There are many components of mindfulness that can help if you are ready to change obsessive thoughts or compulsive habits. Whether or not you have a confirmed diagnosis of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD), these habits can be very painful and disruptive. Symptoms of OCD include troublesome repetitive thoughts (obsessions) and/or time-consuming behaviors (compulsions). Individuals suffering from OCD and OCD-like patterns usually fear, on some level, that if these obsessions and compulsions are not carried out, something bad will happen.
Mindfulness can easily go hand in hand with other treatments for OCD like Cognitive Behavioral therapy, and medication. Both CBT and pharmaceutical treatments for OCD bring about changes in the brain. Mindfulness also changes the structure of the brain and can increase the effectiveness of these treatments, and can help bring about moments of peace and calm as you retrain your nervous system and win back control of your thoughts and actions.
Recognize the pattern – The first step in making any change is to recognize the problem behavior. Mindfulness can help you look at behaviors that up until now have been too difficult to face.
Befriend the pattern – Trying to push intrusive thoughts or behaviors away often backfires. Befriending the behavior, which really is another way of befriending yourself, takes away the associated fear and shame. Be gentle with yourself. Remember that these problematic thoughts and behaviors once helped you adapt to stress. Mindfulness helps you build this gentle relationship with yourself.
Refute the logic – Taking time to rest your mind in the present moment, without planning or worrying which is the basis of mindfulness, helps bring the frontal lobe region of the brain back on line. This can help boost cognitive abilities. When you are in a calm, peaceful frame of mind, it is easier for you to ask yourself, “where is the evidence that counting to one hundred before I leave my house will keep me safe?”
Break it down – Once patterns are gently acknowledged, you can decide which pattern to tackle first. If you have a ritual that involved seven steps before you sit down to do some paperwork, and this ritual is causing you miss deadlines, can you cut out one step? Which step would be easiest? Remember that change takes time so continue to befriend and be gentle, especially through your first few attempts at change. Mindfulness can help alleviate overwhelm and encourage patience during this process.
Trust in this process of change – It probably took a while for you to develop your obsessions and compulsions. It may take a while for you to undo them. But you can trust in the science behind mindfulness that shows the positive effect on the structure of the brain that comes about through a regular mindfulness practice. By practicing mindfulness you are strengthening areas of the brain that will help you change habits.
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We wish you twenty minutes of mindfulness every day!