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Does mindfulness actually help? And how?


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So I'm just starting on some DBT with a new therapist... we haven't gone too far yet but one exercise she gave me was to practice 10 minutes of mindfulness a day. Nothing specific, just 10 minutes where I try to fully focus on whatever I'm doing. Since I take care of my 2-year old daughter all morning, she suggested directly interacting with her.

 

I've read a ton about mindfulness, practiced meditation in the past, studied zen in school, etc... but I don't quite see how it helps anxiety/depression. I guess in theory I do, but not practically.

 

Right now, 10 minutes of mindfulness just seems like one more thing to do, I hate it, and find it difficult (could be my ADHD, too). When I am able to do it, I don't notice any benefit, but maybe it's more subconscious. I just get more anxious in general, annoyed, and resistant. 

 

I've seen people mention mindfulness being helpful, but can anyone describe how it specifically helps? Do you use it in particular situations? Does practicing just seem to help over time in a more general way?

 

 

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Maybe, I have been trying to do it wrong.  I thought mindfulness was about being present and focusing on something.  Like a sight or sound.  But, then to participate.  That is where I have trouble.  I am fine at observing but not so much engaging. It doesn't cause me stress, though.  I find the observing part relaxing. 

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Ha! I recently posted basically this exact topic in the Social Phobia forum. My psychiatrist says being mindful would reduce my anxiety in general, though also socially.

 

I really struggle with it. Concentrating on one thing and being present and stuff. 10 minutes a day of mindfulness (as it has been taught in my dbt iop) sounds like torture.

 

I am also really unclear on how it is supposed to help, sorry. I hope someone can explain - and have experienced it helping - specifically with anxiety!

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Mindfulness is key for me right now in dealing with my depression and anxiety.  My meds are fairly stable, I graduated therapy, so now it is up to me to deal with all the muck and mire.

 

Here is an example of mindfulness that just happened to me today.

 

I am at lunch with a friend.  We are talking and talking.  We get onto the topic of ballet schedule pickups.  I am the one who arranges the schedule.  All of a sudden I felt my mood plunge.  That desolate, despairing blackness was leaking into my lovely lunch.  What happened?  Because I was mindful, because I was very aware of what was going on AT THAT EXACT MOMENT, I was able to trace the trigger immediately.

 

When we spoke about schedules, I remembered that my family is driving to ballet on Saturday. My memories are visual, and I can see in my mind the color and shape of Saturday and a somewhat abstract picture of me leaving the house with kids and driving.    This is a very big trigger for me.  Schedules, after-school activities, driving to dance, etc.  My childhood was over scheduled overly controlled and without love.

 

So what happens when I am triggered by schedules is I go right back to my childhood, right back to my house of despair.  It is NOT the dance class, it is the traveling back in time to that period in my life when everything about my home was miserable. 

 

Because I knew the trigger and because I was with a friend, I was able to vocalize what was going on.  This is the important part.  Talking about the trigger, even just commenting to myself about what happened, helps dissipate the despair.  Keeps me from plunging down the rabbit hole.  I could look around me and see that I was in a diner, I was with a lovely friend, I was NOT back in that house of horror.  Being mindful of these triggers allows me to take a step back and look around and see what is happening.  Rearrange my feelings and thoughts so I am in the present. It is not always so easy to get rid of the despair, even when I know the trigger.  It is most helpful when I am not in the midst of a deep depression.  But even then, searching out, teasing out the different strands of emotions and feelings, looking around to see where I am and who I am with, figuring out what is going on inside me, this is all being mindful.  Without mindfulness, I would be lost right now. Even with the meds, even with the therapy, it is daily work to deal with depression.  I have no illusions about my illness.  Depression will always be around the corner somewhere, but with my arsenal I can battle it back so it remains in the outfield, out of sight, at least for the moment.  And in the long, it is the present moment that matters.  

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Another example - just happened.

 

I am concerned about the food my girl is eating and very critical of my dinner making abilities.  So tonight I decided to make tacos, with all the trimmings.  Of course my girl was not here for dinner.  Hubby and I ate together which was very nice.

 

She just got home.  I left the dinner out on the table hoping she would eat.  Of course she was not hungry.  

 

I was setting myself up.  Definitely.  And because I KNEW I would do this I was prepared and ready for that awful feeling of not being good enough.  This awful feeling has NOTHING at all to do with my girl. It has everything to do with my parents.  I prepared myself, I was aware that probably at some time tonight she would reject my food.  And she did reject my food.  And I did feel like shit.  But I was mindful.  Just now, five minutes ago, I walked into the kitchen and saw my nice dinner not touched by my girl.  Lo and behold, I plunged.  'No one loves me.  I am not good enough. Nothing I do is ever good enough. blah blah blah."

 

Because I was mindful and knew what was happening, I could walk over to hubby, give him a hug and say to him, "this is all my stuff isn't it?"

 

And now I can go to bed feeling good about my delicious dinner.  Knowing that my girl is not wrong for not being hungry.  Knowing that it is no ones fault.  Knowing that I am full and tired and ready to sleep. And that is all.  The rest is all to be tossed out into the wind.

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Thanks water--that helps a bit, sounds a little like what I've read about, but it helps to have specific examples.

