Mindfulness for Anxiety

Learning Mindfulness to Counter Anxiety

Dr. Kathleen Donaghy

 The entire idea of mindfulness or being mindful is complete engagement in the present moment. It is a state where you are not thinking, reflecting, judging, or deciding, but are instead simply experiencing the things currently in your available experience. It has roots in Buddhist philosophy and has been gaining widespread attention in the treatment of anxiety disorders including Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD). The following is an overview of the principles of mindfulness and suggestions on how you can apply it for yourself starting right now.

In general, we are largely unaware of our present moment, and often operate on “auto-pilot” to some degree. Part of this is adaptive. If we were completely aware of our moment-to-moment experience at all times we would fail to use our past to inform our present, and we would be incapable of making decisions for our future. However, there are times where completely engaging yourself in the present is desirable, helpful, and adaptive. Fortunately, we are capable of achieving this, but it requires practice. Once achieved, mindfulness can provide a richer life experience and can be instrumental in helping one reduce and control anxiety and worry.

Elements of the Mindfulness Attitude
There are 7 elements of the mindfulness attitude that are required for someone to achieve a mindful state:

1. Non-Judging: taking the role of an impartial observer to whatever your current experience is. This means not making a positive or negative evaluation of what is happening, just simply observing it.

2. Patience: cultivating the understanding that things must develop in their own time.

3. Beginner’s Mind: having the willingness to observe the world as if it was your first time doing so. This creates an openness that is essential to being mindful.

4. Trust: having trust in yourself, your intuition, and your abilities.

5. Non-Striving: the state of not doing anything, just simply accepting that things are happing in the moment just as they are supposed to. For people from Western countries like the United States, this tends to be one of the more difficult components.

6. Acceptance: completely accepting the thoughts, feelings, sensations, and beliefs that you have, and understanding that they are simply those things only.

7. Non-Attachment: avoidance of attaching meaning to thoughts and feelings, or connecting a given thought to a feeling. Instead, let a thought or feeling come in and pass without connecting it to anything, observing them exactly as they are.

How To Use This
Since GAD is built primarily on the inability to control anxiety and worry, achieving a state where you can let go and observe can provide tremendous relief and a new perspective on anxiety provoking situations. The best way to practice mindfulness is to find a comfortable position (lying down, sitting comfortably, etc) and relax your breathing. After a brief period of time, start observing everything that is happening inside and outside of you with the peaceful mindfulness attitude.

After 10 minutes see how you feel. Were you able to let anxiety provoking thoughts pass without attaching them to others? Were you able to find a new appreciation for the complexity of the environment you are in? Were there new things that you noticed about yourself? Do you feel more relaxed and at peace? If so then you were able to become mindful, but for most people the first try can be frustrating. Taking at least 10 minutes everyday to practice can have a fantastic payoff and can become an important tool in managing your anxiety and leading a more fulfilling life. Try it for a week and see if there is a difference.

Creating Positive Change

Creating Positive Change

Dr. Kathleen Donaghy

 The Law of Attraction specifies that wherever you focus your attention, you add to its power.  So you increase the energy surrounding any situation that you fixate about.  This is why people who have strong opinions and volatile emotions tend to have a lot of big things happen in their lives in both positive and negative directions.  Think about it—those with mild personalities, those who merely blend in with the wallpaper tend to have less eventful lives than those who live more dramatically and emotionally.  The Law of Attraction is neither good nor bad; it simply is.

So when we become aware of where we are putting our energy, we can begin to work with rather than against the natural laws of energy.

The next thing that’s important to know is that we tend to live largely by default.  In default mode, we have automatic thoughts and behaviors that we have acquired without much thought as we’ve gone through life.  In childhood, we learn through imitation and acquire our parents’ default modes.  We largely accept their opinions simply by repeated exposure to those opinions, and because when we’re children, we don’t know anything different because our experiences are limited.  In our teen years, we begin to question things and we begin to decide for ourselves what’s what, but it’s largely a reactive process rather than a logical and reflective one.  Teens often will simply assume the opposite position of their parents on a few issues that are popular with their friends rather than truly analyzing the issues and coming to a cogent recognition of how they feel about things.

So if we live mostly by default (because we’re usually pretty busy and distracted by things of the world), we also tend to create by default.  If we’re creating by default, we’re energizing what has always been rather than what we purposely wish to create.  Some days when we’re feeling motivated, we start a new behavior, and that’s great.   But it’s pretty easy to get distracted and busy and before you know it, our efforts are start and stop, hit or miss, and we lose our focus.   Once we’re sidetracked, we may take that as evidence that our efforts don’t make any real difference—so why bother?  We become discouraged and wonder why the good stuff always happens to other people, but never to us.  We start to believe we have bad luck, that God is getting even, it’s our genetics, that we don’t even deserve to have things better, or maybe we’re just broken.

