Mindfulness is the core skill taught in Dialectical Behavior Therapy, but how exactly do we know that mindfulness helps people with BPD?
One summary of the research by UCLA reported on the positive correlation between meditating and positive affect. Harvard recently published a report on mindfulness as an alternative approach to depression.
The term “mindfulness” can be abstract and difficult to understand. Let’s begin with describing what mindfulness is.
What is Mindfulness?
Marsha Linehan developed Mindfulness from the basic principles of Zen Buddhism. Practices include things like yoga, meditation, prayer, and visualization exercises. Mindfulness practice doesn’t necessarily have to be a religious practice. Prayer and spirituality are some ways to practice mindfulness, but there are many other ways to tune into your intuition and connection with the universe. It is not a requirement to be religious in order to receive the benefits of mindfulness.
But mindfulness is so much more than just the practice exercises that make it up. Mindfulness is a way of life. In other words, a way of experiencing reality as it is, free of judgment and distraction. It is a way to step back and view the world. And also to enter fully into the experience of life with awareness and knowledge of your true self and your motivations.
How does mindfulness help people with BPD?
With time, mindfulness practice actually produces changes in your brain. Mindfulness practice can calm the limbic system, which is so involved with the episodes we equate with Borderline Personality Disorder. Eventually, your brain will automatically be able to separate itself from its emotional experiences without much effort at all. This allows us to think more clearly and make more rational decisions.
With a clear-thinking mind, we can let go of overwhelming emotions and judgments about ourselves and others. We can focus on doing what will work to achieve the goals we have. If our goal is to improve a relationship, for example, mindfulness will help us to calm our emotions so we can respond and communicate effectively with a loved one. This is how mindfulness helps people with BPD.
How do I start to live a mindful life?
So how do we make mindfulness a part of our daily lives? Start small. Choose one mindfulness exercise that resonates with you. One exercise I like is to let drops of water hit my hand and focus on just the steady drop of water. I pay attention, feeling the wetness, feeling the weight, and breathing slowly. Do that exercise for 10 minutes every day for a week, or two weeks. When it has become habitual for you to do your daily mindfulness exercise, it’s time to add another mindfulness moment into your day! Ten minutes in the morning, ten minutes in the evening is a great way to build up your practice time. The more you build the habit, the easier it becomes, the less effort it requires. Keep increasing your mindfulness moments day by day. Soon you’ll be shocked at how much control you are starting to gain over your thoughts and impulses!