Practicing mindfulness can be an excellent way of coping with your PTSD symptoms. People with PTSD may sometimes feel as though they have a hard time getting any distance from unpleasant thoughts and memories. They may feel preoccupied with and distracted by these thoughts. As a result, many people with PTSD find that they have a hard time focusing their attention on what matters most in their life, such as relationships with family and friends or other activities that they used to enjoy.
Mindfulness may help people get back in touch with the present moment, as well as reduce the extent with which they feel controlled by unpleasant thoughts and memories.
What is Mindfulness?
In a nutshell, mindfulness is about being completely in touch with the present moment and being open to experiences as they come. Mindfulness has been around for ages. However, mental health professionals are beginning to recognize that mindfulness can have many benefits for people suffering from difficulties such as anxiety and depression.
Skills of Mindfulness
Mindfulness is made up of a number of skills, all of which require practice. These skills are briefly described below:
One skill of mindfulness is learning how to focus your attention on one thing at a time. This includes being aware of and able to recognize all the things that are going on around you (for example, sights and sounds), as well as all the things that are going on inside you (for example, thoughts and feelings).
- Nonjudgmental/Nonevaluative Observation
This skill is focused on looking at your experiences in a nonjudgmental way. That is, simply looking at things in an objective way as opposed to labeling them as either "good" or "bad." An important part of this skill is self-compassion.
- Being in the Present Moment
Part of mindfulness is being in touch with the present moment as opposed to being caught up in thoughts about the past (also called rumination) or the future (or worry). An aspect of this skill is being an active participant in experiences instead of just "going through the motions" or "being stuck on auto-pilot."
- Beginner's Mind
This skill of mindfulness focuses on being open to new possibilities. It also refers to observing or looking at things as they truly are, as opposed to what we think they are or evaluate them to be. For example, going into a situation with a preconceived notion of how things will turn out can color your experience. This can prevent you from getting in touch with the true experience.
Mindfulness takes practice. Some people may put aside time to formally practice mindfulness, such as devoting time to practice mindful awareness of their breath or thoughts. However, the good thing about mindfulness is that you can also practice it at any point throughout your day. For example, you can bring mindfulness awareness to a number of activities that we often do without thinking, such as eating, washing dishes, cooking, taking a shower or bath, walking, driving in the car, or listening to music.
As you go about your day, try to find as many opportunities as you can to practice mindfulness. The more you practice, the easier it will become to bring mindful awareness to your life experiences, which in the end may also help you cope with your PTSD symptoms.
Source:Roemer, L., & Orsillo, S. M. (2008). Mindfulness- and acceptance-based behavioral therapies in practice. New York, NY: Guilford.