Mindfulness – Posted 8 April 2014

As human beings we understandably spend a good deal of our time trying to avoid or control ‘unpleasant internal experiences’ such as thoughts, feelings, and sensations. But this invariably sets us up to lose that struggle as 6 out of the 9 core human emotions are typically deemed “bad” (i.e., anger, sadness, fear, guilt, shock and disgust) and often result in us trying very hard to avoid or control them (via excessive engagement in alcohol, work, exercise, gambling, being aggressive, self-harming, etc) and pursue the “good” emotions (i.e., love, joy and curiosity). Sound familiar to you at all? If it does, thankfully mindfulness strategies have been shown to help improve our ability to tolerate unwanted emotions and experiences and how to let go of harmful control and avoidance strategies.

So what is mindfulness? Is it the same thing as relaxation? In order to understand mindfulness it’s a good idea to first think about mindlessness. Examples of mindlessness include driving on auto-pilot from A to B without remembering any of the trip, having racing, repetitive and ruminative thoughts about past events, scoffing down a plate of food without savouring it, watching a movie or reading a book and having your mind go elsewhere, working your way through a bottle of wine/rum with the aim of blocking out your thoughts/feelings, and being stuck in habitual ways of behaving (e.g., addictions, aggressive behaviour).

On the other hand, mindfulness is a psychological quality that involves bringing your full attention to the present experience on a moment-to-moment basis, in a non-judgemental way. Being non-judgemental is hard to do, especially when you struggle with PTSD which involves a belief that you need to be ‘on guard’ and continuously assess for risk/threat. But it’s not impossible. While the goal of mindfulness is not relaxation, it is more often than not a very beneficial by-product for those who regularly engage in mindfulness, as meditation is a key technique involved in mindfulness. Being a skill though, like any other skill, mindfulness takes time to develop and requires an ongoing effort.

If you’re able, you may like to join us for one of our mindfulness sessions (usually Monday and Wednesday at 11am). Alternatively, there are a range of useful apps that can be downloaded on your smartphone (some are free while others are at cost) that talk you through various exercises like mindfulness of the breath, mindfulness of emotions, and body scan and awareness exercises.

If you’d like to learn more about mindfulness don’t hesitate to give one of our three psychologists a call or send an email or make an appointment. We hope to hear from you soon!