What is it, and does it help?
By Sharon Picone
If you have PTSD, you know firsthand that it consumes you. It affects your mind, your eating habits, and your sleep. Anxiety and depression set in. It is hard to cope with everyday activities. Seemingly easy tasks are arduous and overwhelming. You think that you have the ability to overcome emotional and psychological pain. You believe that if you wait, time will heal all wounds.
As someone who has experienced PTSD, I’m here to tell you that it is vital to seek treatment and to have the continued support of a friend, partner, or therapist. It’s essential to find ways to cope with anxiety and depression. In the article, I explore the possibility as well as the feasibility of mindfulness meditation as part of the healing process: what it is; its origin; whether it’s a help or hindrance in your healing process; and whether or not it’s safe to practice.
Mindfulness meditation originated from the Buddha, who delved into and contemplated his mind and body and emerged with comprehensive insights into human nature. The outcome of his deliberation is meant to treat the three “poisons” of human nature: greed, ignorance, and unawareness.
The Buddha taught that the source of our suffering is due to our attempts to escape conflict and negative experiences in our lives. In his teachings, he proposes that it is only through meditative practice that we can open our hearts and clarify our minds.
What does this theory mean for you?
While mindfulness is at the heart of Buddhist teachings, the very act of mindfulness makes it universally accessible for all to experience, not only Buddhists. Mindfulness is inherent within all humans. At some juncture in our lives, we’ve all been mindful. In a nutshell, mindfulness can be practiced without Buddhism, but Buddhism cannot be practiced without mindfulness.
Does mindfulness help or hinder anxiety and depression?
Within society as a whole, mindfulness meditation is recommended as a form of treatment for several ailments and symptoms – from high blood pressure to irritable bowel syndrome. Still, the question remains whether or not it’s beneficial for anxiety and depression.
In this respect, research from several institutions seems to differ in results. One such study conducted by Tony Toneatto and Linda Nguyen, using a control group, concluded that a mindfulness program does not have a reliable effect on depression and anxiety.
On the flip side, research conducted by JAMA Internal Medicine by way of 47 trials with 3,515 participants concluded that there is small, but significant evidence of mindfulness meditation having a positive effect on anxiety and depression. The results were comparable to the effects of antidepressants on a user but without the possibility of associated toxicities.
The bottom line? You should choose for yourself whether or not mindfulness is an option on your path to healing. However, it should be a complement to and a part of your treatment, not the only form of treatment.
What is mindfulness meditation?
The Sanskrit word for mindfulness is dharma, which means “lawfulness” (as in the law of physics) or “the way things are” (as in the Chinese practice of Tao). Therefore, mindfulness meditation is a focused awareness of one’s present experience and deep insight without judgment of self.
The individual repeats a mantra where the mind is calm and devoid of any mental distractions. The individual is meant to experience an altered state of consciousness.
The individual focuses on the present by mentally blocking out external distractions. The individual is meant to reflect within and accept himself/herself unconditionally and without judgment.
Is Meditation Safe?
Since mindfulness involves deep introspection, while sitting quietly, it’s generally considered safe. The practice focuses on training the mind as well as exploring its connection with the body and spirit.