movement meditation often refers to tai chi, yoga, and other practices that combine the mind and body in motion.
Expanding awareness meditation involves focusing on your breath, body, sounds, thoughts, and feelings in that order. Loving-Kindness meditation is designed to nurture feelings of love and care, first towards a loved one, and then towards yourself, others, and then to the entire world. Finally, Observing-thought meditation teaches you to notice your thoughts, label them objectively, and avoid letting them take over.
CBT and DBT are two different types of therapy. CBT, or Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, focuses on changing negative thought patterns to change emotions and behaviors. DBT, or Dialectical Behavior Therapy, is meant for those who have extreme emotional reactions to situations. It helps these people to interact with the world around them more healthily and less emotionally. Mindfulness-based interventions can be used in both DBT and CBT for improved mental health.
Mindfulness therapy stands by itself and is not a type of CBT or Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. However, mindfulness-based interventions can be used in CBT. Mindfulness therapy, mindfulness-based interventions, and CBT are all different variations of mental health care.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy involves changing negative thought patterns and challenging all negative thoughts to shift emotions and change behaviors. For example, imagine a friend canceled plans with you because they were stuck at work. Your first reaction might be to think that your friend was lying and that they don’t want to hang out with you. You then might conclude that they don’t like you and that none of your friends actually like you and end up feeling discouraged and lonely. Then you might choose to stay home rather than making alternative plans for the night.
CBT would ask you to question your negative thought of assuming your friend was lying. You would go through the different reasons your friend is likely, to tell the truth about being busy, and you might remember some good times you’ve had with them that remind you that they do like you. You might still be disappointed that your friend canceled, but you no longer feel discouraged or lonely because of the situation. Then you might text another friend and make new plans for the night.
Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) is different from Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), but MBSR techniques, also known as mindfulness-based interventions, can be used in CBT. These techniques are known for helping with mental health disorders as well as physical ones like chronic pain.
Studies show that approximately one in 12 people who try mindfulness-based interventions or meditation will experience an unwanted negative effect that most often manifests as worsening mental health disorders like anxiety and depression. Meditators also commonly report paranoia, panic, fear, and anxiety; these are considered normal, especially for those new to meditation.
While anxiety is technically all in mind, that doesn’t make it any less real. Anxiety can even present with physical symptoms. Anxiety is a natural emotion that we all feel in times of stress or danger. Still, in the case of an anxiety disorder, the anxiety is so severe that it doesn’t match the danger level in the situation at hand. Luckily, many therapy types and even different mindfulness-based interventions can help get anxiety under better control.
There are a few differences between mindfulness and meditation; they are not the same. To begin, meditation is a practice, while mindfulness is a quality. Meditation is a tool to develop mindfulness, but mindfulness doesn’t necessarily involve meditation. Multiple mindfulness-based interventions exist in addition to meditation, and there are many other aspects of meditation.