June 15, 2016

How Mindfulness Reduces Anxiety in Just Minutes Each Day - Courtney Rhea-Ribeiro

walking with mindfulnessIn eating disorder treatment, we often work on skills to help reduce anxiety and increase mood.

One way to reduce stress and anxiety is with a mindfulness practice. The beauty of mindfulness for anxiety is that it can be taught in a million different ways and can even be practiced in short increments each day, at any time.

What is mindfulness?

Mindfulness is one of the core features of the therapeutic modality Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT), but it stands out as a great skill on its own.

Mindfulness, at its core, is achieving a state of mind in which you focus on the present moment, staying calmly aware of your thoughts, feelings, and bodily sensations. This state is intrinsic to the human experience.

Three easy ways to practice mindfulness

As a therapist at ERC in California, I run a mindfulness group once per week. We are situated next to the beautiful American River and are able to take advantage of the river path that runs just south of our location. These are three ways that we teach mindfulness to our patients. Check with your healthcare provider before you begin any movement practice in recovery.

1. Mindful nature walks

Thanks to this great location, one of our patients’ favorite mindfulness practices is to take a mindful walk down the river path, while listening to calming music. At times, we encourage our patients to add these helpful interventions on the walks to increase the depth of their mindfulness:
  • Pay attention to the different colors that you see
  • Appreciate the different sounds that you hear
  • Notice how your body feels as you stroll
We typically end the session by going back to the treatment center to discuss what we noticed about ourselves and the environment during the session.

2. Mindful meditation

Another mindfulness practice that our patients really enjoy is mindful meditation. We turn the lights down low, situate ourselves on yoga mats in comfortable positions, and run guided meditations. Many of our patients enjoy the serenity during this time, finding space in their mind that feels safe and comforting. In fact, it is common for patients to become so relaxed that they will, at times, nod off to sleep. One of the great benefits of this practice, which we share with the patients, is that this space is a space of their own creation; they can make use of this peace and serenity whenever they need, at any time.

3. Mindful yoga

Another favorite way we teach patients to get connected to themselves is through the practice of yoga, which is highly conducive to mindfulness.

Create your own mindfulness practice

Daily life is chaotic and stressful for all of us. The three examples listed above are ways that you, too, can practice mindfulness on your own. Mindfulness practices can be completed over a long course of time, but small increments can also help you find calm and relief throughout the day. Having the handy tool of mindfulness can help you connect with yourself, with others, and with your environment, in a different way; a way that leaves you feeling just a little bit better. Being more connected to yourself in this positive way is a powerful way to change the way you see things, what you worry about, and how you interact with the world.

Courtney Rhea-Ribeiro, MFT is Primary Therapist at Eating Recovery Center, California.
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