There are five practices that will help you get the most out of therapy, as well as cultivate aliveness:
One of the most user-friendly and effective mindfulness exercises is Focused Breathing Awareness (FBA), where you close your eyes and follow your breath for a specified period of time. Not only does it lower stress levels but it also helps you develop the skill of observing internal sensations instead of “becoming” the aversive thought or feeling hitting awareness. While the general recommendation for FBA is 30 minutes on a daily basis, many of my clients follow their breath for 10 to 15 minutes a few times a week with significant benefit.
2) Regular Exercise
I know you’ve heard this one before but for good reason! Exercise, especially the cardiovascular type, boosts the mood, breaks down anxious energy, offers soothing and promotes overall health. Put it on the schedule and make it a non-negotiable.
3) Make a Plan for Vulnerable Spaces
Whether it’s anxiety, depressed moods or addictive behavior, there are usually predictable triggers and times of day when you’re most vulnerable to the symptoms or unwanted behavior. First, identify the pattern and then make a plan for the challenging space you know is coming. Your plan might have things like healthy distractions, relaxation activities/exercises, or concrete actions that are a direct expression of your values, such as encouraging a friend or hugging a loved one.
4) Food Diary
Clients find it helpful to track the food they’re eating for a week or two. Just the act of recording meals often improves our diet. In addition, most people are surprised how much their diet impacts mood, attention and even behavioral choices. There are some great Apps available that make tracking food easy and fun.
5) Sharing Goals with a Friend or Spouse
Change is hard. It’s never easy to accept an anxious feeling, stop an addictive behavior or stay socially engaged when feeling depressed. Close others can help. Share your struggle with a friend or spouse and let them know what you’re hoping to accomplish. By doing this, you introduce encouragement and accountability into the change process. Research shows making a public commitment to a given goal significantly increases your chance of success.
I really found, 3) Make a Plan for Vulnerable Spaces, amazing here. I recently quit cold turkey from a harmful addiction and since quitting all I’m finding myself conscious of are my own triggers that will set off anxiety or a harmful response. Nighttime was a really vicious time for me since I’d be alone and have nothing to do, so it was easy to seek out an escape to occupy my time with. However, I believe setting up time to exercise would be far better used instead, and I’m planning on making it non-negotiable.