The concept of mindfulness involves focusing on your present situation and state of mind. This can mean awareness of your surroundings, emotions, and breathing—or, more simply, enjoying each bite of a really good sandwich. Research in recent decades has linked mindfulness practices to a staggering collection of possible health benefits.
See how mindfulness helps you live in the moment (Mayo Clinic)
If you’ve heard of or read about mindfulness meditation — also known as mindfulness — you might be curious about how to practice it. Find out how to do mindfulness exercises and how they might benefit you.
What is mindfulness?
Mindfulness is a type of meditation in which you focus on being intensely aware of what you’re sensing and feeling in the moment, without interpretation or judgment. Practicing mindfulness involves breathing methods, guided imagery, and other practices to relax the body and mind and help reduce stress.
Spending too much time planning, problem-solving, daydreaming, or thinking negative or random thoughts can be draining. It can also make you more likely to experience stress, anxiety, and symptoms of depression. Practicing mindfulness exercises can help you direct your attention away from this kind of thinking and engage with the world around you.
What are the benefits of meditation?
Meditation has been studied in many clinical trials. The overall evidence supports the effectiveness of meditation for various conditions, including:
- High blood pressure (hypertension)
Preliminary research indicates that meditation can also help people with asthma and fibromyalgia.
Meditation can help you experience thoughts and emotions with greater balance and acceptance. Meditation also has been shown to:
- Improve attention
- Decrease job burnout
- Improve sleep
- Improve diabetes control
What are some examples of mindfulness exercises?
There are many simple ways to practice mindfulness. Some examples include:
- Pay attention. It’s hard to slow down and notice things in a busy world. Try to take the time to experience your environment with all of your senses — touch, sound, sight, smell and taste. For example, when you eat a favorite food, take the time to smell, taste and truly enjoy it.
- Live in the moment. Try to intentionally bring an open, accepting and discerning attention to everything you do. Find joy in simple pleasures.
- Accept yourself. Treat yourself the way you would treat a good friend.
- Focus on your breathing. When you have negative thoughts, try to sit down, take a deep breath and close your eyes. Focus on your breath as it moves in and out of your body. Sitting and breathing for even just a minute can help.
You can also try more structured mindfulness exercises, such as:
- Body scan meditation. Lie on your back with your legs extended and arms at your sides, palms facing up. Focus your attention slowly and deliberately on each part of your body, in order, from toe to head or head to toe. Be aware of any sensations, emotions or thoughts associated with each part of your body.
- Sitting meditation. Sit comfortably with your back straight, feet flat on the floor and hands in your lap. Breathing through your nose, focus on your breath moving in and out of your body. If physical sensations or thoughts interrupt your meditation, note the experience and then return your focus to your breath.
- Walking meditation. Find a quiet place 10 to 20 feet in length, and begin to walk slowly. Focus on the experience of walking, being aware of the sensations of standing and the subtle movements that keep your balance. When you reach the end of your path, turn and continue walking, maintaining awareness of your sensations.
When and how often should I practice mindfulness exercises?
It depends on what kind of mindfulness exercise you plan to do.
Simple mindfulness exercises can be practiced anywhere and anytime. Research indicates that engaging your senses outdoors is especially beneficial.
For more structured mindfulness exercises, such as body scan meditation or sitting meditation, you’ll need to set aside time when you can be in a quiet place without distractions or interruptions. You might choose to practice this type of exercise early in the morning before you begin your daily routine.
Aim to practice mindfulness every day for about six months. Over time, you might find that mindfulness becomes effortless. Think of it as a commitment to reconnecting with and nurturing yourself.”
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The Use of Mindfulness in Therapy
In the Western world, mindfulness-based interventions are becoming widely accepted methods of addressing the symptoms associated with many commonly experienced mental health challenges and/or emotional concerns. Mindfulness approaches have their roots in ancient Buddhist traditions such as Vipassana and Zen meditations.
Currently, there are four recognized therapy models that incorporate mindfulness practices:
- In the 1970s, Jon Kabat-Zinn, the founder of the mindfulness-based stress reduction program, was one of the first individuals to attempt to integrate Buddhist principles of mindfulness into his work in science and medicine.
- Also in the 1970s, Marsha Linehan developed DBT with the aid of certain Western and Eastern spiritual influences.
- ACT, which was introduced in the late 1980sby Steven Hayes, Kelly Wilson, and Kirk Strosahl, also incorporates Eastern ideas and techniques.
- At the beginning of the 21stcentury, Zindel Segal, Mark Williams, and John Teasdale built upon Kabat-Zinn’s work to develop MBCT.
Though these approaches all involve mindfulness techniques, there are slight differences between each modality. MBSR and MBCT actively teach mindfulness meditation, but MBCT also integrates cognitive behavioral therapy techniques as a part of treatment. DBT and ACT do not teach mindfulness mediation but instead utilize other mindfulness exercises to promote awareness and focus attention. Additionally, while MBSR and MBCT focus on the process of developing mindfulness as well as any associated thoughts, DBT and ACT focus primarily on the cognitions experienced during the state of mindfulness.
