Coping Methods Healing

12 Mindfulness Exercises for Healing from Childhood Abuse

Mindfulness Exercises | Hopeful Panda

Mindfulness is something that has become increasingly popular. And I think it is something worthy of all the buzz. Incorporating some mindfulness exercises into your day-to-day life is not just healing, it’s essential for your well-being.

As someone who had an abusive parent, mindfulness is an amazing tool to deal with all the effects the abuse has caused. Practicing mindfulness has also helped me discover more about myself as well as be more accepting and caring of myself.

In this post, I’ll discuss what mindfulness is, its benefits, and various mindfulness exercises you can try out to begin healing.

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What is Mindfulness?

Mindfulness is a state of mind where you are fully present and engaged at the moment. It involves being aware of your thoughts, feelings, actions, and sensations without judgment, distraction, or becoming reactive to them.

Although it is typically known as a form of meditation, mindfulness can also be incorporated into daily activities (which I’ll discuss more later).

Mindfulness involves two key elements: awareness and acceptance.

Awareness is the ability to pay attention to your inner thoughts and feelings as well as your immediate surroundings. It also involves the knowledge of those experiences and environments.

Acceptance is the ability to accept all that you are aware of without judgment or reaction. It means accepting your thoughts, feelings, sensations, and surroundings as-is with no good or bad reactions towards them.

Mindfulness is a state that can be brought on through practice. Everyone has mindfulness. It’s just about learning how to access it.

Benefits to Mindfulness for Child Abuse Victims

In general, mindfulness helps increase your emotional and general awareness. It also connects you to the present moment.

If you had an abusive parent growing up, you may struggle with many lasting effects of the abuse such as depression, anxiety, trauma, negative self-talk, low self-esteem, isolation, self-sabotage, and so on. And mindfulness is a tool that can be used to manage these various effects.

For instance, due to the nature of mindfulness, it can be a tool used to avoid self-criticism, negative self-talk, and self-blame. Its elements of awareness and acceptance can help you understand and cope with uncomfortable emotions, allowing you to learn how to identify, manage, and address them.

According to research, practicing mindfulness for traumatized individuals seems to significantly lower levels of PTSD symptoms including depressive symptoms and reexperiencing.

Some research suggests that mindfulness may help individuals better cope with intrusive thoughts and memories, and be more equipped to handle emotional distress.

Mindfulness can also play a role in helping people break unhealthy habits that may have formed due to childhood trauma.

Other benefits to mindfulness include:

  • Lower stress levels
  • Less emotional suppression and rumination
  • Less emotional reactivity
  • More emotional clarity
  • Better emotional regulation
  • Reduced depression and anxiety symptoms
  • Better coping with rejection and social isolation
  • Better memory and focus
  • More satisfaction in relationships
  • More happiness

Individuals who regularly practice mindfulness are more flexible and cope better when faced with challenges. More mindful people reported using less self-blame and being better able to accept situations they can’t control or change. Thus, being mindful may improve one’s general health and overall well-being.

12 Mindfulness Exercises for Healing from Childhood Abuse

The more you practice mindfulness, the more you’ll become aware of and understand how your thoughts, feelings, sensations, environment, and reactions influence one another.

There are a lot of mindfulness tools and techniques out there. But if you’re like me and new to mindfulness, I suggest starting small. Pick one or two things out of this list to try first.

If you particularly enjoy any of these mindfulness exercises, try to start incorporating them into your everyday life to make practicing mindfulness a habit.

Mindfulness Meditation

Let’s start with the most popular way to practice mindfulness – in the form of meditation.

Mindfulness meditation involves focusing your mind on your experiences in the present moment like your emotions, thoughts, and sensations. Its purpose is to help you be aware and notice your thoughts, feelings, and the state of your body without becoming reactive to them.

Generally, mindfulness meditation involves deep breathing and tuning into your mind and body. However, techniques can vary. This mindfulness exercise doesn’t require any props or preparation. But feel free to customize it to your needs and preferences.

To begin, you simply need a couple of minutes and somewhere to sit. Once you’re ready, take some slow, deep breaths.

Focus on each breath and the sensations you are feeling such as what you’re hearing, smelling, seeing, feeling, and thinking. Allow each thought to exist without judging it. This will be difficult but try your best. Let your thoughts simply exist.

As you’re doing this, some uncomfortable emotions might come up. That’s okay. Exploring these emotions can help you learn to identify, manage, and finally address them. Perhaps there are some underlying issues you didn’t notice before. Now is the time to listen to yourself and see what it is you need.

