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

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Susan Salomon

1. Initially I found the Urge Surfing exercise very challenging. My thoughts were very “jumpy” and my breathing felt unnatural and out of sync. I also felt restless and kept flip flopping between paying attention to my belly and the tip of my nose. Not relaxing at all! However, I stuck with it and noticed that I felt myself physically settle down and my muscles slowly started to relax. Picturing my urges as waves really worked well for me. Perhaps it had something to do with the predictability of the wave action and its natural rhythm. As I continued the exercise, I noticed that the impulse felt increasingly distant, and it was easier to let go of it. Physically I noticed a more consistent relaxed state the longer I practiced the urge surfing. Working with clients, I think the value of this exercise would include cultivating increased awareness of cravings/ impulses and possibly beginning to help clients feel a sense of empowerment when faced with urges.
2. I chose the Thought Diffusion exercise. I love nature and find being in nature very grounding and soothing so the picturing thoughts as leaves floating on a stream was instantly appealing to me. I found I was able to relax quite quickly during this exercise and noticed tension releasing and my heartrate slowing. The frequency of my thoughts also slowed as the exercise progressed. I found it quite easy to bring my attention and my “mind’s eye” to each individual leaf and really noticed a sense of separation from my thoughts. If clients are willing this seems a great exercise to introduce the concept of thoughts being separate from us and coming and going. So many clients are held hostage by their thoughts and feel ruled by them. This exercise would hopefully begin to cultivate a neutral detachment.
3. I have really enjoyed learning and practicing so many different kinds of mindfulness exercises. My varied experiences have really highlighted for me that experimenting to find what works best for each person is really important. Many of my clients are resistant to trying mindfulness and/or quickly tell me that they tried “it” and it doesn’t work. This course has helped me to rethink how I present mindfulness as an option, describe its purpose, and has given me a number of different options for tailoring my approach to each client’s needs. When all is said and done, helping clients to find an exercise that helps them notice and detach from negative thoughts is essential for reducing discomfort and encouraging behavior change.