This is a personal look into my own journey of healing from childhood trauma, and how I used key mindfulness practices to cultivate real results.
Mindfulness, the practice of being fully present and accepting of reality without judgment, is an invaluable tool in the healing process. When it comes to trauma, one of its core aspects is the avoidance of pain. Our survival instincts often keep us from facing or fully acknowledging the magnitude of what we have endured. However, unresolved pain can manifest in various detrimental ways in our lives, such as toxic relationships, physical ailments, anxiety, PTSD symptoms, eating disorders, or addictions.
This is where healing and self-work become crucial, and mindfulness plays a vital role. By actively practicing mindfulness, we engage in the process of becoming present and aware. This, in turn, empowers us to confront and process our past experiences. Throughout my own journey of healing from trauma, I’ve found the most significant results when utilizing various mindfulness techniques.
In this article, I will discuss how meditations, breathwork, affirmations, nature walks, and my personal favorite tool—writing— played a significant role in my healing process. I am grateful that today I lead a life that’s peaceful, and one where many would never have guessed the extent of the challenges I have overcome. That’s the power of this type of inner work. It’s truly remarkable. Let’s delve deeper into these practices.
This article is all about how to use mindfulness to heal from trauma.
Mindfulness and Healing Trauma
Realistic Expectations When Healing
The journey of healing from childhood trauma is intricate and deeply personal, and there is no one-size-fits-all approach to navigating the memories and emotions that come with it. In my own experience, I discovered that it was a gradual and deliberate process, built on consistency. When I was 20 years old, I often wondered why it couldn’t happen faster. However, as I entered my thirties, I realized the value in the slower pace.
Because slow and steady truly does lay the groundwork for a stronger and more resilient foundation to stand upon.
I emphasize this so that you have a realistic understanding of how mindfulness and these practices operate. It’s important to recognize that it’s not an overnight transformation. While you may experience immediate relief, which is undoubtedly encouraging, sustainable results and internal changes require time. This work allows us to establish new habits, unlearning dysfunctional patterns, and crafting a completely new sense of self. All of which takes time, and that is actually a good thing.
The Mindfulness Techniques I Used To Heal
I explored numerous methods, and I mean numerous, until I discovered these fundamental mindfulness techniques that delved deep and facilitated profound healing. I urge you to experiment with different approaches until you find what resonates with you. In this situation, it’s truly a case of “you won’t know until you try.”
1. Daily Affirmations
The initial mindfulness tool I incorporated into my life was daily affirmations, even before they gained widespread popularity. I had a mentor who wisely emphasized the importance of addressing the mind, stating, “Your mind can cause more trouble than anything else.” Her words resonated with me, as my mind was entrenched in survival mode. I needed to shift it towards living but had no idea how. That is until I began utilizing affirmations daily.
I wrote my affirmations in my phone, and whenever I found a spare moment, I would retrieve them and recite them to myself. “I am safe,” “I am brave,” “I am undefeated,” “I am abundant,” “I am prosperous,” “I have what it takes” became the phrases that reverberated in my mind. Over time, these affirmations started to seep into my subconscious, triggering a transformative shift in my life.
Gradually, I secured a job, established fulfilling relationships, found new housing, and even upgraded my wardrobe. It was in that moment I realized the profound connection between our internal dialogue and the external world we live in. Give it a try and see what unfolds for you.
I created an affirmation deck specifically for healing if you need a place to start.
2. Guided Breathwork Practices
This mindfulness tool entered my life during a later stage of my recovery, coinciding with the onset of the pandemic. It was a time of heightened tension in Los Angeles, marked by riots and lockdown curfews. I watched swarms of helicopters hover over downtown from my balcony.
At the suggestion of a friend, I joined virtual breathwork classes as a means of coping with the escalating stress. Little did I know, this experience would have a profound impact on me.
During the very first session, a shift occurred within me. I felt an immediate release as tears flowed freely. Sensations of numbness permeated my body, and forgotten memories resurfaced. Intrigued by this newfound tool, I eagerly returned to the next virtual class the following week. Each session was more profound than the last as I experienced greater relief, energy shifting, clarity, and a sense of bliss.
While there is a scientific explanation, involving the activation of the parasympathetic nervous system, I sense that there is much more happening beneath the surface. Elements that I simply cannot explain rationally. What I do know is that breathwork helped me release a substantial amount of stagnant energy associated with trauma, in a way that other methods had been unable to achieve.
3. Cultivating Self Compassion
Mindfulness encourages a compassionate and non-judgmental attitude towards oneself. Treating yourself with kindness, acknowledging that healing takes time and effort. Being patient with yourself as you navigate the challenges that arise during the healing process.
This did not come naturally to me.