But try not to go into a spiral. So when you notice your mind start to wander, zero back in and focus on your breathing again. And ask yourself, what am I seeing, feeling, tasting, smelling, and hearing?

When you do this, start small. Begin with five-minute sessions. Then, slowly increase it over time if you’d like. You can also set a timer if you’re worried about losing track of time. This can ensure you won’t be distracted by something else and can fully immerse yourself at this moment.

Body Scan Practice

The body scan practice is an effective way to begin a mindfulness meditation practice. It is also a form of self-care and self-reflection. It allows you to tune into your body and see what’s happening.

In the book, Mindfulness for Dummies, the body scan is described as a way to connect with your body, let go of anxious feelings, and release emotions.

The practice aims to help you be aware of the different regions of your body and allow yourself to experience how each part feels. It helps you notice if there’s any discomfort in your body that you may not have noticed otherwise.

You can begin the body scan practice by lying down (wherever you’d like). Then, begin paying attention from the bottom of your body (little toe) to the top (head) or vice versa.

You can start with a guided practice to get a sense of how to move your attention up or down your body. But you can also try to do it yourself by focusing attention on different body parts top to bottom or bottom to top.

And if you notice your mind start to wander, try to bring your focus back on the body part you were last on (or you can start over if you’d prefer).

Mindful Walking

If sitting or lying still is not something you prefer, mindful walking is something you can also do. It’s recommended that you do this outdoors to get even more benefits.

On top of getting some vitamin D, spending time in and around nature has many positive effects. It can help:

  • calm and quiet your mind
  • improve your mood
  • reduce stress levels
  • increase physical activity, thus improving physical health
  • improve confidence and self-esteem

You can take a walk through the woods, a stroll on the beach, or even a walk around a park in your neighborhood.

Like with other mindfulness exercises, as you walk, focus on your sensations. Notice your breaths, how you’re moving, and what you’re seeing, smelling, hearing, and feeling.

Daily Tasks

While practicing mindfulness is often through meditation, it doesn’t have to be. It can be incorporated into your daily life through tasks like when you’re:

  • doing the dishes
  • brushing your teeth
  • folding laundry
  • taking a shower
  • organizing
  • driving
  • taking a walk
  • cleaning
  • working out

The mundaneness of these various tasks and chores makes it easy for you to focus on your senses at the moment.

For example, you can focus on the smell of the soap as you’re doing dishes, the way your arm moves as you brush your teeth, or the rhythm of your breathing as you’re working out.

Research shows that mindful dishwashing increases relaxation and decreases stress. So if you don’t have time to spare for some mindfulness meditation, you can make one of your daily activities into a mindfulness exercise.

Mindful Journaling

If you’re new to mindfulness, journaling may be a good place to start. As an activity, it includes many of the same characteristics as mindfulness like sharpening your focus and turning your attention inwards.

Several studies used journaling in their mindfulness interventions. And individuals who received these interventions showed higher levels of mindfulness and fewer depressive and anxiety symptoms.

Not only is journaling a great mindfulness exercise, but it is also a great way to self-reflect and put things into perspective. It can help you learn more about yourself and your life.

Check out The Hopeful Planner or the 100 Days Journal in the Shop created with practicing mindfulness in mind.

Morning Routine

How you start the day can set the precedent for the rest of the day.

You know those days when nothing seems to go right? We all have those days. Starting your day off with a bit of mindfulness and intention can help you feel more prepared and less overwhelmed about facing your day.

Your morning routine completely depends on you. You can pick one of the mindfulness exercises on this list and add it to your morning routine. Or you can whip up something of your own.

You can do some morning journaling, read something, meditate, mindfully plan your day, or exercise. Whatever you do is up to you. But try to keep it simple so you can follow through and make it into a habit.

Relaxing Hobby

Other than meditation and tasks, you can also practice mindfulness during a relaxing hobby.

For instance, gardening is a great hobby to practice mindfulness.

It requires a lot of awareness of your surroundings such as how your plants are doing and how the environment they’re in is affecting them. Also, research shows that gardening can help reduce pain and stress, thus improving your mental health.

Coloring is another hobby you can try out to practice mindfulness. It is one of my personal favorites!

When coloring mindfully, you’re focusing your senses on the colors you choose, how you’re moving your arm and hand to color, and where to color it. You can focus solely on the design or patterns of the colors and let go of other thoughts that might otherwise be intrusive.

Other relaxing hobbies you can consider to practice mindfulness are:

  • painting
  • cooking and baking
  • knitting and crocheting
  • photography
  • learning or playing an instrument
  • yoga
  • reading
  • birdwatching
  • stargazing

Bedtime Routine

Just as it’s important to have some sort of morning routine, a bedtime routine is also helpful for practicing mindfulness.

