Have you ever taken a drive and not remembered getting from one place to the next, or taken a walk in the park and realized you didn’t notice nature? Sometimes this happens because we are caught up in our minds, thinking about the past or the future. In other words, we get carried away by thinking and lose contact with what is happening in the here and now.
Thinking about the past and future can be useful, but it’s also important to connect to what is happening in the moment. You can do this by paying attention to the present. This is called mindfulness.
Mindfulness – or using your five senses to pay attention to what you experience in the here and now – can help you become aware of the present moment. Practicing mindfulness has many psychological, emotional and physical health benefits.
If you have PTSD, mindfulness can also help with symptoms of PTSD and anxiety.
How can mindfulness help with trauma?
Mindfulness can help you cope with difficult emotions, especially after experiencing trauma. When you’re focused on the present moment, you can observe your thoughts and feelings for what they are – thoughts and feelings. Practicing mindfulness will help you experience these thoughts and feelings without attachment, to simply let them go without judging them.
Some of the most effective PTSD treatments, like Cognitive Processing Therapy and Prolonged Exposure, involve writing or talking about your trauma. Mindfulness can help you handle your feelings during these treatments and cope in healthy ways.
Practice mindfulness daily even if it’s for only a short period. You can start by focusing on your breathing, by simply noticing the rise and fall of your breath. If you have PTSD, you might start by focusing on sensations other than your breath. For instance, you can practice by focusing on your hearing or tasting, turning your attention to sound or the experience of eating.
Starting with a focus on these senses can be helpful. This will allow you to practice noticing without judging. Then, when you are ready to practice observing and watching your emotions and thoughts, you will have a foundation for not reacting to them.