What Is Mindfulness Therapy And What Does It Accomplish?

Updated August 03, 2021

Medically Reviewed By: Aaron Horn

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 Definition

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

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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.

Mindfulness Meditation

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

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.

Physical Movement

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.

Verbal Cues

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.

Guided Imagery

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

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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.

Increased Awareness

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.

Emotional Regulation

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.

Improved Relationships

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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.

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