Mindfulness and Healing: the psychological benefits of mindfulness in eating disorder recovery

What is mindfulness?

Mindfulness is a state of consciousness where one focuses on self-regulating their attention towards present moment in a non-judgemental, accepting way. Essentially, being mindful means that you allow your mind to focus and fully attend to what you’re doing and feeling, exactly where you are.

In our busy lives filled with social media, long working hours and environmental stressors, we run on auto-pilot, mindlessly scrolling Instagram, ticking boxes and getting things done – i.e. “going through the motions” But there are numerous benefits of taking a step back, focusing on the present and connecting to how we truly feel.

The psychology behind it…

Mindfulness or mindfulness-based interventions have been psychologically proven to reduce anxiety symptoms (Chen et al., 2012) and there have been proven significant benefits for those suffering from a current episode of depression (Strauss et al., 2014).

Recently, studies have found that mindfulness-based interventions are effective in helping to treat eating disorders. For instance, Proulx (2007) found that after practicing mindfulness techniques for two months, individuals suffering from Bulimia reported feeling less distress and had gained improved stress management techniques as well as better self-awareness, compassion and acceptance. Mindfulness, in combination with CBT group therapy, has also been shown to reduce body image dissatisfaction, dieting and binge eating behaviours, attributed to increased self-awareness (Woolhouse, Knowles & Crafti, 2012).

Mindfulness tips!

  • Integrate mindful into your day-to-day activities by being more mindful of the activity in hand, how your body is moving, and what thoughts appear and disappear in your mind
  • Do mindfulness in short, frequent bursts, up to 20 minutes at a time
  • Keep a perspective on your physical surroundings. Next time you go for a walk, look at the sunlight through the trees, notice the colours, the autumnal oranges or bright bursts of green in spring
  • Discover helpful resources to support your journey, such as the Headspace app for beginners in meditation: https://itunes.apple.com/gb/app/headspace-guided-meditation/id493145008?mt=8

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References

Chen, K. W., Berger, C. C., Manheimer, E., Forde, D., Magidson, J., Dachman, L., & Lejuez, C. W. (2012). Meditative therapies for reducing anxiety: A systematic review and meta‐analysis of randomized controlled trials.

Proulx, K. (2007). Experiences of Women with Bulimia Nervosa in a Mindfulness-Based Eating Disorder Treatment Group. Eating Disorders, 16(1), 52-72.

Strauss, C., Cavanagh, K., Oliver, A., & Pettman, D. (2014). Mindfulness-based interventions for people diagnosed with a current episode of an anxiety or depressive disorder: a meta-analysis of randomised controlled trials.

Woolhouse, H., Knowles, A., & Crafti, N. (2012). Adding Mindfulness to CBT Programs for Binge Eating: A Mixed-Methods Evaluation. Eating Disorders, 20(4), 321-339.

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