A Safe Place for Cutters Blog

How To Practice Being Mindful
August 17, 2009, 05:00
Filed under: Tools | Tags: , ,

FiveSensesI run a group therapy for individuals diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder. We always start the group off with a mindfulness exercise that I will elaborate on later on in this post. Many of these individuals have also been diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) related to early childhood trauma such as physical or sexual abuse. .Using mindfulness for PTSD may be a good way of coping. Mindfulness has been around for ages. Mindfulness benefits for people suffering from difficulties such as anxiety and depression.

In a nutshell, mindfulness is about being completely in-touch with the present moment. So often in our lives, we are stuck in our heads, caught up in the anxiety and worries of daily life. This exercise will introduce you to mindfulness and may be helpful getting you “out of your head” and in touch with the present moment. The following story will highlight how powerful this exercise is.

A couple of weeks ago, I had missed a group session when I was on vacation. In my absence my co-providers, a psychiatrist and a social worker were left in charge. At the next group meeting, I was informed that the group had erupted in chaos. That stuff doesn’t happen when I am there so what took place? I found that they hadn’t started with the mindfulness exercise. I start the group off by telling them to focus on their five senses: taste, touch, smell, hearing and vision. When you are centered on your senses you are in the present.  Your five senses will tell you what is happening right now, not in the future, not in the past but in the moment. After the exercise, which lasts for about one to two minutes, everyone shares what they experienced during the exercise. It is amazing how this exercise calms everyone down and prepares them for participating in the group process.

Here’s How You Can Do This at Home:

1. Find a comfortable position either lying on your back or sitting. If you are sitting down, make sure that you keep your back straight and release the tension in your shoulders. Let them drop.

  1. Close your eyes.
  2. Focus your attention on your breathing. Simply pay attention to what it feels like in your body to slowly breathe in and out.
  3. Now bring your attention to your belly. Feel your belly rise and expand everytime you breathe in. Feel your belly fall everytime you breathe out.
  4. Continue to focus your attention on the full experience of breathing. Immerse yourself completely in this experience. Imagine you are “riding the waves” of your own breathing.
  5. Anytime that you notice your mind has wandered away from your breath (it likely will and this is completely normal!), simply notice what it was that took your attention away and then gently bring your attention back to the present moment – your breathing.
  6. As you experience the awareness of your breathing, start to notice what you are experiencing with your five senses. You probably have your eyes close so you won’t to notice what you are seeing. What do you hear? Are there people chatting nearby? Traffice sounds? Birds singing? Do you notice any smells? Perhaps you smell someone cooking or a person’s  perfume. What does the couch you are sitting on feel like? Notice the texture of the leather or nappiness of the upholstery. Are both your feet on the floor so that you feel grounded? Do you discern a taste in your mouth? Sometimes people can taste their breakfast or their morning medication.
  7. Continue for as short or as long as you would like!


  1. Before you try this exercise, it may be useful to first simply practice breathing. This may sound silly, but many people don’t breathe properly, which can fuel stress and anxiety (more on this later).
  2. Make this a habit. Practice this exercise at least once a day.
  3. At first, it may be important to practice this exercise at times when you are not overly stressed-out or anxious. When you were first learning to drive a car, you likely didn’t start out on the highway during a thunderstorm. The same goes for mindfulness.
  4. Remember, it is normal for your mind to wander during this exercise. That’s what it does. Don’t get discouraged. Instead, at times like this, it may be useful to think of mindfulness in this way: If your mind wanders away from the breath a thousand times, mindfulness is about bringing your attention back to the present moment a thousand and one times.

Next: How to Breath Properly

To A Life Worth Living,
Foresteen Forbes, Psy. D.

*If you would like to be a member of my Facebook group “The Safe Place for Cutters,” please find me on Facebook and invite me to be your friend. Click here!


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