Mindfulness and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
I have often felt that one of the big challenges in life is internal (how we internally respond to things) rather than just external, (i.e. marathons, jobs, relationships, physical exercise, bungee jumping), which are of course valid and important too. In my own life, I have found the core elements of both CBT and mindfulness to intersect in countless ways and together outline a meaningful path to help in my own equanimity in the face of challenges. Many mindful practices from Buddhism and other traditions have CBT elements as core teachings. The same also applies to Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT).
Firstly, the ability to observe one’s thoughts (cognitions), noting their quality, intensities, and also to not necessarily take cognitions/thoughts as truths about ourselves or life (since thoughts often present themselves to us with this sense of truth-ness, even when they are in fact far from it) is an integral part of both mindful practices and CBT.
Behavioral components (working on the plane of behavior – addressing or changing actions rather than thoughts) in mindfulness, as well as CBT, are also very clear. A change from anxiously biting one's nails while binging on TV to doing a brief meditation is already a form of behavioral change. Mindful awareness of one’s states as they relate to what behaviors we are doing is also a key component of mindful practices. Much of the time, a challenge we are facing involves exploring practical actions we can take. Such actions might be in direct response to address the challenge or to cope in a positive way with the feelings that it brings about.
Mindfulness practices have great potential and value to the practical wellbeing of many people. However, mindfulness is neither a one-size-fits-all approach nor a panacea for any or all mental wellness issues. There are many different ways to practice mindfulness and associated traditions, each person may connect with different aspects. A feeling of fitness for any person is always the most important, traditional CBT without mindfulness works best for some people. Many clients have found that the mindful practices we have discussed and/or practiced together have been pivotal in allowing them to face challenging situations with greater ease, comfort, and confidence.
Jack Kornfield, PhD (clinical psychology) is a very interesting therapist, lecturer, and trained Buddhist monk. He has incorporated many mindful practices into his therapy over years of training and has a set of wonderful mindfulness meditations (as well as lectures and other information) on his website that I have found to be very useful.