Mindfulness - Some Tools and Tips for Mood/Anxiety Disorders and Emotional Regulation

What is Mindfulness and Where Did It Come From?

Mindfulness can be defined as a process of sustained attention and awareness toward present-moment sensations and experiences with a nonjudgmental stance. This has been involved in many religious and spiritual practices including Hinduism, Buddhism, yoga, and non-religious meditation for thousands of years. The idea of mindfulness has been rooted in Eastern religions and philosophies (although it has been argued that it also has roots in Christianity, Judaism, and Islam), but has more recently found its way into Western culture.

How to Add Mindfulness Techniques to Your Life

So, what does mindfulness look like, and how can we practice being more mindful in order to regulate our emotions and reduce symptoms of stress, anxiety, and depression? Well, one of the amazing things about practicing mindfulness is that there are many ways to incorporate it in your daily life. For instance, start your day off with a yoga practice that is mindfulness based, take a walk and notice your surroundings, or practice mindful breathing to calm yourself down when feeling overwhelmed, stressed, or anxious. Thích Nhất Hạnh, a very influential figure, also known as the “father of mindfulness”, taught that simply practicing mindfulness while doing daily chores can help allow one to be present even when doing mundane tasks. There are various mindful breathing techniques that have been shown to promote calmness and clarity. To begin, Shamatha or “peacefully abiding”, is the act of bringing awareness to your breath without changing it or setting any expectations. It’s allowing yourself to be present in the act of breathing how you normally would and aren’t even noticing it. Next, Kundalini or otherwise known as “diaphragm breathing”, is really helpful for easing shortness of breath and stress relief. It is centered around conscious breathing in your abdomen by inhaling through your nose and exhaling forcefully through your nose while putting one hand on your belly. This state of conscious inhaling and exhaling allows you to focus on your breath and thus regulates your nervous system. More mindful breathing techniques can be found at 5 Ways to Practice Breath- Focused Meditation https://www.everydayhealth.com/alternative-health/living-with/ways-practice-breath-focused-meditation/ .

How Can We Include Mindfulness in Relation to Our Emotions?

 What is emotional regulation, you may ask? It is an executive functioning skill and it means that a person is able to respond in a socially appropriate way to external stimuli. Being mindful about your breath is similar to being mindful about your emotions. It involves bringing awareness to the issue at hand–in this instance, it’s how we are feeling. Regulating our emotions can be difficult when we haven’t practiced doing so before. Take a moment to be present and experience your feelings as they come. Try to understand your feelings and reflect on why you are feeling this way, and see if you can do so without passing judgment upon yourself. See if you can implement relaxation techniques when you catch yourself starting to face negative emotions. How you deal with and react towards your emotions can affect so much in one’s life. The next time you start to feel overwhelming or negative emotions bubbling to the surface, see if you can direct your thoughts toward a positive direction. You can do so by taking a moment to acknowledge how you are feeling in that moment, and see how it is serving you. If it is not serving you, then you can use counterconditioning, systematic desentization, and relaxation techniques to get you to a place where you can manage your anxiety and stressors. Counterconditioning can be useful if we want to change how we perceive a certain type of stimulus. This can help us change how we feel and/or react towards a situation, and therefore, reduce our stress or anxiety around it. Systematic desensitization involves the practice of desensitizing oneself to stimuli that can cause stress with the inclusion of relaxation techniques (such as meditation, deep breathing, muscle relaxation, or any self care practices that work for you). Hopefully these tools can help you decrease anxiety and regulate your emotions in times of need.

Some Helpful Mindfulness-Based Apps for Meditation and Breathing:

References: 5 Ways to Practice Breath-Focused Meditation | Everyday Health. (n.d.). EverydayHealth.com. https://www.everydayhealth.com/alternative-health/living-with/ways-practice-breath-focused-meditation Hill, C. L. M., & Updegraff, J. A. (2012). Mindfulness and its relationship to emotional regulation. Emotion, 12(1), 81–90. https://doi.org/10.1037/a0026355 Rodrigues, Michele F., Nardi, Antonio E. and Levitan, MichelleMindfulness in mood and anxiety disorders: a review of the literature. Trends in Psychiatry and Psychotherapy [online]. 2017, v. 39, n. 3 [Accessed 26 February 2022] , pp. 207-215. Available from: <https://doi.org/10.1590/2237-6089-2016-0051>. Epub 31 July 2017. ISSN 2238-0019. https://doi.org/10.1590/2237-6089-2016-0051. Schenck, L. (2012, January 25). How to use emotion regulation coping skills. Mindfulness Muse. Retrieved February 26, 2022, from https://www.mindfulnessmuse.com/dialectical-behavior-therapy/how-to-use-emotion-regulation-coping-skills Selva, J. (2017, March 13). History of Mindfulness: from East to West and Religion to Science. PositivePsychology.com. https://positivepsychology.com/history-of-mindfulness/ What is Mindful Breathing? Exercises, Scripts and Videos. (2020, August 15). PositivePsychology.com. https://positivepsychology.com/mindful-breathing/