Mindfulness Meditation Therapy Researched

Psychologists research Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) and variations for alcohol relapse prevention, social anxiety, panic, PTDS, OCD, Bi-Polar and other conditions.

We’re far beyond the oooohs and ahhhhs of tv celebrity shows announcing that mindfulness offers miracles of personal growth.

There is now a vast amount of research on the importance of learning mindfulness, and a lot of clinical experience supporting that. Personally, I have been teaching mindfulness in a mental health context for 5 years.

Just this summer research came out on the effectiveness of mindfulness-based workshops for social anxiety. Not long ago Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy was found to be as effective as medication at preventing depression relapse, and a lot less expensive and intrusive. Mindfulness-Based protocols for generalized anxiety have been created and are in use.

Taking a look through PubMed.Gov, a site that gives abstracts of most important medical and mental health research, I found studies on the following:

OCD- obsessive compulsive disorder

Bi-Polar Disorder

Medically unexplained symptoms

Subclinical paranoia

Fertility problems

Women with cancer

PTSD in Veterans

Headaches

Diabetes patients

Bodily Distress Syndrome

Traumatic Brain Injury (TMI)

Health anxiety

Life goals clarification

 

Clearly, the final story on mindfulness interventions has not yet been written. Researchers and practitioners are actively finding new and useful applications.

Mindfulness of life with Louis Schwartzberg

Eating a slice from a loaf of fresh baked french bread, this morning…. pure bliss. Reminding me of my youth, when as an 8-year old I pedaled my bike to the boulangerie for a fresh loaf, still warm from the oven, and biked it home to my parents. Half eaten by the time I got there!

But, with this loaf today, I listened to another person as I tasted, and the taste was lost. I took another bite and savored it. Thanks for second chances…. always, available, really, because moments of opportunity present themselves continuously. That’s the nature of mindfulness, there’s always a second chance.

Just saw a video talk from TED that illustrates this beautifully. Enjoy.

The mind focused, and the mind wandering… both are valuable.

Dis-Identification with Thoughts 

A lot of what we’re doing with mindfulness is changing how we relate to our thoughts.

We’re not actively trying to stop or change the thoughts. That’s often the content of  classical cognitive therapy. In Mindfulness-Based work we’re learning to observe the thoughts rather than change them. We’re leaning how to observe ourselves having the thoughts. Then they’re less ‘us’ and more something that is happening in us. It’s less “I’m a failure,”  and more “A failure thought is in me,” or “A failure thought is here.”  When we dis-identify with the thought we can look at it, and have some more freedom in how we respond to it.

In the third week of MBCT we enter a new phase of this dis-identification. We start practicing the three minute breathing space, the first step of which is to note what thoughts are currently present in our mind. In this, we are practicing noticing thoughts.  Also in the third week, we start daily formal practice of meditating on the breath, then body and breath.

In the meditating instructions, we follow a very different practice than some other meditators. We are not practicing concentration, as it is usually taught. Usually the idea in meditation would be that the times I am noticing the breath are good, and the times my mind has wandered are like something I want to change, a work in progress. For us, by contrast, both the focus on breath and the wandering mind are of equal value and interest. When I notice the breath, that’s fine, it’s my intention. When I notice the mind has wandered I take the attitude of friendly interest in the thought. I note it as “thinking” or I get a little deeper and categorize it as “planning” or “worrying” or “remembering” or “ regretting” or any of a bunch of labels which you can make up for yourself. When we are noting the thought we are not trying to remember it, but rather just to give it a name. Things named are often less fearsome, after all. Once named, things are beginning to be understood. We just note the thought and return to the breath.

This practice in noticing, and noting, is also very helpful in the process of learning to dis-identify from thoughts.  Every time we notice we have been thinking,  and note it, we are practicing dis-identification. So both the breath and the thoughts are useful! They are little trainings in dis-identification.

Accepting Ourselves Mindfully, as expressed by Zindel Segal

MAKING FRIENDS WITH OUR ATTENTION: a lesson in self-acceptance, mindfulness and kindness

Making friends
with our attention—
not beating it
(and ourselves)
up
when it drifts from its intended focus—
helps teach us how to deal with
other deviations from perfection
in ourselves and others.
^^^^^^^^
When we're berating ourselves for
falling short
of our own
expectations,
mindfulness practice teaches us
to bring the same type of
gentle awareness
to these self-denigrating
thoughts
and feelings

in our everyday lives.
 Zindel Segal, PhD, in Psychotherapy Networker, Jan/Feb 2008

 

The difference between meditation and mindfulness

Meditation and Mindfulness are not the same thing, at least in Therapy

When we want to meditate mindfully but find thoughts keep on popping into the mind, even though we do not want them, even though we have said to our minds, “quiet now, I’m going to focus on my breath,” when thoughts just keep on coming back again and again….. that is not the problem it seems to be.

While you would think that thoughts are wrecking your mindfulness meditation, really they are not. What is important is the intention to be mindful. Some background on  the difference between meditation and mindfulness. In meditation the intention is to practice concentration, meaning to learn to focus just on the breath. In meditation there is a wish for the thoughts to go away. With mindfulness, in contrast, the intention is to be aware of all experience as it is, so thoughts are not a problem. They are just interesting. We note them. And we return to the breath.

So you would think mindfulness mediation is easier, because you just think about noticing the breath, but whatever happens is ok. Well…. I wish it were that simple. The problem that many people encounter is their own judging mind, the mind that says, “you should not be having these thoughts right now,” or the mind that says, “you’re just no good, whatever you try doesn’t work.” These thoughts come up often for people around here. There are so many things that make it hard to maintain positive self-regard. So we also practiced a sort of self-acceptance meditation, sometimes called Sending Kind Thoughts, sometimes called Metta, or Loving Kindness meditation.

Come to the next talk even if you missed the first. No previous experience required. I just thought you might like to know a little bit about what we covered. If you want to read more on mindfulness, there are articles within this Blog.