This post is the sixth in a series on my experience with mindfulness-based-cognitive-behavioural-therapy.
My mindfulness course has wrapped up. I'll summarize the overall impact in an upcoming post, but let me first share with you the single most valuable mindfulness tool the course offered: the 3-Minute Breathing Space (you can listen to a sample of the guided version here). The aim of this breathing space is threefold. First, to become aware of what's happening with you in that moment. Then, to bring your focus to your breath. Finally, to connect your breath with the feeling of your whole body. It's the simplest, quickest way to pull me out of the whirlwind of emotions, confusion that take up many of my days, and refocus my energy on my core.
My habitual reaction to an upsetting situation is to let thoughts of negativity build into an internal storm of self-criticism and defeat. No matter what the sitution is, I can hear the same chorus deep in my psyche: "I'll never succeed." "Nobody likes me." "Will I never learn?" "Nothing ever goes right for me." I've learned that these thoughts are causing an emotional response, not the situation itself. But I didn't know that until completing this course.
I've become aware of this habitual response since using this 3-Minute Breathing Space. I heard the thoughts before I felt the emotions. I noticed a cycle starting before the unraveling, often irreversible, mood change took effect. I became aware of that cycle, and can now anticipate it and build in the 3-Minute-Breathing-Space and to avoid the often irreversible, mood-altering impact.
This process is the intersection of mindfulness and cognitive behaviour therapy. Becoming aware of your experience is mindfulness. Becoming aware of how your thoughts/emotions/physical sensations/resulting behaviour is cognitive behavioural therapy. Developing an awareness of how your thoughts/emotions/physical sensations/resulting behaviour are a part of your experience is mindfulness-based-cognitive-therapy. And it has helped me make a huge breakthrough in understanding my mood swings, depression and anxiety.
Now that I understand it, I can take action to prevent it. The 3-Minute-Breathing-Space is my new go-to in moments of stress, anxiety, sadness, anger, frustration or maybe even just something to do on sitting on the bus on my way to work. It pulls my out of my a thought cycle, and reminds me to have compassion for myself.
But more than anything, it grounds me in the simplest, most basic human habit. It reminds me that no matter what has happened, I'm already doing all that I need to. It reminds me to breathe.