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Anxiety and Depression are created by certain thinking patterns. Usually, when someone suffers from anxiety, there are habitual patterns of thinking, and patterns of behavior that are linked to those patterns of thinking.
Traditional cognitive behavioral therapy helps the client to see those patterns and hopefully, break some of them by intervening somewhere in the cycle.
Mindfulness is another tool that can be used to highlight and break the habitual patterns that drive depression and anxiety.
This page will highlight some of the core features of mindfulness.
Mindfulness helps us to practice directly experiencing life rather than becoming analytical and thinking about it. When we are anxious and depressed, we often will escape and avoid difficult situations with thinking patterns. Worrying, ruminating and dissociating are several examples of this.
Mindfulness strategies teach us to contact our direct experience in our body and through all of our senses( including our mind) and OBSERVE that experience with a detached curiosity.
There are skills and strategies that are taught to practice focusing on sensing and being rather than thinking.
Once you have begun to practice observing, mindfulness can take you deeper into your experience by encouraging you to describe or note your experience. For example, if you are observing the experience of anger or anxiety in your body, you are encouraged to describe it. Is it hot or cold? What shape is it? Does it hurt, or tingle, does it make you naseous? One such exercise frequently used and taught to practice this with the sensation of taste is the eat a raisin exercise.
So much of our experience of depression and anxiety is related to our avoidance of the emotional experience because we judge it to be bad or scary. In fact, I am convinced most of the distress I see in my office is due to our own self judgement and inability to experience our feelings and thoughts because of it. Mindfulness can teach us to accept and tolerate our experience without judgement.
We practice not judging our feelings and behaviors and experiences as good or bad or right or wrong with mindfulness practices. Self compassion and acceptance are two mindfulness practices that help with self criticism and judgement.
Mindfulness helps us to focus on one thing at a time rather than multitasking. Through practicing activities that slow us down, deepen our concentration and focus, and teach us to single task, we can reverse the habit of multitasking, which is a damaging side effect or our frenetic society, and in fact, a less effective and efficient way to structure our lives. This is true despite our strong beliefs to the contrary.
Cognitive research shows several facts about multitasking:
Cognitive load is how hard we must work to process information. Other forms of cognitive load include the thought patterns associated with depression and anxiety such as obsessions and ruminations. Innovative and creative thinking is decreased with cognitive load. High cognitive load can also result in stress and symptoms of depression. This can become a vicious cycle. (Moshe 2017)
In therapy, you can learn how to practice mindfulness by learning skills that help you with any of these components.
Learn more about mindfulness in therapy here
Bar, Moshe. “Opinion | Think Less, Think Better.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 21 Dec. 2017, www.nytimes.com/2016/06/19/opinion/sunday/think-less-think-better.html.