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A Few Things to Know About Mindfulness:
- Anyone can do it. Mindfulness practice cultivates universal human qualities and does not require anyone to change their beliefs. Everyone can benefit and it’s easy to learn.
- It’s a way of living. Mindfulness is more than just a practice. It brings awareness and caring into everything we do—and it cuts down needless stress. Even a little makes our lives better.
- It’s evidence-based. We don’t have to take mindfulness on faith. Both science and experience demonstrate its positive benefits for our health, happiness, work, and relationships.
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Trauma-informed care: What it is, and why it’s important
Trauma-Informed Care and Why It Matters
How we’re falling short in treating trauma victims and what we can do to fix it.
A woman’s experience of trauma impacts every area of functioning, including physical, mental, behavioral, and social. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office on Women’s Health, 55 percent to 99 percent of women in substance use treatment and 85 percent to 95 percent of women in the public mental health system report a history of trauma, with the abuse most commonly having occurred in childhood. The Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) study conducted by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Kaiser Permanente assessed associations between childhood trauma, stress, and maltreatment and health and well-being later in life. Almost two-thirds of the participants (both men and women) reported at least one childhood experience of physical or sexual abuse, neglect, or family dysfunction, and more than one of five reported three or more such experiences. Women were significantly more likely than men to report more traumatic experiences in childhood. ACE scores were found to be highly correlated with serious emotional problems, health risk behaviors, social problems, adult disease and disability, mortality, high health care and other costs, and worker performance problems. Higher scores were also significantly correlated with liver disease, chronic pulmonary obstructive disease, heart disease, autoimmune disease, lung cancer, depression, attempted suicide, hallucinations, the use of antipsychotic medications, the abuse of substances, multiple sex partners, and increased likelihood of becoming a victim of sexual assault or domestic violence.
The Importance of Gender-Responsive Trauma-Informed Care
Trauma is a complex concept, but has been succinctly defined by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) as resulting “from an event, series of events, or set of circumstances that is experienced by an individual as physically or emotionally harmful or life threatening” . Trauma is pervasive, and while many individuals recover without negative effects, for some, even if experienced for just a short time, trauma can have long-lasting effects on mental, physical, and emotional health. For this reason, it is important to address trauma and provide support for individuals who have experienced traumatic events. Health practitioners, or any professional that works in a service sector, will encounter individuals that have experienced trauma – not just those that work in the behavioral health field . This is why it is critical to understand what trauma-informed care is, and how to use it in practice.
According to SAMHSA, a trauma-informed approach to care involves:
- Realizing that trauma has a widespread impact on individuals and that there are different possible paths to recovery
- Recognizing symptoms of trauma in all individuals within a system
- Incorporating what is known about trauma into policies and practices
- Avoiding re-traumatization 
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Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is a short-term, goal-oriented psychotherapy treatment that takes a hands-on, practical approach to problem-solving. Its goal is to change patterns of thinking or behavior that are behind people’s difficulties, and so change the way they feel. It is used to help treat a wide range of issues in a person’s life, from sleeping difficulties or relationship problems, to drug and alcohol abuse or anxietyand depression. CBT works by changing people’s attitudes and their behavior by focusing on the thoughts, images, beliefs and attitudes that are held (a person’s cognitive processes) and how these processes relate to the way a person behaves, as a way of dealing with emotional problems.
An important advantage of cognitive behavioral therapy is that it tends to be short, taking five to ten months for most emotional problems. Clients attend one session per week, each session lasting approximately 50 minutes. During this time, the client and therapist are work together to understand what the problems are and develop new strategies for tackling them. CBT introduces patients to a set of principles that they can apply whenever they need to, and that’ll last them a lifetime.
Cognitive behavioral therapy can be thought of as a combination of psychotherapy and behavioral therapy. Psychotherapy emphasizes the importance of the personal meaning we place on things and how thinking patterns begin in childhood. Behavioral therapy pays close attention to the relationship between our problems, our behavior and our thoughts. Most psychotherapists who practice CBT personalize and customize the therapy to the specific needs and personality of each patient.
Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is a common type of talk therapy (psychotherapy). You work with a mental health counselor (psychotherapist or therapist) in a structured way, attending a limited number of sessions. CBT helps you become aware of inaccurate or negative thinking so you can view challenging situations more clearly and respond to them in a more effective way.
CBT can be a very helpful tool in treating mental health disorders, such as depression, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or an eating disorder. But not everyone who benefits from CBT has a mental health condition. It can be an effective tool to help anyone learn how to better manage stressful life situations
Cognitive behavioral therapy involves more than sitting and talking about what comes to mind. This structured approach keeps the therapist and the person in treatment focused on the goals of each session. This ensures the time spent in therapy is productive. The person in therapy benefits from a collaborative relationship. They can reveal personal issues without fear of judgment. The therapist helps them understand the issues at hand. However, they do not tell the person in therapy which choices to make.
CBT techniques incorporate many different therapeutic tools. These tools help people in therapy evaluate their emotional patterns and states. CBT therapists may employ common techniques such as:
- Challenging beliefs
- Social, physical, and thinking exercises. These may help someone become aware of their emotional and behavioral patterns.
