The Value of Focusing: Hypnosis and Mindful Meditation Can Help
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Michael D Yapko, PhD posted:
A pattern that can keep people depressed is called "rumination," which refers to spinning around and around the same depressing thoughts over and over again. Having distressing thoughts is one part of the problem, but the bigger part of the problem is when people actually believe them. Thus, it may make sense to learn how to step back from your thoughts and let them float by without taking them in and believing them.

Mindful Meditation (MM) is a powerful means of evolving greater awareness and acceptance that has its roots in Buddhist traditions. Adapted by mental health professionals to help with depression, anxiety and other conditions, MM helps you learn how to focus your attention in meaningful ways. It helps you to redirect ruminative thinking into calming, relaxing images while also detaching from your thoughts as triggers for emotion. For example, a common imagery used in MM is to picture your thoughts as if fallen autumn leaves floating down a gentle stream. From a safe and comfortable distance, such imagery allows you to see your distressing thoughts ("I'm so screwed up!") go by in a detached way, thereby losing their power to make you feel bad. The thoughts can become objects of curiosity rather than triggers for bad feelings. In essence, MM teaches you to be aware of then accept and use your thoughts in new ways rather than fighting against them. Through calm, aware experience, you discover that you are more than your thoughts.

Hypnosis similarly involves a focusing process. People in hypnosis are highly attentive to a specific focal point, whether the soothing words of someone guiding them through the experience, or a specific idea, image, or symbol. It could be almost anything the person focuses on as a means of relaxing and getting absorbed in the experience.

Contrary to the common misconceptions that suggest people will have less control over themselves, in fact, skillful applications of hypnosis increase the degree of control people can attain over their experience. Of all the things I have studied in depth in my lifetime, I have been most impressed with hypnosis for its ability to help people develop greater self-mastery.

Modern clinical hypnosis has become a core component of behavioral medicine and psychotherapy programs all around the world because it can help you control your thoughts, feelings, behavior, and even the level of pain in your body.

Hypnosis is about building frames of mind. A qualified clinician (state licensed, academically trained health care professional) who uses hypnosis can teach key skills that can reduce anxiety and depression. The experience of hypnosis is relaxing, and people in hypnosis hear and can respond to anything and everything going on. They are active participants in the process, and can more easily absorb new ideas and learn helpful skills when in that relaxed, focused state.

Someone replied to my last post by advancing the notion that depression is caused by brain damage. That isn't true, nor does it help people to think of depression being caused in this way. Interestingly, though, the evidence is growing that both MM and hypnosis do actually help change brains as well as minds through the processes of neurogenesis (producing new brain cells) and neuroplasticity (brain adaptations to novel conditions). Creating deliberate experiences that retrain your brain are sensible treatments, and provide yet another reason for being positively action-oriented.

Here's a link to the American Society of Clinical Hypnosis website for anyone interested in obtaining a local referral for a professional who does hypnosis: www.asch.net .

I'd also suggest reading The Mindful Way Through Depression by Williams, Teasdale, Segal & Kabat-Zinn.
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