Mindfulness and Lasting Well-Being
Have you ever caught yourself knowingly worrying about what might be, or focusing on something in the past you might have done or said, that you wish you could retract or change? Besides recognizing these negative thoughts, we also routinely and unknowingly, waste enormous amounts of energy reacting automatically and unconsciously to the outside world and our own inner thoughts and experiences. When we do notice something in the present, our habit to quickly judge often works from this faulty perspective that limits our options or creates issues.
The problem for those suffering from chronic conditions such as pain, anxiety, depression and/or PTSD is the repetitive activation of these instinctive processes of fight, flight or freeze. The autonomic Nervous System (ANS) of the traumatized individual forms a protective habit that protects inappropriately, like a false alarm.
Our survival system is hard-wired to be somewhat constantly on alert –scanning the environment for potential signs of danger. When a person has been suffering for a long time, the brain inevitably activates its “instinctive” protective pattern, repeatedly, resulting in a frustrating cycle.
Developing new strategies, non-reactive attention that is often radically different from the way we are programmed, can help. Mindfulness is different from our protective default mode. Mindfulness gives us some control over our reactions and repetitive thought patterns.
Recent reviews agree that mindfulness has a moderate to robust effect on depression, stress, and anxiety. Some researchers liken the effect of mindfulness for depression to that of anti-depression medications—without the side effects.
Terry Fralich, (www.mindfulnewwcenter.org) suggests the following core skills of mindfulness:
1. Clarifying, setting and reaffirming intention.
2. Cultivating a witnessing awareness; practicing outer non-reactivity without auto-pilot reactions.
3. Strengthening self-regulation; shortening the time that difficult emotions keep you stuck.
4. Stabilizing attention by strengthening the ability to hold your intentional focus.
5. Practicing loving-kindness; practicing non-judgmental awareness leading to kindness and compassion for yourself and others.
Mindfulness comes in many shapes and forms. Associative Awareness Technique, used at FYZICAL–Woodbury, in part, can be a powerful tool for changing habitual emotional reactions that can hijack our thoughts.
SUGGESTIONS FOR DAILY PRACTICE:
- Bring your awareness to the negative emotion as soon as possible and stop the thought.
- Recognize the early warning signals of the emotional reaction.
- Relax into the exhale, allow your muscles to let go.
- Can I change my mind about how I see myself in this situation?
- Is my reaction flowing from past experience?
- What is my best choice under all these circumstances?
The more you formally practice mindfulness, the more you will begin to experience more present moments throughout your day. Mindfulness is not always easy, but with practice can help us live our lives with a new mode of positive being.