In dialectical behavioral therapy, being mindful is one of four key components of the treatment. Mindfulness teaches intention with every thought and being aware of the situation outside of yourself. Adding perspective to a situation that you would have normally not observed more closely. Mindfulness provides a foundation for peace and understanding within a situation that would normally be chaotic. There are several exercises that can help with the practice of mindfulness, many involve meditation as a partner. Meditating doesn’t have to be chanting and sitting with crossed legs. It can be done in still quiet place where ever you are comfortable. Meditation and mindfulness exercises can help regulate emotions, steady your heart rate and help clear your head.
Meditation and Health
Meditation has been proven as a health improving exercise in modern days, but the origin of this practice is centuries old. Many cultures have terms for quiet contemplation. The practice of meditation for adults can actually increase neuroplasticity, meaning it can help the brain change in ways that scientists thought once to be impossible in adulthood. Once we reach the age of 18, our brain structure doesn’t change much. Increased meditation can help improve the function of the brain and help structures remain changeable to improve health. In one study, adults that meditate were found to have an increase in cortical structure of the brain. This means that the brain actually aged slower among people that meditated for approximately 40 minutes per day. Cortical structure is important for memory, attention and decision making.
In some instances, meditation has proven more effective than medications:
In 2008, Dr. Randy Zusman, a doctor at the Massachusetts General Hospital, asked patients suffering from high blood pressure to try a meditation-based relaxation program for three months. These were patients whose blood pressure had not been controlled with medication. After meditating regularly for three months, 40 of the 60 patients showed significant drops in blood pressure levels and were able to reduce some of their medication. The reason? Relaxation results in the formation of nitric oxide which opens up your blood vessels.
Huffington Post : 7 Fascinating Facts About Meditation
Another example of meditation being more effective than medication includes the pain relieving properties:
Earlier this year, a study conducted by Wake Forest Baptist University found that meditation could reduce pain intensity by 40 percent and pain unpleasantness by 57 percent. Morphine and other pain-relieving drugs typically show a pain reduction of 25 percent. Meditation works by reducing activity in the somatosensory cortex and increasing activity in other areas of the brain. This study also had a small sample size, making it harder to draw definite conclusions.
Huffington Post : 7 Fascinating Facts About Meditation
When it comes to relieving anxiety, mindfulness can help create structure for chaotic moments. One exercise in mindfulness has a visual focal point. The subject is asked to study the visualization in a quiet and comfortable place, noticing all the details. Making an effort to study, describe and take in all of the different features, being extremely detailed in your observation. Noting the visuals’ effect on all of your senses, complete this exercise for about 5 minutes. Mindfulness in the moment helps to focus your intentions and remove outside influences. By focusing on your visual, this can help clear your mind of other distractions.
Mindfulness can be added to daily routines to help reduce things that may trigger stress and anxiety. One article suggests adding mindfulness exercises to your routine social media regimen to bring more awareness to how it is effecting your mood and how you see yourself. It is common to make comparisons when looking through your newsfeed. Seeing other people’s accomplishments and comparing them to your own is often cause for reflection. By adding a mindful approach to social media, you can find a more honest place for your internet use. Social media has changed our culture drastically in the last decade. There have been recent studies that suggest a large number of participants in social media have higher levels of narcissism. Facebook satisfies narcissistic people’s need for self promoting and superficial behaviors.
Being self conscious can be exacerbated by social media usage. Social media usage has a just as much effect as normal social interactions.
Research also reveals that social rewards and punishments feel the same online and off. If someone interacts with us in a positive way online, we get the same neurochemical rewards in our brain as we would in person. When we (or our children) are rejected or ignored online, we get the same feeling of rejection as we would in person. More interestingly, the sense of emotional attack activates the same part of the brain as physical attack does. Emotional pain is just as painful, just as real, as physical pain, whether it comes from the virtual world or not.
It is important to acknowledge how our social media usage makes us feel. Before you engage in your next social media binge. Try this exercise:
- Find a comfortable, alert, and ready posture. Shrug your shoulders, take a few breaths, and bring awareness to your physical and emotional state in this particular moment.
- Now open your computer or click on your phone.
- Before you open up your favorite social media site, consider your intentions and expectations. As you focus on the icon, notice what experiences you have in your mind and body.
- Why are you about to check this site? What are you hoping to see or not see? How are you going to respond to different kinds of updates you encounter? By checking your social media, are you interested in connecting or in disconnecting and distracting?
- Close your eyes and focus on your emotional state for three breaths before you begin to engage.
- Opening your eyes now, look at the first status update or photo, and then sit back and close your eyes again.
- Notice your response—your emotion. Is it excitement? Boredom? Jealousy? Regret? Fear? How do you experience this emotion in the mind and body? What’s the urge—to read on, to click a response, to share yourself, or something else?
- Wait a breath or two for the sensations and emotions to fade, or focus on your breath, body, or surrounding sounds.
- Try this practice with one social media update, or for three or five minutes, depending on your time and your practice.
Practicing Mindfulness With Intention
Dialectical Behavioral Therapy was developed to treat those effected by Borderline Personality Disorder. Some of the common symptoms of those that have the diagnoses of Borderline Personality Disorder are severe mood swings, problems with self worth, intense feelings of anger and suicidal ideation. With those symptoms in mind, creating skills for mindfulness in those with Borderline Personality Disorder can help contribute to a more realistic view of their surroundings, create a balanced approach to stressful situations and help to regulate emotions that would normally be extreme. By finding balance in these extremes, people with Borderline Personality Disorder can learn the right skills to manage their symptoms and find a more healthy approach to difficult times.
Talking about being quiet and peaceful may seem easy. One thing that is important to note is that this is a practice that takes time to learn. For many, sitting still is a challenge. Being patient with the process of quiet times can be a struggle for some. Through exercises and meditation, many people find that they learn a great deal about themselves by how they react to the process. For those with severe mental health concerns, it can be quite a journey. Even those with relatively good mental health can be surprised by how much their brain wonders when consciously trying to be mindful. In any extreme, it is important to be honest and recognize the moments and be patient with progress.
Adding practices for mindfulness can be a great tool for anyone who would like to increase their ability to handle anxiety, stress and increase mental functions. Being mindful is especially beneficial for those experiencing hard times and wanting to gain more insight into their mental cognition. Through practices in meditation, mindfulness can help increase health overall.