Hi! I am Santa Rosa California psychologist, therapist, and counselor Dr. Eric Ryan—I often use mindfulness techniques and principles in my psychotherapy practice to help you experience greater focus, attunement, and become fully present. Learning to be present, to truly live in the moment, rather than getting caught up in the past or future is a powerful antidote for negative moods like depression and anxiety. The result is a greater sense of aliveness and openness to all the possible inherent joys in life, which are usually not available to you when you focus too much on the past or future. In this sense I am a mindfulness doctor or psychotherapist. I integrate mindfulness principles and techniques into therapy with individuals and couples in Santa Rosa, California. Harvard psychiatrist, Dr. Herbert Bensen, has conducted scientific research on meditation; finding positive effects on both the mind and body (see relaxation response). Below you will find a basic mindfulness meditation that I highly recommend.

Introduction to meditation: Calm breathing coupled with these 4 statements followed by imagery is a powerful and effective way to create a calm, open, and present mind which is loaded with physical and mental health benefits. It is also quite useful if you are feeling anxious, nervous, tense, panicked or depressed. Recent research on meditation has demonstrated that it can promote helpful changes to your brain that allow you to experience more positive mood states, reduce negative ones like depression or anxiety, and also has positive effects on blood pressure and decreasing the stress response. The meditation described below is particularly powerful because it combines a simple breathing technique, with healing self statements that are linked to positive images. Forming positive images is a very powerful way to cultivate helpful feelings & emotions.

Instructions for meditation: For optimal results do this meditation for 5 minutes on a daily basis. Then during the day if you feel a negative mood state such as depression or anxiety, say the statements to yourself with the imagery. The basic meditation is simple and is broken into steps so you can easily practice this on your own:

Step 1: Close your eyes and gently notice the feelings in your body, the sounds around you, and begin to focus on the simple in and out of your breathing. Consciously focus on the inhalation of the breath through the nose, into your lungs, and allow the belly to relax and expand. Breathe slowly and regularly in this fashion for a minute or so.

Step 2: Say to yourself slowly and gently the following 4 statements. Keep in mind that these are statements of intention, meaning that by saying them you are consciously inviting that energy into your life, even if you are not experiencing it currently, in other words these are feelings and attitudes that you are working on cultivating in your life.
1) “I will be Safe”;
2) “I will be Happy”;
3) “I will be Healthy”;
4) “I will be at Ease.”
(You can also try saying the statements in the present tense if that works better: “I am safe”, “I am Happy”, “I am Healthy”, “I am at Ease”).

Step 3: After each statement form an image that represents the statement. That is, after slowly saying to yourself “I will be Safe”, form an image of safety; after saying “I will be Happy”, form an image of happiness; after saying “I will be Healthy”, form an image of being healthy; and after saying “I will be at Ease”, form an image of being at ease. Form an image after slowly saying the statement to yourself. The image can be a mental picture of safety, happiness, healthiness, or being at ease; or it can be a memory of when you felt safe, happy, healthy, or at ease; or you may even be able to cultivate certain aspects of the feelings and emotions that go with safety, happiness, healthiness, and being at ease—It can even be an abstract image that symbolizes the statement.

Step 4: Put it all together and practice the calm breathing while saying the statement with the image. Consider using a timer to make sure you get 5 minutes in daily of formal meditation. Then throughout the day, say the statements and form the image as you go through the day. If you do this practice for several weeks, you will probably notice a profound change in your sense of being calm, more present, focused, and less anxious and depressed. Good luck with your practice!

I hope you find this information useful! For more information on my approach to psychotherapy, counseling, and psychology see My Integrative Approach. Feel free to contact me directly and let’s see how I can help!

Author's Bio: 

Dr. Eric Ryan is one of Sonoma County’s leading psychologists. He currently has a private practice in Santa Rosa California. Formally, he chaired the Anxiety Disorder Best Practices for Northern California Kaiser-Permanente Psychiatry and Chemical Dependency services authoring specific Best Practices for PTSD, OCD, Panic Disorder, and Social Anxiety Disorder. He was also the Training Director for the Post Doctoral Psychology Residency Program for Santa Rosa Kaiser Psychiatry & Chemical Dependency Services. To learn more please visit his website www.docericryan.com