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Mindfulness as a therapeutic tool

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By Guest blogger Wazahat Kausar

Clinical psychologist, writer and blogger

Mindfulness is a way to become more present at the moment. By reducing automated thoughts and accepting the thoughts and feelings that arise, some can use mindfulness as a strategy to reduce e.g. stress, sleep problems, anxiety, and pain. Mindfulness is used in counseling and therapy as an effective tool.

How mindfulness effective in therapy and counseling:

Expressing mindfulness has become increasingly common in recent years. Perhaps you have heard about the positive effects meditation and mindfulness (conscious presence in the present) can have on us. But how can this be used in therapy and counseling? In cognitive mindfulness-based therapy (MBKT), techniques from cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) are combined with meditation and practice in conscious presence.

In mindfulness-based cognitive therapy, a small group of clients usually meet with a therapist once a week for eight weeks. Each session is usually around two hours. During the sessions, exercises from cognitive therapy, such as challenging different thought patterns, are mixed with mindfulness exercises. 

Examples of mindfulness exercises can be body scanning, where you feel different parts of the body and note what feelings and sensations come up. Another example of a mindfulness exercise is the “raisin exercise,” where the participants get to practice being completely present when they eat a raisin and describe all the smells, tastes, and sensations that come up. Often the experience of eating a raisin in a “mindfulness way” becomes a very different experience. Between sessions, different types of homework are often given.

Stress and anxiety:

Perhaps not entirely unexpectedly, a conscious presence in the present leads to reduced stress. Several studies have shown that people who have practiced mindfulness for two months report significantly lower stress levels than before. In addition, several studies have shown that mindfulness training can also lead to reduced anxiety and negative thoughts.

Empathy:

Mindfulness can actually lead to both increased empathy and sympathy. 

Something you might not have expected, right? Gaining an empathic ability not only makes you a more humble person but can also have a positive effect on your relationships and in working life.

Lower risk of depression:

Although mindfulness should not be used as a substitute for psychotherapy to treat depression, it can work for a preventative purpose. Research has shown that people who practice mindfulness are less likely to feel depressed. In addition, mindfulness can be especially helpful for pregnant women and new mothers. 

Studies have shown that mindfulness can be a good way to prevent depression during pregnancy and reduce the risk of “baby blues” after birth.

Self-control:

Do you sometimes have a hard time keeping your emotions in check? 

Mindfulness training and conscious presence in the present are linked to better self-control when it comes to thoughts, feelings, and behavior.

Focus and workability:

That mindfulness can lead to a better ability to concentrate may not come as a surprise. Training in mindfulness has been shown to be positive for, among other things, memory, focus, and a number of other cognitive abilities.

Self-insight:

Do you want to gain more understanding of who you are and how you really work? 

Mindfulness can be a great tool, along with talk therapy, to gain a better self-insight. Studies have also confirmed that people who practice mindfulness experience increased self-awareness.

Physiological effects:

It is not just our brain and our mental health that are affected by mindfulness. 

By training a conscious presence in the present, fantastic changes can also take place in our bodies.

Stress levels:

Stress can have both physiological and psychological aspects. Studies have not only shown that mindfulness can lead to reduced perceived stress. They have also confirmed that the body’s stress levels can change physiologically. 

For example, research has shown that mindfulness can lead to lower cortisol levels, a hormone linked to stress.

Changes in the brain:

It is not only our thoughts and feelings that change during meditation; mindfulness has also been shown to affect the brain purely physiologically. 

During mindfulness meditation, parts of the frontal lobe are stimulated that activate positive neurotransmitters such as dopamine, serotonin, and endorphins.

Improved sleep:

Definitely one of the most positive effects of mindfulness training! Sleep problems are linked to a variety of types of illness and mental illness. Getting a good night’s sleep can thus have several positive effects on our lives!

Summary:

Mindfulness is an approach to trying to be present and work as a therapeutic tool. The goal is to reduce the automated thoughts and feelings we have and become aware of these without judging or being too self-critical. Mindfulness can be an effective tool for reducing stress, anxiety, pain, or improving sleep and can be used both in care and by individuals. Research has shown that mindfulness has positive effects on everything from physical health to our ability to concentrate. Mindfulness can be practiced by both children and adults and can be good to start early for strategies to deal with a stressful everyday life in an increasingly stressful society. So we can say that mindfulness is an effective therapeutic tool.

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