Are you interested in learning how to calm your busy brain?
Longing for a feeling of deep peace?
Do you often find yourself ruminating about something that happened or worrying about what might happen? Is it hard for you to slow down, be in the present, and have fun? Or maybe your spouse has complained that you seem checked out, like you’re just not mentally available. This kind of detachment from loved ones can result in loneliness, resentment, and feeling misunderstood.
When we’re stressed, busy, overworked, overtired, upset, anxious, struggling with trauma, or depressed, numbing out can make it hard to be fully in the moment. Instead of slowing down and tuning in to basics like breathing, we tend to go the opposite way. “I can’t stop to feel anything. I have to work harder, be busier, and get more done!”
It can be incredibly hard to confront the truth: working harder or longer hours is not going to fill the big, gaping void in your feelings. Likewise, driving yourself relentlessly to do more is not going to improve the quality of your relationships. Instead, you have to take a leap of faith that your best option is to do things differently this time. Doing things “differently” can take many forms but one of the simplest and most profound things you can try is cultivating a mindfulness practice.
What is Mindfulness Exactly?
According to the magazine Mindful (a resource we highly recommend), mindfulness is “the basic human ability to be fully present, aware of where we are and what we’re doing, and not overly reactive or overwhelmed by what’s going on around us.”
Mindfulness sounds so simple, like something we should already know how to do. But the truth is that the more we have advanced and the faster-paced that our society has become, the harder it seems to be perfectly present. Typically, we are thinking about something that already happened (“Can you believe she said that to me?”) or mulling over something that hasn’t happened yet (“I hope my presentation goes well tomorrow” or “I wonder if my daughter will score a goal in today’s game.”) Borrowing trouble from the past or the future creates anxiety and can heighten feelings of being powerless and out of control.
Rarely are we focused on this precise moment, much less aware of exactly what is in the room and how we are feeling. However, it is exactly this kind of acute awareness of what is happening right now that can be a powerful antidote to stress, anxiety, and depression. Mindfulness (which includes meditation) focuses your attention back to things that are within your control – your breathing, movements, and thoughts.
What the Research Says
Research has shown that mindfulness can change the brain’s response to stress, as evidenced by pre- and post- MRIs. The area of the brain known as the amygdala – after practicing meditation – is less reactive when presented with emotional material. The benefits of meditation don’t just happen while the person is practicing but seem to generalize to the person’s brain functioning in their daily life, too. Pretty cool!
One of the best aspects of mindfulness is that you don’t have to buy in to an expensive system or be coached by an expert in order to benefit. There are plenty of wonderful, low-cost resources you can tap into to get started with mindfulness and meditation on your own. These include a free, online, 8-week mindfulness-based stress reduction course, and free or low-cost apps like Calm, Buddhify, and Headspace. However, if you have tried practicing mindfulness on your own and are struggling, wishing you could have a coach or counselor alongside to guide your practice, we are happy to help.
Have you heard about the benefits of mindfulness but just aren’t sure if it’s for you? Does it seem interesting but you’re not totally comfortable getting started? Our therapists are happy to talk with you about meditation practices that may complement the other work you are doing to feel better. At Nova Terra Therapy, we often integrate mindfulness techniques into our work with clients. Once you feel comfortable, practicing meditation and mindfulness on your own, outside of session, can also help to accelerate your journey toward relief.
Free, Vetted Meditations for Our Clients
We believe in its value so much that we have made some special meditations, vetted by a company called Health Journeys, available to all of our clients for free. Please try them and let us know what you think! Over the course of our work with clients, we have seen tremendous improvements in clients’ abilities to center themselves, be less reactive to stressful situations that arise, and to handle the unknown. We’d love to see you get those kinds of results, too.
If you’re interested in reading a first-hand account of what mindfulness practices can do for you, check out journalist Dan Harris’ book: 10% Happier: How I Tamed the Voice in My Head, Reduced Stress Without Losing My Edge, and Found Self-Help That Actually Works–A True Story. Dan’s website also includes some free meditations, information about his books, and a link to his podcast.
Mindfulness for Trauma Survivors
For folks who have experienced trauma and may have difficulty with standard meditations that suggest you close your eyes or emphasize full relaxation, it can be helpful to seek out trauma-informed mindfulness practices, which are sensitive to trauma triggers and sensitivities. Please let our therapists know if this represents your situation so we can tailor an optimal plan for you.
New to Mindfulness and Meditation?
Beware of being critical of yourself as you initiate practice. It can feel like you are not doing it right, especially if your mind never calms to a state of perfect Zen. Instead, you may have “monkey mind,” a hopping, active brain that jumps from topic to topic. This isn’t “wrong” – it just is. In your practice, you will learn to note this about yourself without placing judgement, not assuming you aren’t doing what you are supposed to, but just fully observing yourself in the moment. For folks with busy brains, it can be helpful to seek out guided meditations. These usually involve a calming voice that walks you through the steps of relaxation so all you have to do is follow along. Walking meditations, which incorporate more activity, may also work well for people who feel uncomfortable with stillness or staying in one place.
Learn Mindfulness in Burke, VA
We want you to find relief from emotional pain and to learn tools for helping you lead a happy and healthy life. To begin counseling in Burke, VA or online (for residents of Virginia), please follow these steps:
- Reach out to our Washington DC area counseling clinic and set up a free 15-minute phone consultation to determine if our services are a good fit for you,
- Meet with one of our therapists,
- Begin learning mindfulness techniques and regain control of your thoughts and emotions.
Other services offered by Nova Terra Therapy:
In addition to integrating mindfulness and meditation practices into our counseling sessions, our Burke, VA therapy clinic offers a variety of comprehensive mental health services to adults in the Washington DC area. We specialize in providing individual therapy, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, anxiety treatment, counseling for women’s issues, relationship counseling, trauma treatment and PTSD treatment. We also offer online counseling to people living in the state of Virginia. Please contact our counseling clinic to learn more about the many ways we can support you or your loved one in therapy.