I recently had the amazing opportunity to take a course in Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy! If you're thinking, "I've heard of CBT, but what in the world is that?!," Here is a brief definition:
"It combines the ideas of cognitive therapy with meditative practices and attitudes based on the cultivation of mindfulness. The heart of this work lies in becoming acquainted with the modes of mind that often characterize mood disorders while simultaneously learning to develop a new relationship to them."
Clients, friends, or family of mine may roll their eyes and smile as they read this, as I am constantly saying... "the problem is not the thought itself, but how we relate to to the thought!"
This training has equipped me with some new tools to give back to my community, which has given me so much!
If you're finding yourself more anxious, emotional, or low than usual during this time of social distancing, know that you are not alone. Here are a few simple things you can integrate into your day that may be slightly different than the other lists going around!
1. Nurturing (N) vs. Draining (D) List
Think of everything you normally do in a day - from the time you wake, to the time you go back to sleep. Make a list of these in order. Beside each activity, write either an N or a D. N for nurturing, D for draining.
This activity allows you to gather a more comprehensive understanding of which daily activities drain you, and how they add up.
When looking at the entire list, ask yourself:
- which draining items can I remove? - If I can't remove any draining items, how can I alter something to make them have less of an impact?
Conversely, you may notice which activities are nurturing you, and bringing you joy.
How can you increase these?
We all have some daily activities we do on autopilot, not realizing how much they are impacting our energy levels!
2. Practice a body scan
(Image from Stop, Breathe, and Think - Kids Meditation)
A body scan requires no additional tools! Just you, a comfortable space, and some time you've set aside. A body scan asks you to pay attention to each part of your body one at a time. You'd be surprised how healing, or energizing it can be to reset and reconnect with your physical body!
Here is a link to a free body scan by the founder of MBSR:
Body Scan Exercise, Jon Kabat-Zinn. https://youtu.be/15q-N-_kkrU
3. Three-minute breathing space
A 3 minute breathing space meditation takes you through one minute of attending to what is in your mind, or attending to your experience, one minute of focusing on the breath, and one minute of attending to the physical body.
Meditations hold a reputation for being too long. People often think that the goal is to quiet the mind. Neither of these are true! Meditations can be as short as you need them to be, and they never require you to quiet your thoughts, but rather, to observe them with kindness and to refocus.
A guided meditation is a great tool, as the narrators voice will take up some of your attentional pathways, urging you to focus on the here and now.
Try this 3-minute breathing space meditation: https://youtu.be/amX1IuYFv8A
... or invent your own!
It's recommended that you practice this three random times throughout the day, and not just when you're stressed! Meditation strengthens our ability to cope in difficult times, but you don't want to train your brain to associate meditating with stress. See if you can practice this when you're in various moods.
4. The Raisin Exercise
Mindfulness works because it requires us to pay attention with intention. When we are paying attention to what is in the present moment, our attentional pathways are being filled with the present experience.
Depression and anxiety THRIVE on on thoughts being in the past, or in the future. In order to cultivate being in our present moment, we can start practicing seemingly simple activities such as the raisin exercise.
In this exercise, the facilitator provides participants with a few raisins and asks that they pretend they have never seen a raisin before (stay with me here!).
The facilitator then asks them to pay careful attention to:
The way the raisin looks. Is it bumpy? Smooth? Brittle? Does it look damp? Dry?
How it feels; Is the texture bumpy? Smooth? Damp? Dry? How does this feel on your fingers as you hold it?
You might be thinking, "ok sure... but I'm not going to play with a raisin every day, Sara...." and I don't expect that of you!
However, doing a few of these exercises will bridge you into seeing everything in the world with more curiosity, more attention, more presence, and THIS is mindfulness.
THE END! I hope you try practicing one or more of these activities over the next week and let me know in the comments if any work for you!
For my fellow mental health professionals, if you haven't checked out https://www.pesi.com/ for continuing education, I highly recommend it!