Reply To: Week 4 Homework Assignment (Mindfulness in Behavioral Health)

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Adeena Vogel

Question 1: My physical experience for this particular exercise was mostly uncomfortable, as I was struggling with a pretty intense stomach ache at the time of the practice, which may have influenced my ability to really focus on the activity. I was able to notice and acknowledge a ton of impulses during this exercise, and I found it difficult to calm my mind from those impulses. Once I felt the pain in my belly go away, I had an itch, once the itch went away, I felt like I needed to adjust my sock. My focus and concentration was unfortunately way off, and although I was able to refrain from acting on my urges, I was not particularly comfortable. Over the course of the exercise, it got easier to push away the thoughts to act on my impulses, and I was able to successfully avoid that. However, my mind bounced from one impulse to the next. I do believe that this is an effective technique to help with things like cravings. In fact, it is a group that we specifically teach at my program to individuals with co-occurring disorders. It is effective to acknowledge the urge and practice exploring the reasoning behind the urge, as a way to avoid acting on those cravings. We practice this technique in the group setting and encourage our clients to utilize this skill when they are not in programming and the impulse and urge to engage in substance use arises.

Question 2: The other meditation practice that I picked was Thought Diffusion. I picked this particular practice because I have always been fond of guided meditation and this one kind of felt like that, in terms of picturing a safe and peaceful environment. For this exercise, I was able to notice that I was far less focused on my physical experience, especially in comparison to the urge surfing (again, I think it was related to the space I was in during the practice). When I was able to actually picture those pink fluffy clouds with my thoughts slowly passing by, at felt at peace, and calm, both physically and emotionally. My thoughts were more quiet. They were there, but because I was able to paint a picture in my head of being in a field, with the sun on my skin, I was relaxed. I believe that this is an incredibly effective intervention. It gives me the space to be kind to myself, and acknowledge my particularly intrusive thoughts, and just let them float away. I have used this technique in the past in the work that I do with my clients. I usually have them envision a space that is calming, grounding, and peaceful for them as a place they can visually go when dysregulated (The “I” in the DBT IMPROVE skills that we use at my program). We ask them to just focus on their safe space when dysregulated and allow the intrusive thoughts to pass. Sometimes we even recommend that they draw out their space to have a physical reference if concentration can be poor.

Question 3: Integrating mindfulness over the past four weeks has been helpful. I have come to enjoy my afternoons where I am able to complete these assignments and feel like I have moments of tranquility (or at least more tranquility comparatively during the work day). I try and incorporate mindfulness into my routine as a way to help connect me to the present moment, especially in the work that I do with others. I want to be able to be kind to myself and acknowledge my “stuff” but allow it to effectively pass so I can be as present and “here” for the work that I do with others. Mindfulness is something that I have already been incorporating into the work that I do with others, in both of my settings of practice. I think it allows that space for people to practice calming those racing thoughts and focus on the here and now. I believe that it is an incredibly effective, and helpful tool, that we like to give to other to help them fill their tool boxes.