What is mindfulness-based therapy? We might start by asking, what is mindfulness? Mindfulness can be defined simply as nonjudgmental present moment awareness. Mindfulness also brings an attitude of kindness and curiosity to our awareness of what is happening in the moment, whether we are doing something we enjoy (such as savoring an ice cream cone) or experiencing something we would rather just push away (such as anger or grief). This attitude of basic friendliness allows our experience of life to be a little more spacious and a little less reactive. In this way, mindfulness allows to more effectively respond to whatever life is presenting us. It is the practical expression of the famous quote from Viktor Frankl: “Between stimulus and response, there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.” Mindfulness allows us to grow and more effectively use that space.
During much of our daily lives, we are caught up in reactions, thoughts, and opinions that may exaggerate our responses and make us unhappy – or certainly less happy than we could be! This mindlessness can lead to not only chronic unhappiness as we live in reactivity to the events of our lives, it can also lead to such responses as unconscious eating, reactively snapping in anger at our children, and may even underly the automatic response underlying many addictive processes.
Why, then, bring mindfulness into therapy? Bringing mindfulness to the process of therapy helps us develop a non-judgmental, curious, kind, present-moment awareness to our thoughts and feelings…and by extension, to ourselves. This helps to cultivate not only awareness but a spacious way of responding to difficult emotions and situations. This spaciousness can not only bring more ease into our daily lives but can free up the more logical, problem-solving parts of our brain to “come online” and respond to the inevitable challenges of daily life.
Over the past decades, mindfulness has been integrated into many mainstream, evidence-based approaches to psychotherapy, such as Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT), Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT), Mindful Self-Compassion (MSC), Compassion-Focused Therapy (CFT), and Mindfulness-Based Relapse Prevention (MBRP), to name a few. These therapies were developed to address depression, anxiety, suicidal and self-harming behaviors, excessive self-judgment and shame, and addiction.
According to the UCLA Mindful Awareness Research Center, mindfulness has been shown to lessen anxiety, depression, rumination (repeatedly pondering negative thoughts), and emotional reactivity while strengthening attention, empathy, emotion regulation, and awareness of what is happening in our body. Practicing mindfulness also provides many physical benefits, such as enhancing immune function, improving sleep quality, and lowering blood pressure. Scientists have been able to document measurable positive changes in the brain, including strengthening areas of the brain associated with regulating attention, regulating emotions, and increasing empathy. Studies have also shown improved communication skills in those who practice mindfulness, including in the workplace and at school. (https://www.uclahealth.org/marc/research)
Would you like to learn more?
Our therapists are trained in and utilize various types of mindfulness, including Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, Compassion Focused Therapy, DBT-informed therapies, Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy, and Mindful Self-Compassion.
If you or someone you know would benefit from cognitive behavioral therapy, please contact us today. We would be happy to speak with you about how we may be able to help.