Mindfulness as an Exercise

Mindfulness is a form of therapy used for anyone who wants and needs to understand their surroundings and how to mentally accept it. Practicing mindfulness improves depression and emotional regulation through detachment, changing not thoughts and feelings but the person’s relationship to them” (Bateman, 2012). The process of mindfulness includes closing your eyes, focusing on each breath you inhale and exhale, and trying to keep your focus on your breath and not distractions. A favorite exercise in mindfulness is to imagine a creek of water with leaves floating downstream, one by one. While imagining flowers, green grass and a hillside as the backdrop, imagine the sounds of running water and begin to focus on each leaf as it was swept away. The patient is then advised to put a “thought”, any thought, on each leaf as it floats away in an effort to clear the mind and feel some relief. By focusing on those leaves, the goal is to take notice of any distractions and then force your attention back to the leaves. The most important phrases in mindfulness is “notice that” and “what´s next”? (Van Der Kolk, 2015) Living in the moment is the key to this therapy.

Trauma leaves victims with feelings of unbearable sensations (2015) and mindfulness allows us to understand body awareness. When a person feels agitated, other similar emotions may arise but when you are aware of that pattern, you have more control over suppressing it and exerting that energy in a different way (2015).

Mindfulness stems from Buddhism – “to alleviate suffering and cultivate compassion” (Ludwig & Kabat-Zinn, 2008). This can include a decreased perception of pain, the ability to tolerate pain, and the enhanced ability to reflect on choices (2008). Mindfulness can be extremely effective for those who need to realize their attachment to certain feelings and emotions so they can change their relationship with it, not their thoughts and feelings (2012).

Research from Britta Holzel and Sara Lazar “has shown that practicing mindfulness even decreases the activity of the brains smoke detector, the amygdala, and thus decreases reactivity to potential triggers” (2015).


Bateman, A. (2012). Mindfulness. British Journal of Psychiatry, 201(4), 297-297. doi:10.1192/bjp.bp.111.098871

Ludwig DS, Kabat-Zinn J. (2008). Mindfulness in Medicine. JAMA. 2008;300(11):1350–1352.   doi:10.1001/jama.300.11.1350

Van Der Kolk, B. (2015). The body keeps the score: brain, mind and body in the healing of trauma. Penguin Books.

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