Mindfulness in Therapy
Mindfulness is literally the ability to be aware of how your mind works and to be able to follow your own thought process.
Often, our brains are on autopilot. We react to present events based on past events. Mindfulness exercises can help you be more aware of the present moment. Increasing your ability to be mindful helps to decrease impulsivity, decrease reactivity, and increase calmness. Increasing mind-body connection helps people feel their emotions and respond appropriately before they feel overwhelmed.
Everyone can increase mindfulness and mind-body connection, if desired. Sometimes, people think that they cannot use mindfulness techniques because they cannot quiet their minds or do not have a lot of time to practice. However, you do not have to quiet your mind or spend a lot of time practicing mindfulness to get benefits.
Evidence for Mindfulness
Studies suggest that practicing mindfulness actually changes the structure and functioning of our brains, reducing many symptoms that often lead people into counseling (research study about the therapeutic benefits of meditation). The Mindful Brain by Dan Siegel is a good resource about the links between neurobiology, therapy, and mindfulness. Another book, Parenting From the Inside Out, describes neurobiology findings and the importance of self-understanding and mindfulness for parents (authors Dan Siegel and Mary Hartzell).
Examples of Mindfulness Techniques in Counseling
There are many approaches to increasing mindfulness. I’ve explained a few here, but there are many more. These techniques tend to be experiential and therefore difficult to describe in writing, but I wanted to give you an idea of what they are.
Guided Meditation- Guided meditation can be a relaxing way of becoming more mindful, feeling more connected to your body, and resolving inner conflicts. I can lead you through personalized guided meditations that focus on your specific goals.
Deep Breathing- Deep breathing or diaphragmatic breathing can help you feel calmer and more at ease. Often, people expand their chest and contract their abdomen during deep breaths, which can actually increase anxiety. With deep breathing, you breathe in while lowering your diaphragm and expanding your abdomen. Sometimes, people try to force their breath or get concerned because they cannot breathe all the way in. Often, it helps to focus on the exhale and let the inhale take care of itself.
Breath Focus- Just quietly noticing your breath for a minute, without doing anything to change your breath, can help you feel more peaceful. If you have trouble focusing on your breath, it may help to silently say "breathing in" as you breathe in and "breathing out" as you breathe out.
Sensory Awareness- There are several mindfulness exercises that help you focus on what you are seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting, or feeling, in order to increase your awareness of the present moment. Many of these techniques can be done in a few seconds.
Centering & Grounding- Developing a sense of center and grounding can help people feel more solid and balanced, even during difficult times. In martial arts, there are several techniques that include focusing your attention on your lower abdomen (center) or visualizing your center and connection to the earth/ground. People are often surprised that it is so easy to change their state of mind by simply changing what they focus their attention on.
Meditation- Meditation is another practice that some people find useful. Since many people have lots of preconceptions about meditating, I wrote basic information about sitting meditation. You may also like metta meditation, also called loving kindness meditation. There are many ways to meditate. If it interests you, I encourage you to find what works best for you.
I am happy to explain any of these techniques in more detail. Since not everyone is interested in mindfulness practices, I do not always mention them. Please ask me about them if you are interested.
You can read more about using mindfulness techniques to reduce anxiety on my blog post.
Martial Arts & Aikido Principles in Therapy
In addition to the techniques described above, I sometimes use principles from martial arts (usually aikido) in therapy. Aikido is a non-violent martial art that involves blending with and embracing oncoming energy, instead of blocking and defending against an attack. Aikido principles can be useful in resolving conflicts, increasing clear communication, decreasing reactivity, realizing that we have many options when responding to situations, increasing mind-body connection, and becoming more grounded and centered.
Therapy Office in Sunnyvale
My office is in Sunnyvale, California on Wolfe Rd., near El Camino Real (also close to Santa Clara, Cupertino, and Mountain View). Parking is easy; there is a large parking lot.
1021 S. Wolfe Rd., Suite 255
Sunnyvale, CA 94086
I am a therapist/counselor in Sunnyvale, California. I work with adults, teenagers, and children. (LMFT Lic. # LMFT40414)
Please visit my therapy home page for more information about me.