Lab 4: Relaxation and Mindfulness

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In today’s lab we discussed techniques of relaxation and mindfulness. These techniques can impact one’s own thought processes and assist in coping with stressful situations. Individual’s who may have disabling thought processes may repeat negative thoughts in their head, obsess over something repeatedly or become very anxious because their thoughts are racing. Being able to practice relaxation and mindfulness techniques can assist in calming down these thought processes, allowing more oxygen to enter the brain and simultaneously slow down physiological symptoms of distress. This technique can also enable adaptive thought processes.

During lab we practiced relaxation through meditation. through listening to a guided relaxation audio tape for ten minutes,  I was able to experience more clarity and was able to become more aware of what my thoughts were at the time; “I have an assignment to work on when I leave this class and an exam to study for…oh no, the exam…I wonder what types of questions I should prepare for…maybe I’ll look at chapter 5 tonight…how will i manage my time when I’m finished here in lab, I’ll ask a friend if they want to study maybe. Oh and I have to pay my roommate for the utilities and I forgot to do my laundry…”. Often, without realizing, our thoughts are racing from one thought to another following an endless stream in our head. Sometimes we forget to STOP thinking and just breathe. When thoughts race like this, our anxieties can increase and our physiology can also change- our heart rate could increase and our blood pressure may rise. Being able to control our breathing can assist in calming these processes down. When I was aware of my current thoughts in lab, I was able to recognize that my mind was racing, take in a deep breathe and conclude “…sure, I have to do all these things…but I’ll survive. I always do”. Understanding my ability to control these thoughts made me feel very empowered. I found that it really helped calm down my nerves and increased my own internal locus of control as I realized experiences of stress was something I could choose to feel. This was a very positive experience for me.

I found the mindfulness portion of lab a little more difficult, as it required a lot more concentration. This technique has more of a cognitive element to it rather than what is required in pure relaxation. The idea of mindfulness is rooted in ‘staying in the present’ and being aware of the thoughts that are coming up in your mind. We see this type of meditation often in Buddhist cultures. Mindfulness meditation is recommended for everyday people. A Globe and Mail article discusses how mindfulness meditation is helpful for reducing stress. The article indicates that a U.K. study found this technique to reduce the risk of relapse of depression by 50 percent. John Kabat Zinn popularized this technique and created “Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction”. “Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy” is another technique designed around depression and combines mindfulness and CBT. Below is a TedX video by Dr. Catherine Kerr (renowned expert on neuroscientist and meditation). She discusses mindfulness and breathing and whether or not mindfulness-based somatic awareness (cultivated through attention to breath, body sensations) changes the brain

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