Reply To: Week 2 Homework Assignment (Mindfulness in Behavioral Health)

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Kathryn Vandermast

Question 1: I really enjoyed the physical experience with the body scan meditation. With last week’s assignment I didn’t do the meditations lying down because at the various times I was able to practice, my dog was present and felt I was lying down for her but this week I was able to practice both meditations without distraction. It made me realize that part of my challenge with meditation is finding the right space and time to do it in. Lying down took a lot of pressure of spots in my body and distributed my weight so that as I was moving across my body I could better focus on each individual area. I did still require the audio to help me but with more practice this feels like a meditation I could benefit from on a regular basis without guidance. With the focus on parts of the body if I had a sensation in another area of the body, I was able to bring my mind back to the area in focus and not linger on the other sensations that initially distracted me. This contributed to more flexibility of thought because I didn’t get upset or concerned when my body wandered and was able to slowly bring my brain back to the area of the body I was focusing on. I was able to stay in the present and felt very relaxed by the end.

Question 2: I must admit, I didn’t think I would like the second exercise of focusing on a particular object but was pleasantly surprised by the benefits I did gain from it. It did force my brain to focus on one thing. In that process I didn’t realize how focused I was on that object but when the guided exercise was over, I felt calm. When I first began to focus on the object, I did find it difficult to think of ways to describe it, but I just kept returning my thoughts to the object rather than worrying about the descriptive words. When I picked it up and touched it, I chose to close my eyes and I found that this helped me to really focus on what I was feeling. I also found that smelling the object was interesting because I chose an object that I am around nearly every day, and I didn’t realize how many different smells it had. Initially I struggled to not have an opinion on the smell good or bad because up close and personal, the object didn’t smell great but once I could detach any judgement around the odor it brought me back to the present and to the object. The object did continuously bring me back to the present.

Question 3: I could see using both in my clinical work. What I liked about the object focus exercise is that it could bring you into the present quickly. I didn’t feel like I needed to get my body into the perfect position before starting the exercise because I so immediately focused on the object that I wasn’t noticing any discomfort. It just felt like you could do this exercise a little more impromptu which would be good in mental health where sometimes you may be trying to quickly divert a person’s attention away from negative thoughts and into the present. I could also see it being helpful when it comes to substance use disorder when someone may be having cravings. As you may start to feel the impulse to drink and the craving is there, a person could quickly find an object to focus on and put all the attention onto the object rather than the craving in the hopes that once you have spent time focusing on that object in the present, and pull your brain away from thinking about the craving then the craving will have passed or at least subsided through the calming nature of the exercise.

I find that the body scan could be very useful in reducing stress and anxiety, but it may not always work in a therapeutic setting unless modified. It requires a little more work in finding the right space because I do think this exercise was better for me lying down then when I have done it in the past sitting. It seems like the person would need to have a lot of trust in their therapist b/c there is a vulnerability to lying down with eyes closed but if a safe space is created it could be very beneficial. It has a very calming effect on the body and is something that I feel a person could do easily without guidance and can be done at times when peace my be necessary such as when a person goes to bed. Often with stress and anxiety as soon as a person lies down at night that is when their brain starts going and all the events of the day or potential events of the future start swirling so it seems like that would be a good time to use the full body scan.