To celebrate BPD Awareness Month we will be sharing a mindfulness exercise each day this May. Join us for a journey designed to start, expand, or deepen your ability to BE HERE, NOW. We will be sharing some of our favorite mindfulness practices and activities, but you can find many more in books, on YouTube, on phone apps, and all over the internet, really! Remember- you can do anything, mindfully. You just have to choose (again and again) to BE HERE, NOW.
But why mindfulness? What is it? Will it really help me?
Mindfulness is the ability to be aware of your thoughts, your emotions, physical sensations, and your actions in the present moment without judging or criticizing yourself or your experience. Mindfulness practice has been proven to help with a variety of mood disorders, pain management, increase tolerance of stressful situations, increase relaxation, and increase skills to cope with difficult situations. With an understanding of how the brain, genes, and neurotransmitters are at play in the context of BPD, mindfulness practice affects the pre-frontal cortex, amygdala, and neurotransmitters. Research has shown a decrease of symptoms and behaviors of BPD sufferers who practice mindfulness. Mindfulness practice strengthens the attentional circuits in the pre-frontal cortex and reduces the reactivity of the amygdala. Anything you can do mindlessly, you can do mindfully.
Remember, It is impossible for your mind not to wander. Our brains are designed to produce thoughts. The act of mindfulness is choosing, with intention, to return your mind to the task you set out to do. Each time your mind wanders and you intentionally bring it back to what you are doing, you are being mindful. Doing one thing in the moment is difficult and demands a lot of practice but the pay off is worth it. Short practices each day can quiet the mind significantly and you can do this practice anywhere. The breath is a wonderful anchor for a busy mind because it’s always with you so noticing your breath is a common way to practice focusing on one thing in the moment.
(This information is from two books: Mindfulness for Borderline Personality Disorder by Dr. Blaise Aguirre and Dr. Gillian Galen and The Dialectical Behavior Therapy Skills Workbook by Dr. Matthew McKay, Dr. Jeffrey Wood, and Dr. Jeffrey Brantley).
Mindfulness in NOT meditation. It is not religious, it’s not about eliminating stress, and it’s not about getting rid of all your thoughts. Although mindfulness often reduces stress and leads to a clearer mind, it is really the simple (yet difficult) practice of being continuously present with your experience. Here are some other ways to describe mindfulness:
Mindfulness means paying attention in a particular way; On purpose, in the present moment, and nonjudgmentally. – Jon Kabat-Zinn
Mindfulness is “awareness without judgment of what is, via direct and immediate experience.” -Marsha M. Linehan, Ph.D., ABPP
Personally, mindfulness began for me as a dreadful, difficult practice. 5 minutes a week was about all I could manage. Over time, however, with practice and creativity, I have come to see mindfulness as a true refuge. A place where I can come home to myself, no matter where I am. Even if I am choosing to be present with unpleasant emotions, it is such a relief that I no longer have to hide, numb, or distract from the difficulties of this life. And the more I learn to fully experience the difficult emotions, the more I can experience and rejoice in the positive ones. Bringing mindfulness or presence to my daily life reminds me that whatever comes my way…I can handle it! Now that is true freedom!
Ready to get started? Here is a 5 minute video describing Mindfulness from Jon Kabat-Zinn, PhD, a scientist, writer, and meditation teacher internationally known for his work in bringing mindfulness practices, especially Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR), into the mainstream of medicine and society.
Then, remember to check our blog each day in May for a new mindfulness activity!