Recently I saw an 11 year-old boy who admitted he had a pretty bad temper around his brothers; he was the middle child and it was frustrating for him.  I asked if he felt it was possible to fix and he said no, that he didn’t think it could ever change.  He was brought in by his mother who wanted it to change.  He was creating by default and creating through faulty logic that what was is the best predictor of what will always be.  His prognosis will continue to be poor unless I can convince him to consider the possibility for change.  Not only can he not visualize improvement, but he actually energizes the problem each time we have a session and he engages in thinking about it.  The therapy is harmful at this point because I’m assisting him in thinking about the problem and he is resistant to thinking about the solution.

Failure or refusal to visualize success means you’re visualizing failure, and I guarantee you will fail because that’s where you’re putting your energy.

Each of us similarly energize our problems each time we think about them, which reinforces our faulty beliefs about them that we cannot overcome them.  Every thought we have is either rooting us more firmly in our problems or moving us into new and exciting territory of change.  Admittedly, for some of us, change is so terrifying that we don’t examine its possibilities; we avoid thinking about it at all. We’d rather hold onto a familiar miserable situation than to risk change that (in our minds) could lead to an even worse situation.  So if you accept the premise that you are creating your own life circumstances, then you also need to dig in and decide what you want and put energy into creating it.  Go ahead.  Decide what you want.  Don’t live by default and pretend you’re a victim of circumstance.

You must visualize what you want.

 People object to this information because it makes us accountable for our lives.  It is admittedly much easier to play the victim in life and take the path of least resistance than to become fully aware each moment of how we are energizing success or failure.  But once you know this, you cannot go back to a state of ignorance.  It is a life changing wake up call for self-accountability.  It is simultaneously the worst and best thing you can ever learn in life.  Because now there are no further excuses you can use.  But on the bright side, you are powerful beyond measure and you CAN create your life on purpose.  Think about that.

Once you’ve decided what you want, the steps toward manifesting what you want involve consciously creating what you want.  You must become a conscious creator.

Now just a word about the unconscious.  If you are uncomfortable with the “woo woo” concept of the law of attraction, then consider this:  the unconscious part of your mind is like a constant companion (think of a dog that sits at your feet, intently focused on you) who agrees with everything you say and do.  Without awareness, we say things to ourselves that get recorded by the unconscious mind and it goes to work for us to make it happen.

When we think:  “I’ll never get out of debt”.

It responds—ok, I can help you do debt.

When we think “I’m so stupid and clumsy”.

It responds—ok, we can do stupid.

When we think “I’m depressed”.

Our unconscious mind says– yes, I can make depression happen.

The unconscious mind has a “can do attitude”.  It can make sure I sabotage myself every time I start to get close to being financially solvent.  I can screw it up every time I start to appear smart or coordinated.  The unconscious mind goes to work on whatever you tell it without filtering it or evaluating it.  It is unquestioningly faithful to the conscious mind.

So whether you want to think of your problems as a pattern of energy (i.e., law of attraction) or as a communication to your unconscious mind, or perhaps as both, most people will realize that the idea of consistently creating what you want– on purpose and with conscious awareness– is going to lead to positive change in your life.

Some of you will react to this by saying that it’s hard to focus your mind only on the positives.  Well, that’s true.  Fortunately, we get better at this with practice.  Also, you don’t have to be perfect at it.  You only have to put more than half of your energy into your positive intent.  That means that at least 51% of the time, be positive.  If you catch yourself brooding on the negatives (discouraged, frustrated, impatient, etc.) then turn it around and get back to manifesting on purpose and in a positive direction.


1)     Decide what you want, (not what you don’t want).

2)     Will it.  (Create a strong mental command of what you are creating.)

3)     Know it.  (Intuitively and excitedly know it is headed your way.)

4)     View it.  (Visualize yourself sending clear energy to accomplish it.)

5)     Feel it (as though it’s already accomplished.)

Post this on the mirror and do the exercise each day while brushing your teeth, or upon waking before you go about your day, and or just prior to falling asleep.  Do this daily and with intensity and passion until it has superseded your old ways of thinking and has become your new default mode.  Keep it up for about 60-90 days until your new habitual way of thinking and behaving is established and automatic.