An article by Soldier On Counsellor Sarah Di Martino
So, what is Mindfulness? A buzzword that is has been going around that now thinks they should do more of. Mmmm, do more… that doesn’t sound mindful at all. Jon Kabat-Zinn, the person who brought mindfulness to the West, framed mindfulness as an: “… awareness that arises through paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment, non-judgmentally,” … “It’s about knowing what is on your mind.” “From the perspective of mindfulness, nothing needs fixing. Nothing needs to be forced to stop, or change, or go away.” From my perspective, Mindfulness is the quality of being present.
A Harvard study found that 50% of the time we’re either caught up in regretting things from the past or worrying about what we’re going to do in the future.
Mind-wandering is not the problem. That is what minds do – it is the habit of the mind to wander. Noticing the mind drifting – that is what mindfulness practice is – followed by bringing your attention back to the present. Noticing the mind wandering means we’re starting to see our habitual patterns of perception more clearly. A song jumps to mind for me here, ‘I can see clearly now.’
Mindfulness can cause struggle …
Not everyone finds relaxation in stillness. Intentional stillness can prompt feelings of vulnerability, reminding you of times when you felt immobilized, or under threat. These feelings may be too big to tolerate or may even trigger anxiety and panic attacks.
The relationship between mindfulness and trauma may not always be as it seems. At first glance, the two seem like natural allies: trauma creates stress, and mindfulness is a powerful tool for reducing it. You may think that anyone struggling with trauma would benefit from mindfulness practice. But the reality is not so simple. Emerging research suggests that mindfulness can indeed support people struggling with trauma, but and this is a big but, it can also be a bear burden.
Mindfulness can strengthen trauma recovery by supporting emotional regulation, re-focus attention, and bringing awareness to the body – all essential components to healing trauma. On the flip side, mindfulness meditation can create anguish for trauma survivors. Instructed to pay close, sustained attention to their inner world, survivors may experience flashbacks, dissociation, and at worst, re-traumatization – depending on how it’s practiced.
Your therapist should be equipped with the tools and modifications to help you work skilfully through dysregulated arousal, traumatic flashbacks, and trauma-related dissociation.
Despite the value of being mindful in daily life, and under the best of circumstances, mindfulness can be difficult to achieve in our production-oriented, fast-paced society.
Saying that here are a few suggestions for you to try.
Take a moment, get comfortable and see if these techniques work for you. If they don’t, change them up a little bit or find something different that works for you.
Drop Three Relaxation Exercise
1. Drop your jaw. Make sure your tongue falls to the bottom of your mouth. If your mouth is open a little, you’re doing it right.
2. Drop your shoulders. Let them loosen and fall.
3. Drop your stomach. Don’t hold it in tight; just let it go.
Now notice how you feel. Has anything changed?
You can Drop Three anytime, anywhere. It’s almost invisible, so other people won’t notice. Dropping Three helps you feel more relaxed and more ready to face whatever comes. Instead of spending energy keeping your muscles tense, you have that energy available to use for what you need to do. Try to practice this five times a day. It only takes a few seconds to do. The more you practice it, the more it will be available when you need it.
Controlled breathing can bring immediate and long-term relief from anxiety and stress and is also beneficial when practiced daily for mindfulness.
How to practice deep breathing:
• Inhale for 4 seconds;
• Hold for 4 seconds; and
• Exhale for 6 seconds.
Practice for at least 2 minutes, with 5-10 minutes being the optimal time.
Mindfulness with the 5-4-3-2-1 technique
When using the 5-4-3-2-1 technique, you are encouraged to observe your surroundings through your five senses. Challenge yourself to focus on smaller details you may not usually notice.
If you are looking for further resources, you might like to visit one of the below for worksheets or links to available web apps.