Mindfulness, Meditation, and Trauma

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Photo by Jasmin Schuler on Unsplash

Meditation and mindfulness are two separate activities, although often combined to enhance each other. You can choose to practice one or the other and still achieve the available benefits.

The reason I bring this up is that meditation can sometimes make things worse, instead of better. For instance, when there is a high-shame index, fear of positive emotions, or other trauma related symptoms, up to and including PTSD, then meditation can sometimes be very uncomfortable and trigger anxiety or other undesirable states.

If you have tried to meditate and notice:

  • Becoming anxious or otherwise uncomfortable as your body and/or mind start to relax
  • Traumatic memories coming to the forefront of your mind
  • Feeling ashamed of yourself or that your critical mind is taking over
  • Fearing that positive emotions will in some way harm you
  • You aren’t good enough, or don’t deserve a positive life or positive emotions
  • Strong feelings of avoidance at the idea of spending time alone with just your thoughts

Stop Meditating!

It is entirely possible that you could start meditating, without intervention, at a later date. It could also mean that you need outside help, such as therapy, in order to begin the trauma recovery journey. Healing IS possible and you deserve it, so do what you need to do to care for yourself.

Start Mindfulness!

Becoming more mindful can help you a great deal in recovering from trauma. Specifically, Outward Facing Mindfulness is a great activity because it anchors you into the here and now and gets your mind away from ruminating thoughts.

Here is an excellent practice. The only rules are that you simply observe objectively, without judgement:

  1. Notice one thing in the room – the size, shape and color it is. Completely give it your entire presence. Then find four other things in the room that are similar in size, shape and/or color.
  2. Notice four sounds. You might think this is an impossible task, but as you get very quiet and listen intently, you will hear more than you can imagine.
  3. Find three different textures. Feel if an item is soft, smooth, rough, etc.
  4. Find two different smells.
  5. Find one taste.

You can mix this practice up any way you want, like finding five tastes if you are eating a meal or change the sequence. Take your time with this mindfulness activity and do it at any time and often, such as two to three times a day.

After you practice, notice if you feel differently, such as feeling more aware or more anchored in the present moment. There is no right or wrong, just stay aware.

You might notice that sometimes you feel distracted, while other times you will feel more tuned in. That’s okay. Just keep practicing. In time, you will find yourself remaining aware for longer periods throughout the day, with much greater ease.

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