Mindfulness is a simple method of responding to stress from a balanced, steady perspective. It allows us to respond to challenges with less reactivity, and more resilience. It helps employees stay more focused and productive; it helps parents respond rather than react; it helps us all deal more skillfully with challenges both inside and outside ourselves. Practitioners learn to struggle less with upsetting emotions and situations, better accept things beyond their control, spend less time lost in future worries or past regrets, and to be more focused, positive and productive in the present moment.
Mindfulness is based in the common-sense idea that how we react to stressful things matters a lot. We learn to see the ways stress is self-generated in unhelpful reactions, and learn to diminish them. Once we learn this method, we’re able to apply it to any challenging situation we meet- rather than trying to avoid challenges, which keeps us small and living defensively. We’re more free to experience life, including its difficulties, with less fear.
Mindfulness has been proven effective for individuals and organizations. In therapy, clients use mindfulness to reduce self-judgment, impulsivity, addictive behavior, mood swings, and interrupt cycles of anxiety and depression. It helps clients respond more helpfully to physical and emotional pain, to loss and agitated emotions, and to become more comfortable with uncertainty. It increases interpersonal empathy, and helps us handle relationship conflicts more skillfully. It helps therapists relate more helpfully to their clients, too!
I often combine Mindfulness instruction with techniques from yoga, so the student can be aided by the body in their effort to better balance the mind and nervous system. Clients learn yogic breathing practices, which research shows helps produce an important measure of resilience in the nervous system called Heart Rate Variability or HRV. By changing unhelpful breath patterns, we begin to guide the autonomic nervous system to a steady, more resilient state and improved HRV, which is associated with lower depression, anxiety, addiction, and even inflammation and other physical problems.
Organizations are increasingly offering mindfulness training to their members. It has been shown to support creativity and cooperation among team members, increase efficiency and job satisfaction, and reduce absenteeism and health care costs.
The effectiveness of Mindfulness is increasingly understood by researchers who study the brain and nervous system. Studies have consistently shown it is associated with reduced biological markers of stress, including blood pressure and heart rate and increase key measures of emotional and physical resilience such as heart rate variability. It’s associated with balanced, helpful brain patterns and levels of stress hormones, along with other benefits. It’s a hands-on method to better tune the mind and nervous system to support us rather than hinder us.
Mindfulness is taught through a simple, step-by-step process that’s both verbal and experiential. Most students can begin practicing after one instructional session. It creates both short-term and long-term benefits for most people, and its benefits accrue over time.
Anxiety, stress and panic manifest in the body, as physical sensations, yet are interactive with thoughts. I teach clients specific techniques to interrupt the cycle of anxious thoughts producing anxious sensations, which then produce more anxious thoughts. Clients learn to respond differently to thoughts, emotions and sensations, stepping out of the negative cycle in a way that is empowering and soothing. They learn to struggle less with what they feel and think. We may use breathwork, progressive body relaxation, or yoga practices to stabilize the nervous system. To change the thought aspect of the anxiety, we work with changing beliefs about feelings and learn to interrupt anxiety-producing thinking. Depending on their willingness to work on it, many clients find fast relief from these interventions.