What Is Mindfulness?

According to The Greater Good Science Center based at the University of California, Berkeley, "mindfulness means maintaining a moment-by-moment awareness of our thoughts, feelings, bodily sensations, and surrounding environment." The practice is a way of thinking—paying attention to our thoughts and feelings in the present—rather than focusing on the past or looking ahead to the future. <./p>

The effects of mindfulness on posttraumatic stress disorder are unknown, but the practice has been shown to help with anxiety, as well as with PTSD symptoms like avoidance and hyperarousal. The two key parts of mindfulness are: being aware of the present moment in time and accepting your thoughts and feelings without judging whether they are "right" or "wrong."

Mindfulness after Trauma

Mindfulness can increase your ability to deal with painful emotions. Following a traumatic event, practicing mindfulness can help a person with PTSD experience difficult thoughts and feelings, take a step back from them without acting impulsively, and let them go.

Mindfulness is a ongoing process that, over time, can change your outlook—toward yourself and others. The practice can increase compassion, reduce judgmental thoughts and actions, and help you become less critical. Mindful thinking can help a person with posttraumatic stress disorder become more aware of and more accepting of his/her reactions to trauma.

Mindfulness & Treatment for PTSD

Practicing mindfulness may help PTSD sufferers prepare for and improve the effectiveness of cognitive processing therapy and prolonged exposure treatment for posttraumatic stress disorder. These treatments involve talking or writing about traumatic experiences under the care of a licensed therapist.

Mindfulness can help increase coping skills and self-confidence in people with PTSD—allowing them to deal with difficult feelings in a healthier way. Several types of therapy use mindfulness practices to treat problems that are common in those suffering with PTSD, including anxiety, depression, and substance abuse.

Mindfulness can target the following:

  • Stress in daily life and stress caused by ongoing health problems like chronic pain
  • Negative thought patterns that lead to recurring episodes of depression
  • Problems setting and working towards goals
  • Increased alcohol/drug abuse risk

Mindfulness may be beneficial to trauma survivors—especially when used with proven PTSD treatments. More research is needed to evaluate the role of mindfulness in people with posttraumatic stress disorder.

Source: U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs

Publication Review By: the Editorial Staff at Healthcommunities.com

Published: 02 Jun 2014

Last Modified: 02 Jun 2014