Homework is completed by the person in treatment. It might include practical exercises, reading, or writing assignments. This helps reinforce the therapy. The homework is done outside of the scheduled time for therapy. Homework is a crucial aspect of many CBT treatment plans. It challenges the person to continue working on their own, even after therapy comes to an end.
Most people who receive cognitive behavioral therapy do so for an average of 16 sessions. Each of these lasts about an hour. People in treatment learn new coping skills to handle their issues. They develop more positive beliefs and behaviors. Some even resolve long-standing life problems.
What Is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy?
Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is a form of psychological treatment that has been demonstrated to be effective for a range of problems including depression, anxiety disorders, alcohol and drug use problems, marital problems, eating disorders and severe mental illness. Numerous research studies suggest that CBT leads to significant improvement in functioning and quality of life. In many studies, CBT has been demonstrated to be as effective as, or more effective than, other forms of psychological therapy or psychiatric medications.
It is important to emphasize that advances in CBT have been made on the basis of both research and clinical practice. Indeed, CBT is an approach for which there is ample scientific evidence that the methods that have been developed actually produce change. In this manner, CBT differs from many other forms of psychological treatment.
CBT is based on several core principles, including:
- Psychological problems are based, in part, on faulty or unhelpful ways of thinking.
- Psychological problems are based, in part, on learned patterns of unhelpful behavior.
- People suffering from psychological problems can learn better ways of coping with them, thereby relieving their symptoms and becoming more effective in their lives.
CBT treatment usually involves efforts to change thinking patterns. These strategies might include:
- Learning to recognize one’s distortions in thinking that are creating problems, and then to reevaluate them in light of reality.
- Gaining a better understanding of the behavior and motivation of others.
- Using problem-solving skills to cope with difficult situations.
- Learning to develop a greater sense of confidence is one’s own abilities.
- CBT treatment also usually involves efforts to change behavioral patterns.
These strategies might include:
- Facing one’s fears instead of avoiding them.
- Using role playing to prepare for potentially problematic interactions with others.
- Learning to calm one’s mind and relax one’s body.
Not all CBT will use all of these strategies. Rather, the psychologist and patient/client work together, in a collaborative fashion, to develop an understanding of the problem and to develop a treatment strategy.
CBT places an emphasis on helping individuals learn to be their own therapists.
Through exercises in the session as well as “homework” exercises outside of sessions, patients/clients are helped to develop coping skills, whereby they can learn to change their own thinking, problematic emotions and behavior.
CBT therapists emphasize what is going on in the person’s current life, rather than what has led up to their difficulties. A certain amount of information about one’s history is needed, but the focus is primarily on moving forward in time to develop more effective ways of coping with life.
Source: APA Div. 12 (Society of Clinical Psychology) https://www.apa.org/ptsd-guideline/patients-and-families/cognitive-behavioral.aspx
What is Solution-Focused Therapy?
Solution-Focused Brief Therapy (SFBT), also called Solution-Focused Therapy, Solution-Building Practice therapy was developed by Steve de Shazer (1940-2005), and Insoo Kim Berg (1934-2007) and their colleagues beginning in the late 1970’s in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. As the name suggests, SFBT is future-focused, goal-directed, and focuses on solutions, rather than on the problems that brought clients to seek therapy.
The entire solution-focused approach was developed inductively in an inner city outpatient mental health service setting in which clients were accepted without previous screening. The developers of SFBT spent hundreds of hours observing therapy sessions over the course several years, carefully noting the therapists’ questions, behaviors, and emotions that occurred during the session and how the various activities of the therapists affected the clients and the therapeutic outcome of the sessions. Questions and activities related to clients’ report of progress were preserved and incorporated into the SFBT approach.
Since that early development, SFBT has not only become one of the leading schools of brief therapy, it has become a major influence in such diverse fields as business, social policy, education, and criminal justice services, child welfare, domestic violence offenders treatment. Described as a practical, goal-driven model, a hallmark of SFBT is its emphasis on clear, concise, realistic goal negotiations. The SFBT approach assumes that all clients have some knowledge of what would make their life better, even though they may need some (at times, considerable) help describing the details of their better life and that everyone who seeks help already possesses at least the minimal skills necessary to create solutions.
Solution-Focused Brief Therapy
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Chapter 3—Motivational Interviewing as a Counseling Style
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The Motivational Interviewing Network of Trainers (MINT), an international organization committed to promoting high-quality MI practice and training.
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DBT Skills List
Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) is a cognitive behavioral treatment developed by Marsha Linehan, PhD, ABPP. It emphasizes individual psychotherapy and group skills training classes to help people learn and use new skills and strategies to develop a life that they experience as worth living. DBT skills include skills for mindfulness, emotion regulation, distress tolerance, and interpersonal effectiveness.
The UCSF DBT Program for Adolescents and Young Adults created a fun, easy-to-understand overview of Dialectical Behavior Therapy
Introducing Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT)
Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (or DBT) is a type of cognitive behavioral therapy that is mainly used to treat individuals with borderline personality disorder.