Mindfulness for Healing from Complex Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
All human beings have a tendency to relive trauma even decades after it has ended. Those living with the effects of complex post-traumatic stress disorder tend to ruminate and live their lives in a morass of flashbacks and pain.
Mindfulness is an ability that is vital to helping a person heal from traumatic events of the past. It is the ability for a person to be fully present and not overly reactive to what’s going on around us.
All Humans Possesses Mindfulness
Mindfulness is a quality that all people possess, it's not something that needs to be learned, we just need to learn to use it. Yet, while mindfulness is inborn it must be cultivated through the motions of sitting, walking, moving, and standing in a meditative and purposeful way.
Mindfulness and meditation are very closely related practices and often the procedure is termed mindfulness meditation. Mindfulness meditation offers us a time in our lives when we can unleash our minds and experience peace through awareness of the now.
When we practice mindfulness, we reduce stress, gain insight and awareness, and increase our attention to our well-being.
The Past Fades Through Mindfulness
When we are living in the now, our histories are relegated back to where they belong, in the past. Notice that I did not say that the past goes away, that is a physical impossibility unless there is damage to the brain. No, the past fades because of the training of the mind to stay in the now and focus on where one is, when, and how one is feeling at that moment.
When practicing mindfulness it is almost impossible to have a flashback intrude into the mind of something traumatic from the person’s history. The whole exercise of mindfulness is to concentrate on the sensations of the senses in the now and not to allow memories or emotions from trauma-time to have reign.
It is quite a relief to have the past not intrude into today’s thoughts. The stress relief and feelings of warmth and comfort are undeniable and lead to lowered blood pressure, better heart health, and an overall sense of well-being.
Getting Grounded Through Mindfulness
It is so easy to get lost in the chaos of daily living that dissociation from the present can become a significant problem. The word dissociation means that one becomes detached from the physical and emotional experiences of today.
Dissociation causes survivors to get lost in the past through flashbacks or intrusive memories and thoughts. Grounding is the end result of practicing mindfulness to help one live in the present and not during the time the trauma occurred. Grounding lifts the brain fog that encapsulates the brain when healing from complex trauma allowing relaxation to flood in.
Grounding works by decreasing the strong signals of the amygdala, the emotional center of the brain, thus relieving the stress and fear responses. By focusing on grounding, a person can regain their equilibrium and find peace. Grounding is especially helpful when one is having a flashback as by using the five senses, it pulls you back into the present where there is safety and calmness.
Mindfulness, in a grounded state, makes it harder to feel disconnected and dissociated from the here and now making it possible to enjoy the present.
Mindfulness Does Not Mean Forgetting
Instead of causing the survivor to forget or push troublesome thoughts away, mindfulness brings them out of the past and into the present where they are dealt with. By focusing on allowing themselves to become grounded survivors create greater harmony between reality and consciousness.
Instead of forgetting what happened in the past, survivors through using mindfulness can instead change the dialogue of what they are saying to themselves internally. Thus, the critic within learns through mindfulness to acknowledge it is okay to make mistakes but reliving and living within them is not.
It is much easier to care for oneself when one has a loving relationship with themselves. Mindfulness helps to connect the dots within the mind of survivors allowing them to see themselves through the lens of the reality that everyone makes mistakes and has their quirks, and that’s okay too.
The Research About Mindfulness
New research shows that people who meditated for an eight-week length of time showed unexpected results.
The study involved twenty-four people who lived with the diagnosis of high blood pressure and underwent eight weeks of training in mindfulness. They listened to a twenty-minute CD while sitting with an experienced trainer and learned how to deep breathe, use muscle relaxation techniques, and concentrate on a one-word mantra.
The researchers then measured to see if the subject's blood pressure had dropped by at least ten points systolic and five points diastolic to see if the measurements were within the range of 140 over 90. While not every person was successful in lowering their blood pressure, half were and that is an achievement these subjects had not been able to make using blood pressure medications alone. It remains unclear why the other half failed in lowering their blood pressure numbers.
When the researchers took blood samples from both those who responded to mindfulness and those who did not, they found something truly amazing. Of those who had responded to the mindfulness technique, 172 different genes that control inflammation, glucose metabolism, and circadian rhythms were switched either on or off. This is the first study to show that gene expression changes due to mindfulness techniques.
The Other Benefits of Mindfulness
Thus far it has been shown in this piece that mindfulness reduces blood pressure and changes the genetics of some who practice it. However, there are many more ways that practicing mindfulness can benefit anyone who learns it.
The Mayo Clinic states that the overall, the evidence supports the effects of mindfulness in the following conditions:
Mindfulness helps one experience their thoughts and emotions with greater acceptance and balance allowing for the following:
· Improved attention
· Improved sleep
· A decrease in job burnout
· Improved diabetes control
Overall, one’s outlook and experience of life are enhanced and aided by the practice of mindfulness.
Three More Things To Understand About Mindfulness
Mindfulness can sound a bit like voodoo to those who are unindoctrinated. So here are three things one needs to understand about mindfulness.
Mindfulness is not weird. Instead, mindfulness is a familiar concept because it is what humans already do and how we already behave. Mindfulness takes different shapes and names in various cultures with the west have forgotten the importance of practicing remaining in the present.
One need not change who you are. It is unnecessary to change as people because the capacity to be present already exists within us. We can, however, cultivate this inborn ability with some practices that are scientifically demonstrated to help with every part of our lives.
Mindfulness is a way of life. Mindfulness is more than a practice one does once and then forgets it. Neither is it something that will help if it is practiced only once in a while. Mindfulness is a way of living that brings awareness and caring for everything that is done in one’s life. Mindfulness cuts down on needless stress and makes life better.
Do not dwell in the past, do not dream of the future, concentrate the mind on the present moment. ~ Buddha
The present moment is filled with joy and happiness. If you are attentive, you will see it. ~ Thich Nhat Hanh
Bhasin, M. K., Denninger, J. W., Huffman, J. C., Joseph, M. G., Niles, H., Chad-Friedman, E., … & Dusek, J. A. (2018). Specific transcriptome changes associated with blood pressure reduction in hypertensive patients after relaxation response training. The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, 24(5), 486–504.