Also, when you’ve experienced trauma, you might struggle with sleeping problems. Practicing mindfulness before bed, in whatever ways you prefer, may help improve your sleep.

For instance, I tend to have trouble falling or staying asleep at night because my thoughts tend to wander. I tend to stress and overthink about what happened today and what will happen tomorrow.

Practicing a little mindfulness before bed helps relax me. You can download an app or read a meditation book before bed. Or you can choose one of the other mindfulness exercises listed in this post to get started.

Related: 100+ Tips on How to Sleep Better After Childhood Trauma

Decluttering & Organizing

An organized and decluttered space can improve your emotional and mental health. It gives you a feeling of serenity and relaxation.

Organizing, cleaning, and decluttering are other ways I like to practice mindfulness. I sometimes do it when I’m feeling overwhelmed and stressed. Actively putting things in order or back where they belong makes me feel more in control and at ease.

Research claims that decluttering your space could make you healthier and happier.

However, you don’t just get the benefits of mindfulness by doing it. You also get it from the results.

Being in a clean, organized space where everything is easily accessible makes life a bit easier. It makes it easier to practice mindfulness as well.

If you’re serious about decluttering and organizing, I recommend checking out Marie Kondo’s book. It discusses the art and philosophy behind organizing and tidying up as well as techniques and tips on how to maintain it.

Mindfulness Apps

It can be hard to begin practicing mindfulness without any sort of guidance, especially when you tend to have intrusive thoughts due to your trauma. In that case, consider downloading a mindfulness app that can guide your meditations (if meditating is where you’d like to begin).

Apps like Calm or Headspace provide free meditations and teach you a variety of techniques and tools that can help you continue practicing mindfulness throughout the day.

Mindfulness Books

If you prefer reading and meditating at your own pace, you can check out various books or guides on practicing mindfulness.

Sign up for a free trial of Kindle Unlimited to read some of these titles for free or at a discount. Or sign up for a free trial with Audible and claim an audiobook for free, which is yours to keep even when you cancel.

  • Trauma-Sensitive Mindfulness: Practices for Safe and Transformative Healing by David A. Treleaven
  • Practicing Mindfulness: 75 Essential Meditations to Reduce Stress, Improve Mental Health, and Find Peace in the Everyday by Matthew Solokov
  • Mindfulness: An Eight-Week Plan for Finding Peace in a Frantic World by Mark Williams and Danny Penman

Practice Mindfulness Everywhere

Try to incorporate mindfulness into anything and everything if you can.

I know this sounds difficult and probably intimidating. But as mentioned before, mindfulness can make a big difference.

When you’re so used to having your life dictated by your abusive parent, practicing mindfulness wherever and whenever you can help you learn to become more of your own person.

Besides, you don’t have to incorporate mindfulness into literally everything. That’s impossible. What I mean is, find time in your everyday moments to practice a little mindfulness. And really, a few seconds is all you need.

For instance, before eating, pause for a few seconds. Look at what you’re about to consume. Then, as you’re eating, you can continue practicing mindfulness if you’d like. How does it taste? What are the textures? How does it make you feel?

I tend to overeat because I find comfort in food. And it’s something I adopted due to my past. But mindful eating allows me to think twice and reflect on whether I want to eat what I am about to eat. It also allows me to truly savor my food.

And this can apply to basically anything.

Before you do something, take a few seconds to reflect on it. Then, as you’re doing it, try to be at least a little mindful about it. Not only will it teach you to be more mindful in general, but it can also help you learn to cherish more of the things in life you may take for granted.

Mindfulness Exercises | Hopeful Panda

Conclusion

Mindfulness is still something new to me. But I try to incorporate it into my daily life when I remember. Just a few minutes every day can make a difference.

Start small and see how it makes you feel. Try out different mindfulness exercises to find one that suits your needs and preferences. Feel free to add, remove, or combine elements from various of these exercises to create the ideal mindfulness exercise for you.

The cool thing about mindfulness is that you can practice it anywhere and anytime. Also, there is n=o “right” way to practice it. So do it in a way that works best for you. And remember, be patient and kind to yourself as you continue on this journey.

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Hi there, I’m Estee. Having grown up with an abusive mother, I know how isolating, frustrating, and hopeless everything could feel – back then as a child and even now as an adult.

I am always trying to better understand and manage the effects of the abuse I experienced. And this journey I’m on inspired me to create Hopeful Panda. Learn more here.

A lot of time and effort is put into this blog. If you enjoy my content or find it helpful, please consider making a donation or becoming a member. Your support helps me continue providing free content for all. Thank you!


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