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Stop, Breathe, and Be Here Now

There's a reason why more and more therapists, psychologists, and mental health practitioners are utilizing mindfulness techniques when treating their clients. Recent research shows that mindfulness has dramatic effects on one's mental and physical health. Mindfulness is one's ability to become present and aware of what's happening within and around them. It's the practice of staying in the present moment and allowing things to be just as they are.

Often, it's a person's struggle and resistance to the circumstances in their life that cause stress, anxiety, fear, and tension. Certainly, there are concerns in life that everyone experiences that can be anxiety-provoking. However, the practice of mindfulness invites a conscious awareness of what is arising - both inwardly and outwardly. It's not necessarily inviting one to dwell on the circumstances in one's life that might be causing anxiety, but an openness to whatever one is feeling - even the anxiety itself.

It might sound odd - why would anyone want to feel anxiety? However, staying open to what you're experiencing without resistance can actually bring great benefits. The anxiety itself may not feel comfortable. It is your willingness to feel what you're experiencing that creates a sense of ease and well being.

Research indicates that mindfulness can improve one's physical and mental health. In fact, with regular practice mindfulness can:

  • help relieve stress
  • treat heart disease
  • lower blood pressure
  • reduce chronic pain
  • improve sleep
  • alleviate gastrointestinal difficulties

As suggested above, there are not only physical benefits of mindfulness, but there are also emotional and psychological benefits. Mindfulness:

·         makes it easier to savor the pleasures in life as they occur

·         creates a greater capacity to deal with adverse events

·         helps you become fully engaged in activities

·         reduces the tendency to worry about the future or regret over the past

·         supports many attitudes that contribute to a satisfied life

·         reduces one's preoccupation with concerns about success and self-esteem

·         strengthens the ability to form deep connections with others.

Because mindfulness is becoming more and more accepted in the mental health field, it is now being used to treat the following illnesses:

  • depression
  • substance abuse
  • eating disorders
  • couples’ conflicts
  • anxiety disorders
  • obsessive-compulsive disorder

One popular form of therapy is one that combines both mindfulness techniques with Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, called mindfulness-based CBT. This is an excellent combination because both these types of therapy as well as mindfulness, invite a person to become more aware of their thoughts. Both also help people gain insight and perspective on irrational, maladaptive, and self-defeating thoughts.

By becoming more aware of the destructive thoughts, feelings, and choices one makes, the more opportunity he or she has in changing them. Little by little a person can change their thoughts to those that are life-affirming, healthy and happy. This alone is a great antidote to psychological illnesses, such as anxiety, depression, or addiction.

If you're interested in mindfulness, look for a mindfulness-oriented therapist or a class on mindfulness in your community. 

 

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Chris Massman is a Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist. Chris' training includes Family Systems Theory along with numerous other theories. She believes therapy is an art and chooses the theory she feels will most benefit the individual sitting in front of her. Her specialty lies is in the field of Chemical Dependency and Addictions. Chris is currently seeing individuals, couples and families. Chris is a Clinical member of the California Association of Marriage and Family Therapists as well as the American Association of Marriage and Family Therapists. Chris has two locations including Tarzana and Agoura Hills, CA.