Self-harm is a problem that affects many people, and can be a difficult issue to treat clinically. Standardized treatments don’t always do the best job of managing this dangerous behavior. Mindfulness has been proposed to help mitigate some of the factors that lead to self-injury. In a study by Caltabiano and Martin (2017), affect regulation was found to be a main function of self-injurious behavior. In other words, people who self-harm reported that they did so in order to manage their emotions. Mindfulness seeks to directly address affect regulation by focusing on observing, describing, acting with awareness, not judging, and not reacting. It is simply observing emotionality and letting it be, until it naturally subsides. The study found that people with low levels of mindfulness were more likely to engage in self harm behavior, and vice versa. In fact, 70% of the time, mindfulness levels were able to predict those who engaged in self-harm! There are many ways to begin practicing mindfulness:
· Engage in yoga.
· Complete a guided meditation (many are available for free on YouTube.)
· Mindful eating- Turn off the TV and eat slowly, noticing the texture, taste, and sensation of what you are eating.
· Deep breathing: breathe in and out deeply, noticing each breath and the sensation throughout the body.
· Progressive Muscle Relaxation: gradually and slowly tense and relax each muscle in the body, starting at the head and moving towards the toes. Notice the tension coming and going from each muscle area.
If you or someone you know is struggling with self-harm behaviors, there are many resources available to assist in the process of support and problem-solving, including professional counseling. Call (215) 487-1330 or email us at Greenridge@intercommunityaction.org for more information about our counseling services, which include one-on-one therapy with a trained clinician.
Caltabianco, G. & Martin, G. (2017). Mindless suffering: The relationship between mindfulness and non-suicidal self-injury. Mindfulness, 8, 788-796. Retrieved from PsycInfo.