 

I'm sure I still need to learn more... I feel like I know what my triggers are--when it's a more dramatic or isolated mood change, anyway (most of the time it's just a general low mood with no conscious trigger, at least that I know of). It's not very often that my triggers relate to anything in the past, or even the future... just stress and frustration over my current situations. And I feel like I'm pretty good about placing the "blame", whether it's not blaming myself for something someone else said or did, or blaming someone/something else for my own actions. Basically I feel like I'm pretty realistic about why my feelings occur... it's just that those feelings still suck!!!

 

Maybe not the best example, but one daily stress is my daughter's nap time. Ironically I spend all morning waiting for a break, and then once she's down, I tend to either stress about how much I have to do, or if I "let" myself relax, it's pretty hard to do because I'm thinking about how short a time I have. There's not much I can do about stressing about chores... I simply don't have any time! I can't get anything done while she's up, and I basically have two hours to eat, keep up the house, shower, get ready for work, get dinner ready, basically live my life. I accept that... sometimes I do some housework, sometimes I sit on my butt and I tell myself that's fine. But with my schedule it's never all going to get done. That's just depressing, and that's really all there is to it. I'm working on the practical aspects to fix that, but meanwhile I just don't see the point of mindfulness. 

 

Ha, in fact it almost seems to go against one of the other coping strategies of distraction from stress... I find myself thinking, "I should put down my phone" where I'm probably playing a game or looking at random crap online, and say "I should pay attention to my daughter and do that mindfulness stuff", but then I pull myself away from something mindless, which doesn't stress me out, into an acute awareness of the thing that stresses me out the most. Ha.

 

I'm sure I'm applying it the wrong way... I know this is mostly a conversation for my therapist, I'm just curious about people's experiences! And FYI, I really appreciate comments from people who DIDN'T find it helpful just as much as those who do so thanks for the replies!

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My tdoc is more of a "take deep breaths, find your happy place" kind of lady when it comes to my panic or anxiety.  But for the PTSD stuff, she's all about mindfulness since paying attention to what I'm actually thinking is important to not freak out.  It works okay but the lithium works better.  ;)  When I find myself getting upset at someone, I do try to use the mindfulness technique to say "hey, what the hell is going on with me."  Again, it works to a certain point or if I actually have time to think, if not, the meds save my ass.  Sometimes things just happen too fast.

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I find myself thinking, "I should put down my phone" where I'm probably playing a game or looking at random crap online, and say "I should pay attention to my daughter and do that mindfulness stuff", but then I pull myself away from something mindless, which doesn't stress me out, into an acute awareness of the thing that stresses me out the most.

 

I think you are over thinking. :-}

 

Don't get stuck on the word MIND.  Doing mindless stuff is important, healthy and relaxing.  This does not mean you are not being mindful.  Any "shoulda woulda coulda" you hear inside your mind usually can be ignored.  That is your critical self saying "no!  bad girl!"

 

Being mindful is just being present.  Next time you put your daughter down for her nap, listen to yourself go on an anxiety spree.  Then you can just say to yourself, "wow, my mind is really getting anxious right now." That is all it is.  Simple.  Then go play your mindless game.

 

If you find yourself being anxious about something that is not going to happen for an hour a day a year, you can say to yourself "there I go again worrying about the future." Then go play a mindless game. 

 

Little steps.  LIsten to your mind talk.  Maybe write some stuff down.  Being mindful is not being IN your mind.  It is just being Awareful. Maybe that is a better word. Be Awareful.

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Being mindful is just being present.  Next time you put your daughter down for her nap, listen to yourself go on an anxiety spree.  Then you can just say to yourself, "wow, my mind is really getting anxious right now." That is all it is.  Simple.  Then go play your mindless game.

 

 

Yes. This.

 

You might find a book called Peace is Every Step by Thich Nhat Hanh to be helpful. I have a hard time with sitting still type mindfulness practices. But when I read this book it really clicked for me.

 

Example: When I'm washing the dishes, I could be "all caught up" in how much I don't like washing dishes. I could be planning what I need to get done in the next couple of hours. I could be imagining x, y, or z. My mind is doing something different than my body.

 

When I bring my mind's attention to what my body is doing, I am observing the qualities of the water (warm, smooth, flowing, clear), the soap (slippery, bubbles), even the texture of the soap bubbles. Something I learned when I was a kid is that if you watch the surface of a bubble it looks all rainbow swirly. As it gets closer to popping, it will start to get little tannish brown spots that merge into bigger tannish brown spots on the surface.

 

I am noticing how much force it takes for me to hold the dish and the sponge, what muscles I am using in my hands, arms, shoulders, back, and legs (yes, legs to wash dishes if you're standing at a sink). I watch the rinse water as it cascades over the surface of the dish.

 

In that moment, I am completely washing dishes with both my body and my mind. I am bringing mindful presence to my actions.

 

 

I think that sometimes people get caught up in "doing mindfulness wrong" because there's an expectation that somehow we should be "quieting the mind". I find it's not so much about "quieting my mind" as it is just watching what my mind is doing and/or what my body is doing with some part of my mind that is not invested or attached to what is happening. 

 

If you're into sports, you will notice that when a game is broadcast on the radio or tv, particularly radio, that there is one announcer who does "play by play" and another announcer who is the "color" announcer. I like to think of mindfulness as just having the play by play announcer describing what actions are happening, without any sort of value or judgment attached to the actions. When the color announcer shows up, the play by play announcer even just comments on that, but doesn't engage in a conversation with it.

 

Does that analogy make sense?

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