Wherever You Go, There You Are: Mindfulness Meditation in Everyday Life
This book is a valuable introduction to the concept of mindfulness. Dr. Zinn brought the concept of mindfulness from Buddhist meditation, and has shown how it can be applied as a basic technique for improved well being and stress relief. The practice of mindfulness has been shown to increase one’s quality of life.
Mindfulness means the ability to live in the present moment, to be absorbed completely, fully aware of each thought, feeling or sensation that arises. This awareness implies a nonjudgmental attitude towards our flow of thoughts, even unpleasant sensations or mental events.
The mere act of watching our mind, allows us to distance ourselves from our emotions. This enables us to gain a better perspective on our challenges. Through mindfulness we realize that our emotions are just that, not the ultimate truth about reality. The common thought distortion “I feel, therefore it is reality” loses its hold on us.
Living in the present means that we do not dwell on the past, or think anxiously about the future . Many people believe that if they immerse themselves in painful emotions, it will provide them an insight and ultimately lead to inner transformation. Delving into the past must be done with care, as it may strengthen and reinforce the neural pathways of pain and depression. This reinforcement may lead to further deepening of the depression and pain, as opposed to the hoped for alleviation. Mindfulness offers an additional method for dealing with one’s challenges.
Studies have shown that practicing mindfulness is a good tool for stress management, depression management, and it leads to better quality of life, enhance creativity, and can improve chronic pain and other medical conditions.
The art of breathing exercises is an underutilized discipline that can contribute to your well being. From my clinical experience, breathing exercises are helpful in decreasing symptoms of depression, anxiety, panic attacks, and improving concentration. They are a great tool for stress management in your life, if you go through tough times or life transitions.
Most breathing exercises come from Pranayama – a fundamental part of Yoga. The basic book on this subject is Light on Pranayama: The Yogic Art of Breathing by Ayengar, a renown Yoga teacher. From these exercises, “Alternate breathing” is the most beneficial one for people that suffer from anxiety and panic attacks, according to my professional experience.
Most Yoga teachers do not teach breathing exercises in regular yoga classes, so you may need to ask for a private lesson. If you have never done it before, It is advisable to learn under guidance. If you have any medical condition, you may want to consult your health practitioner.
I know that there are similar exercises in martial arts. but I have not explored those. You may want to check with a local martial art teacher.
Managing Social Anxiety
Social anxiety can reduce you quality of life, not let you achieve your full potential, and ultimately lead to depression. What results is a vicious cycle – the more anxious you are, the more barriers you will encounter in your life, the more depressed you become, which ultimately contribute to your anxiety. I recommend this self-help book. It is part of a series published by Oxford University Press. All the books adhere to cognitive-behavioral approach. They come in pairs – one for the client, one for the therapists. All those I have seen so far, were excellent. If you read this book, and work along its guideline, you may not even need to see me. And if you do, it will shorten the treatment and make my work easier.
DBT (Dialectical Behavior Therapy) was initially developed by Dr. Marsha Linehan for people who suffered from personality disorders, particularly borderline personality disorder. DBT is not about insight, or delving into your past. It is a collection of very practical skills to help you better manage your emotions, your interpersonal relationships, and hence your life. The basis of all these skills is the practice of mindfulness, taken from Buddhism. Mindfulness means the state of mind that allow you to be completely immersed in the present situation, rather than in the past or in fantasy. None of these skills are innovative; but sometimes, while contending with life’s difficulties we need to be reminded of skills that may seem obvious or almost trivial.
Many types of therapy claim that our mental health is best served by getting in touch and experiencing our emotions to the fullest. While this approach is often effective and serves many people well, DBT takes an alternative approach. DBT tries to teach us to regulate our emotions in order to better cope with everyday life. I find this approach very helpful for people that struggle with clinical depression, anxiety, panic attacks, or even people who struggle with anger management issues, and struggle to go through the day. Only after the depression and anxiety get somewhat under control, a person would have enough energy and inner resources to delve in and benefit from insight oriented therapy.
In my opinion, these skills are useful for everyone of us. The following link will provide you with handouts. The best way to learn these skills would be in a therapeutic group or in individual therapy.
Dialectical Behavior Therapy .