How to use mindfulness to overcome childhood trauma

Photo by Lesly Juarez on Unsplash

Mindfulness has played a pivotal role in helping me overcome the symptoms of my unmet childhood needs. Many think of silent meditation when they hear the word. But it is far more accessible than that.

Mindfulness simply means nonjudgmental acceptance of the present moment. Jon-Kabat Zinn has been credited with bringing this Buddhist concept to the west.

In 1979 Zinn began Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR). The eight-week program has helped countless sufferers overcome complex trauma symptoms like anxiety and depression. It helped me recover from my own unhealthy coping mechanisms and vastly improved my quality of life as a result.

How mindfulness heals

Since trauma is stored in the body, the change in state mindfulness produces can escalate healing. While practicing mindfulness, we focus purely on the present moment where past and present cease to exist.

The anxiety and worry many of us suffer almost constantly relates to rumination over the future. Similarly, emotional flashbacks and their attendant shame pertain to events of the past.

Mindfulness helps us see that the future is a fiction. The fears we dread have not happened and likely never will. Though the past did happen, it is over now. Obsessing about it will not help us heal.

Mindfulness helps us see that the future is a fiction. The fears we dread have not happened and likely never will. Click To Tweet

Of course, that does not mean we forget the past. Saying so would be no different than the misguided advice to let go and move on. Or the tired and incorrect adage that “time heals all wounds”.

Anyone who’s gone through trauma, complex or otherwise, knows the danger of such simplistic thinking. Instead, mindfulness invites you to be present with your feelings – all of them. Rather than pushing them away or becoming overwhelmed, you accept them.

Self-comfort over self-criticism

It does not ask you to forget about the past, but to comfort yourself in the face of your feelings. Contrary to the shame inherent in your inability to “let things go”, you’re invited to hold yourself as you experience your feelings.

You get curious about what comes up for you rather than self-critical. Instead of thinking you shouldn’t feel a certain way, you attend to your feelings without judgment.

That’s why mindfulness offers a powerful path to self-exploration and discovery. As a novice, I first started using mindfulness by setting a timer for five or ten minutes and simply sitting there.

I found it so difficult to shut off my mind that sitting and observing my thoughts and feelings had a profoundly healing effect. It also helped me take the time to myself that my guilt and shame never allowed me to do.

From there I began mindful journaling of my emotions, mindful eating rather than mindlessly consuming my food, and mindful body scans that furthered my connection with myself.

Mindfulness changes your brain


Ample evidence proves that mindfulness meditation changes the structure and function of the brain. It can help reverse some of the outcomes of complex trauma like diminished brain size and emotional dysregulation.

Mindfulness changes the structure and function of the brain and helps reverse outcomes of complex trauma. Click To Tweet

These effects cannot be underestimated and will drastically change the quality of your life. Imagine, a practice that requires no medication, no money spent on therapy, and little expertise, has a life-changing effect.

You can practice mindfulness anytime by setting the timer like I used to. Or searching up free videos online to guide you.

You may wish to enhance your knowledge with mindfulness education as I have. Through a ten-week course on Mindful Self Compassion I’ve deepened my self-awareness and improved my outcomes.

Practicing mindfulness has enhanced my self-concept which has led to greater authenticity, career satisfaction, higher income, and life fulfillment that I never thought possible.

Now, you can access an incredibly affordable eight-week course hosted by Jon Kabat-Zinn himself. It’s called Opening To Our Lives and provides an essential set of mindfulness skills that will help you live a life truly aligned with your most authentic goals and values.

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  1. I love how clearly you’ve summarised this important body of work. I agree completely, I have seen such changes come from the application of mindfulness teaching particularly around self compassion/self comfort. Have you explored Paul Gilbert and Deborah Lee’s work?