How Mindfulness and Meditation Effects Mental Health
Mental health treatment programs increasingly have mindfulness components such as meditation and yoga. However, not everyone understands how mindfulness practices work in a mental health treatment context. Here we take a closer look at the benefits of mindfulness practices as part of mental health treatment, like that offered here at Casa Recovery’s top mental health facilities in Orange County, CA. Meditation is an ancient practice that is increasingly being offered as a component in mental health treatment. Meditation is part of what is known as the ‘holistic’ approach to healing from mental illnesses like depression, PTSD, and addiction. The word holistic refers to the treatment of a person as a whole in terms of mind, body, and spirit. In this article, we take a closer look at how meditation can benefit people suffering from mental illness.
The Benefits of Mindfulness
The purpose of incorporating the concept and practices of mindfulness in cognitive therapy is to improve a person’s ability to control their emotions. When feelings of stress, discomfort, or sadness arise, the person can use mindfulness techniques to cope in a healthy way and avoid relapsing into depression or another mental health condition. Being mindful of your thoughts and actions requires self-awareness, self-reflection, patience, and practice. It can be easy to lose your grip on the present moment and become reactive instead of responsive, especially when emotions are running high. Although this ancient Eastern tradition is easier said than done, its benefits are numerous, and participating in MCBT can change your life and the nature of your mental health condition.
Mindfulness is a holistic approach that heals a person’s mind, body, and spirit at the same time. This integrative treatment model helps people manage negative thoughts and feelings associated with many mental health conditions. Nowadays, mindfulness is widely used in a range of different contexts and is recommended by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) as a preventative treatment for people with recurring depression.
Exercises that encourage mindfulness allow people to “live in the moment”. Although this is now a well-worn term, what it actually means is that you can essentially clear your mind of internal dialogue that could be directly responsible for prolonging mental illnesses. When someone practices mindfulness, they are able to gain more insight into their emotions, boost attention and focus and also improve interpersonal relationships.
One of the main benefits of mindfulness, particularly for relapsing mental health conditions like depression and addiction, is that it provides a coping mechanism in recovery. Using deep breathing techniques and focusing on small parts of the body can allow people to tap into a calm and relaxed side of their personality and prevent them from relapsing back into negative behaviors.
How is Meditation Good for Your Mental Health?
One of the most popular and well-studied mindfulness practices is meditation. Meditation is also an essential practice in MCBT. There are various types of meditation, but they all share a few important hallmarks. If you want to meditate, you should find a quiet space with little or no distractions. Position yourself in a comfortable posture, whether sitting on the ground cross-legged or lying down flat on the floor or a bed. Your attention should be focused on something of your choosing, like a word, phrase, object, your breath, or a state of mind. Finally, meditation requires an open and willing attitude like other mindfulness practices. Emotions may wash over you during the process, but allowing them to come and pass is what’s important.
The majority of people know what meditation is although they are very likely to associate it with hippies from the 1960s who were behind its introduction to mainstream medicine. Ancient practices like meditation and yoga which fall under the mindfulness umbrella were originally devised long before modern medicine and have shown to be effective.
The way meditation works to improve mental is by allowing people to achieve a truly relaxed state. Mental illnesses are very often driven by negative internal dialogue that directs associated behaviors. Meditation enables people to tap into a place in their minds that is not influenced by negative thought processes so that they are empowered to reduce them.
Meditation has been shown to be a highly effective tool in maintaining sobriety, allowing for long-term recovery. One of the main triggers of relapse for people with depression or addiction is stress. Meditation acts as a very formidable shield against stress and provides people with a coping mechanism they can rely on to help them avoid relapse.
What Should I Expect in MBCT?
During MBCT, a therapist will guide you through meditation practices like guided body scans, mindful movement (yoga), breathing exercises, sitting and walking meditations, and focused awareness of everyday tasks. Meditations guided by your therapist will help bring your attention to your body and breath, helping to cultivate a mind-body connection. As you work through MBCT practices, you will learn to develop an awareness of your thoughts, emotions, and sensations, particularly challenging or uncomfortable ones. You will also be expected to establish your own mindfulness practices outside of therapy to guide and ground you in daily life. Consistency and discipline with a mindfulness practice outside of therapy are critical, and clients are encouraged to spend time each day engaging in mindfulness activities.
Mindfulness Practices Are Becoming More Common
Mindful practices like meditation are becoming more prominent in the United States. This trend is good news because studies have shown there are numerous benefits associated with meditation, such as:
- Lower heart rate
- Stress reduction
- Decreased anxiety
- Improved memory
- Increased melatonin
- Increased efficiency
- Decreased depression
- Reduced blood pressure
- Improved sleep patterns
- Improved executive function
- Increased blood flow to the brain
- Increase in gray matter in the brain
- Reduced lactate, cortisol, and epinephrine
- Reduction in physical and psychological pain
Other mindfulness-based practices include yoga, tai chi, journaling, and reciting positive affirmations. These are also becoming more popular as people discover the mental and physical benefits they can provide. A point to remember is that mindfulness begins within your mind, not with the activity. Doing these activities does not mean you are “living in the moment” or are self-aware. Instead, mindfulness starts with a clear intention and, like meditation, a willing and objective attitude to whatever activity you perform. You want to achieve a sense of clarity so that you can see things for what they are, not for how your emotions color them out to be.
Cognitive Elements of MBCT
MBCT involves both mindfulness practices and cognitive exercises. The cognitive element involves learning to embrace, rather than avoid, undesirable thoughts or emotions in order to manage them effectively. The idea is that resistance may worsen a client’s mood and sustain their depressive state. MCBT is about the individual developing a relationship with their patterns of negative thinking and low mood. By responding to oneself in an intentional and non-judgmental way, clients can improve their condition and develop resilience. Learning to accept the moment as one experiences it, whether positive or negative, is crucial to taking control over the condition in the present and in the future. Clients in MCBT develop an action plan with their therapist to identify the onset of negative symptoms in order to manage them before they get worse.
Is MCBT Right for Me?
Mindfulness – a core concept in MCBT – is a state of mind that can be cultivated by a number of healthful practices that have been shown to improve many mental and physical symptoms and conditions. If you’ve been struggling with depression or unhappiness in your life, MCBT may be worth a try. Persons experiencing an anxiety disorder or bipolar disorder may also benefit. Talking to one of our therapists will help you decide the best approach to treating your condition. Learn more about other <link to therapeutic modalities page> in Casa Recovery’s mental health and addiction treatment programs. Casa Recovery is a mental health treatment center in Orange Country, California. We treat various mental conditions, trauma, and co-occurring substance use disorders with our clients’ comfort and long-term recovery in mind. Clinicians inform clients of their treatment options, allowing them to make critical decisions affecting their wellbeing and path to recovery. Casa Recovery is happy to provide a safe and inclusive environment where clients from all walks of life are welcome to start their recovery journey. Call Casa Recovery at (888) 928-2272 for information on MBCT and other mental health therapies.