Mindfulness and Cognitive Behavior Therapy for Anxiety
Today I wanted to talk about mindfulness and using it with cognitive behavior therapy for anxiety. Mindfulness is the practice of observing your mind and awareness in the present moment, non-judgmentally. It is the practice of accepting one’s thoughts, feelings, and bodily sensations while also being aware of how you are feeling.
By having more awareness of your thoughts, feelings and bodily sensations you increase your level of calm, being, inner contentment and peace.
Cognitive Behavior Therapy with mindfulness helps you to see the patterns and thoughts that trigger anxiety and then you work to reframe and change them. For example, with mindfulness you can observe your thoughts and feelings, and then use CBT to reframe the thoughts and feelings that come up. Mindfulness and CBT can be effective when dealing with anxiety!
Below is an adapted Body Scan meditation for anxiety and relaxation by Dr. Jon Kabat Zin.
So try it! And let us know how it goes!
Body Scan Practice
- Lie down, making yourself comfortable, lying on your back on a mat or rug on the floor or on your bed, in a place where you will be warm and undisturbed. Allow your eyes to close gently.
2. Take a few moments to get in touch with the movement of your breath and the sensations in the body. When you are ready, bring your awareness to the physical sensations in your body, especially to the sensations of touch or pressure, where your body makes contact with the floor or bed. On each outbreath, allow yourself to let go, to sink a little deeper into the mat or bed.
3. Remind yourself of the intention of this practice. Its aim is not to feel any different, relaxed or calm; this may happen or it may not. Instead, the intention of the practice is, as best you can, to bring awareness to any sensations you detect, as you focus your attention on each part of the body in turn.
4. Now bring your awareness to the physical sensations in the lower abdomen, becoming aware of the changing patterns of sensations in the abdominal wall as you breathe in, and as you breathe out. Take a few minutes to feel the sensations as you breathe in and as you breathe out.
5. Having connected with the sensations in the abdomen, bring the focus or “spotlight” of your awareness down the left leg, into the left foot, and out to the toes of the left foot. Focus on each of the toes of the left foot in turn, bringing a gentle curiosity to investigate the quality of the sensations you find, perhaps noticing the sense of contact between the toes, a sense of tingling, warmth, or no particular sensation.
6. When you are ready, on an in breath, feel or imagine the breath entering the lungs, and then passing down into the abdomen, into the left leg, the left foot, and out to the toes of the left foot. Then, on the outbreath, feel or imagine the breath all the way back up, out of the foot, into the leg, up through the abdomen, chest, and out through the nose. As best you can, continue, this for a few breaths, breathing down into the toes, and back out from the toes. It may be difficult to get the hang of this- just practice this “breathing into” as best you can, approaching it playfully.
7. Now, when you are ready, on an outbreath, let go of awareness of the toes, and bring your awareness to the sensations on the bottom of your left foot- bringing a gentle, investigative awareness to the sole of the foot, the instep, the heel (eg. Noticing the sensations where the heel makes contact with the mat or bed). Experiment with “breathing with” the sensations- being aware of the breath in the background, as, in the foreground, you explore the sensations of the lower foot.
8. Now allow the awareness to expand into the rest of the foot- to the ankle, the top of the foot, and right into the bones and joints. Then, taking a slightly deeper breath, directing it down into the whole of the left foot, and, as the breath lets go on the outbreath, let go of the left foot completely, allowing the focus of awareness to move into the lower left leg- the calf, shin, knee, and so on, in turn.
9. Continue to bring awareness, and a gentle curiosity, to the physical sensations in each part of the rest of the body in turn- to the upper left leg, the right toes, right foot, right leg, pelvic area, back, abdomen, chest, fingers, hands, arms, shoulders, neck, head and face. In each area, as best you can, bring the same detailed level of awareness and gentle curiosity to the body sensations present. As you leave each major area, “breathe in” to it on the inbreath, and let go of that region on the outbreath.
10. When you become aware of the tension, or of other intense sensations in a particular part of the body, you can “breath in” to them- using the inbreath gently to bring awareness right into the sensations, and as best you can, have a sense of their letting go, or releasing, on the outbreath.
11. The mind will inevitably wander away from the breath and the body from time to time. That is entirely normal. It is what minds do. When you notice it, gently acknowledge it, noticing where the mind has gone off to, and then gently return your attention to the part of the body you intended to focus on.
12. After you have “scanned” the whole body in this way, spend a few minutes being aware of a sense of the body as a whole, and of the breath flowing freely in and out of the body.
13. If you find yourself falling asleep, you might find it helpful to prop your head up with a pillow, open your eyes, or do the practice sitting up rather than lying down.
If you need or want extra support or help with this please reach out to Silver Lining Recovery! We are here to help! You can reach us at 1-833-8Growth.
–Silver Lining Recovery