Mindfulness is a major goal of psychotherapy. We want our clients to be able to savor the moment free of intrusive memories or worries about the future: Right Now. There are many ways to bring a client to the present moment: teaching mindfulness meditation, body awareness, or playing what do you notice? ("Name 3 things in the room that are red, 3 things you hear, 3 sensations.")
Some of my more anxious clients find that their obsessiveness scuttles attempts to meditate ("Am I doing it right? This is stupid? What am I supposed to be focusing on? I can't do it!). Body awareness reminds them of what could go wrong with their bodies. ("What if I stop breathing?!) I'm teaching these folks to make state changes through noticing pleasure. Here's how it works:
"Look around the office. Look out the window. Notice what catches your eye. Notice what's fun to look at or that you enjoy seeing. Stay with whatever it is, as long as it's interesting or pleasurable. (Usually they start to smile and to relax at this point.) When you're ready, and only when you're ready, look around for something else that pleases you. Stay with that object or view until you feel like moving on. Stay with it as long as you like. Great!" (We usually do 3 objects or views. I say that my eye can be pleased by looking at the angles on a molding, or 3 planes coming together in the corner of the room. I only have art that I like and little objects scattered about to look at. I tell them how much I like to look at the big tree across the street. This kind of pleasure can be a new experience for some, and quite profound. For others, it's not new, but consciously using it for mindfulness or self-soothing might be new.) "Now notice how you're sitting on the couch. Could you do anything to make that more comfortable? Try sinking into those cushions. How's that? Try sitting straighter or sticking this pillow behind your back. What feels the best? What fabric feels the best under your fingers? How about your hair on your hand? Do you like that texture?" (Crew cuts win this one!) Hang with what feels the best. Can you imagine the next time you take a shower, totally feeling that hot water, and enjoying it? Can you imagine being worried about something that you don't have power over, and finding something pleasing to look at or feel or smell or do? Think of something that might happen at work, and soothing yourself with something you enjoy. Think of something that happens at home, and coming back to yourself and this moment with something pleasing. If you commute, think of the irritating drivers and the waiting, and how you can shift your body in the car for your best comfort, and look at something interesting, a cool car, the view, a cloud, a bumper sticker, and while still paying attention to driving, have a little pleasure vacation."
People do this homework. And it works, even with the most anxious. And it doesn't feel like work. And they learn both mindfulness and painless state change. It doesn't clear underlying trauma. It doesn't take away an anxiety disorder. But it's a nice, easy habit to take on.