Mindfulness and OCD

What is Mindfulness?

You’ve probably heard the term “mindfulness” before. Especially in today’s world, when more and more people are incorporating it into their daily lives. Mindfulness is the practice of focusing on present moments in a nonjudgemental way. It is an exercise in self-awareness and self-acceptance. Being mindful means that you notice what’s going on around and within you, and learn to accept it. Mindfulness practices can be particularly beneficial for OCD sufferers. They are often paired with Exposure Response Prevention Therapy (ERP), Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and/or medication to improve OCD treatment.

How Does it Relate to OCD?

Mindfulness is a useful technique for decreasing anxiety because of its emphasis on accepting your thoughts. When an intrusive thought pops up, you let it exist in your mind without providing it any weight. You experience the thought, but don’t judge it, change it or try to make it go away. You wait until it passes instead of thinking it should or shouldn’t be there.

What Can I Do About it?

Mindfulness techniques are simpler than people expect. However, incorporating them into your life can be challenging at first. Think of it the same way you would physical exercise. Start low and build up. As with most things, all it takes is an open mind and some practice before it becomes a habit.

The practice of mindfulness is all about appreciating and accepting the here and now. Focus on the present moment, try not to dwell on future or past anxieties.

Below, are some recommended healthy-living and mindfulness techniques to incorporate into your everyday routine.  

  • Exercise. Whether it’s at the gym or at home, exercising can be helpful in reducing stress. Studies have shown that regular exercise boosts serotonin levels in the brain and can have an almost meditative effect.
  • Eat well. Improve your diet with foods rich in folic acid like broccoli, bananas, potatoes, soy; and vitamin B12 like liver and dairy products.
  • Get enough sleep. When you don’t sleep well, your spike patterns may increase.
  • Find a better work-life balance. This is every working person’s quest in life, but it’s especially critical for OCD sufferers. Balance will help to reduce general stress levels.
  • Keep your distance from toxic people. Negative friends and family cause stress. Stress causes your spikes to increase. Replace the bad with the good. Prioritize relationships with supportive loved ones.
  • Minimize alcohol and recreational drug use. Both can trigger anxiety and increase stress and spikes.
  • Pay attention to your language and change it. Go from thinking “This is awful, I can’t stand it. My life is terrible.” to more temperate language like “This is difficult, This is more challenging but I can get through it.” Coping language can naturally train your brain to avoid those anxiety places.
  • Think of your intrusive thoughts like a patch of ice. If you’re skiing or driving, the worst thing you can do is try to steer. Just let go of control. When you’re spiking, just be there and let it pass through.
  • Remind yourself that anxiety is like the ocean. No matter the tide, waves are going to come crashing in. Sometimes it’s going to be rough. Other times it’s going to be smooth sailing. But whenever life gets hectic, remember to keep your head above water.
  • Stay balanced. If you have challenges dealing with uncertainty — common in Relationship OCD or Pedophilia OCD — think of a seesaw when you’re spiking. The goal is to keep the seesaw balanced. Allow yourself to sit in the middle without searching for a “right” or “wrong” solution to the spike. Don’t look for a yes or no answer, just accept the situation at hand.

From the Community

OCD3, Ep2: Being Mindful & Letting Go
OCD3, Ep5: Making Healthy Diet & Exercise Choices for Mental Health, OCD
Jon Hershfield On Mindfulness, ERP & Acceptance For OCD
How Mindfulness Treats OCD

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