Mindfulness is “the awareness that emerges through paying attention on purpose, in the present moment and non-judgmentally to the unfolding experience moment by moment” (Kabat-Zinn, 2003). Most importantly, it is a right here, right now mindset. This allows for clearer thinking, calmer mood and improved well-being. Mindfulness practices are a key part of any trauma reprocessing therapy, any stress reduction treatment, and any anxiety reduction plan.
Mindfulness based approaches include yoga, meditation, relaxation, breathwork, creative and expressive arts. Movement including dancing, singing, and any other type of movement where we are deliberately focusing on the movement or activity helps us to be more mindful.
These mindful practices are considered both a practice and a way of living. For example, walking through the woods while paying attention to the sounds of nature is a mindfulness practice and also helps us to focus more on the moment as it happens. The more we practice them, the better we are at them and the easier they are to use when under stress.
Mindfulness and Trauma
Mindfulness helps with the initial stages of trauma treatment by helping you be more present in the here and now. It fosters the ability to notice life situations with less reactivity, increases distress tolerance, and increases emotional stability.
They are helpful in managing trauma symptoms by teaching self-regulation meaning you are in control of your emotional reactions.
Imagine you have a window of tolerance – the range of emotions you can comfortably experience. These is our sweet spot where are feeling calm emotionally, clear mentally and relaxed physically. Under stress or when triggered by a traumatic memory, we can become dysregulated or agitated. This can lead to becoming anxious and upset, perhaps even feeling out of control. Practicing mindful breathing or movement can interrupt the escalation to help you regain a sense of calm in your Window of Tolerance.
It is also possible for increased stress or triggering from a traumatic memory to cause you to feel disconnected and spacy. Left unchecked, this can increase to and Hypoaroused state where you experience emotional and physical numbness, sometimes feeling frozen or as though your body is heavy and you are walking through mud.
The key is to recognize these states as early as possible and interrupt them with mindful practices.
Used with permission: www.nicabm.com