The concept of mindfulness often comes up when you begin discussing mental health and specific mindfulness therapy techniques. But what is mindfulness? How does it work? Could a mindfulness approach to therapy be helpful to you?
What is Mindfulness?
People talk about mindfulness in many different ways; the psychotherapy approach to mindfulness has to do with being mindful of the present time and place, acknowledging one’s thoughts and feelings with a calm and accepting attitude, and not being swept away into thoughts or worries about the past or future.
Mindfulness is often useful on its own to create a general sense of wellbeing and to help manage:
- Stressful situations
Some psychotherapists incorporate mindfulness into the therapy session where appropriate, and/or teach the client helpful tools to try between session.
Mindfulness isn’t just sitting and meditating, although those are strategies that can be helpful for some people. It involves recognizing that your mind is caught in the past or the future and refocusing on the now, what is happening around you. Therapists who use mindfulness counselling and mindfulness-based approaches can help guide this process.
How Does Mindfulness Work, Scientifically?
If you’re not familiar with a mindfulness approach to counselling or mindfulness based psychotherapy, it can seem far fetched as a solution. There is science behind mindfulness and how it can affect your ability to rebound from stress and mitigate your responses to it in the moment.
One thing we know about mindfulness is that it increases the connections between the amygdala part of your brain – the area focused on emotions and fight or flight reactions – and your prefrontal cortex, which is the executive function part of the brain, the part that does the “thinking.” More connections between these areas mean that we can better understand our reactions in the moment, and we may have more opportunities to intervene with emotional processes. This can help us change unhealthy patterns into healthier ones.
Mindfulness can also help couples have more successful, happy relationships. Although couples who practice mindfulness will still encounter conflict, and they will still have strong stress responses in the moment, some studies have found that they calm down more quickly and can more effectively sort through their difficulties after the fact.
If you’re interested in finding a therapist who might use mindfulness in their approach, browse our directory to find the right person and contact them through their individual therapist pages.