I was programmed to destroy myself through thoughts alone, and the sheer magnitude of energy required to reverse these patterns in order to embrace self-compassion felt overwhelming. It meant relinquishing perfectionism, and understanding that acceptance doesn’t hinge on being flawless. It involved embarking on a journey of self-love—a concept that had once felt foreign to me. It meant cultivating a genuine friendship with my own being and honoring my soul. It meant highlighting the aspects in which I thrived and wholeheartedly celebrated them. It meant enjoying my own company and finding joy in moments spent alone. It involved writing heartfelt letters to my past, present, and future selves, acknowledging and expressing profound pride in my personal growth. It meant unlearning the shame instilled by the abuse and replacing it with adoration and self-respect.
I ended up doing all of this, piece by piece. It took time and practice. It also required a ton of sitting still with my emotions and listening with compassion.
4. Developing Body Awareness Through Yoga
As with most trauma survivor, I initially had little to no awareness of my body as I embarked on the journey of recovery. I existed as a floating head, compartmentalizing the painful memories in different areas of my body as an attempt to shield my brain. Reconnecting my mind, body, and soul has been a gradual process, spanning years and continuing to demand time and patience.
Among the various mindfulness tools I have explored during this healing journey, one practice has proven particularly effective in body awareness: yoga. In particular, yin yoga has played a pivotal role. Its gentle and introspective nature has provided me a space to foster body awareness and cultivate a sense of unity within myself. It also quite literally forced me to remain still as healing occurred.
Yoga, including restorative and yin yoga, offers numerous benefits for overall well-being and has been clinically proven as a method for self-regulating the nervous system and developing a heightened sense of body consciousness. If you’re interested in delving deeper into the many advantages of restorative yoga, I encourage you to explore my other article on the topic.
In short, incorporating yoga into my mindfulness practice has been instrumental in my healing process, allowing me to reconnect with my body, release memories, and create a safe space for introspection. Through consistent practice and an open-hearted approach, yoga has become a transformative tool in restoring harmony.
5. Embracing Emotional Awareness
Self-reflection is a crucial aspect of the healing process. Mindfulness invites you to engage in self-reflection as a means to observe and accept your emotions. When difficult emotions arise, mindfulness encourages you to acknowledge and allow them to exist without attempting to suppress or control them.
For me, journaling became a powerful mindfulness practice for cultivating emotional awareness. Through daily reflections, I examined and documented my feelings, observing any recurring patterns and making connections between present triggers and past experiences of abuse.
I began labeling each emotion I experienced and traced it back to its roots. Identifying the initial moments when I first felt scared, insecure, unworthy, and unlovable. By recognizing these emotional origins, I began addressing and healing the underlying sources, ultimately releasing these emotions. If you need help with this, have a look at my guided workbook for healing trauma where I go more in-depth.
I also allowed myself the space to fully feel. This required embracing vulnerability and giving myself permission to experience the entire spectrum of emotions, even the painful ones. In fact, especially the painful ones. Knowing the sensation had an ending point.
In this practice, I discovered profound liberation and transformation. It opened the door to authentic healing, as I embraced the entirety of my emotional landscape, honoring each emotion as a valuable part of my human experience.
6. Confronting My Past Through Writing
In addition to engaging in self-reflection regarding my emotional well-being, I dug deep into the reality of my past experiences. Utilizing the mindfulness technique of writing, I sat with myself and delved into each scenario as many times as necessary until it felt complete. This took years.
Through the act of writing down my trauma, I stripped away layers of denial and self-blame, approaching the narrative from the perspective of an adult rather than that of a vulnerable child. It was a painful process, as the rawness of each emotion surfaced, but it also provided a necessary change. As I penned my experiences, I gained a clear understanding of how certain patterns from my childhood had perpetuated into my adulthood.
To this day, when mentoring women who seek advice in their own healing journeys, they often recall a phrase that has become my signature line: “Have you written about it?”
The power and clarity that arise from the act of journaling are truly remarkable. Through the process of writing, profound insights and revelations emerge, shedding light on hidden corners of our psyche and allowing us to confront our truths with courage and authenticity. Journaling acts as a catalyst for self-discovery and self-awareness, unraveling the complexities of our experiences and guiding us toward healing and growth. If there is only one method you try from this list, let it be this.
7. Consistent Meditation Practice
When I was 20 years old, my mentor imparted a powerful piece of advice: “Go be of service, go help someone else for a change.”
So I began running a meditation meeting every Sunday afternoon in the smack-dab of Manhattan. Did I have the qualifications of running said meditations? Nope. I never meditated a day in my life before then, but it seemed like a way to give back to the community and they needed a leader.
What I realized was sitting still was a lot harder than running.
That was my induction into the mindfulness practice of meditation. It has since expanded into sound healing, guided meditations, breathwork meditation, walking meditations, and so forth.
For me, meditation serves as a sacred space to listen to my intuition and attune to the needs of my body. Sometimes it offers a reprieve from the constant stream of thoughts, allowing for moments of profound silence. It acts as a reset button for my nervous system, transitioning from fight-or-flight mode to rest-and-digest, promoting a state of calmness. It provides the much-needed space to gain perspective on my problems, creating a distance that allows me to seek viable solutions.
Above all, meditation has played a role in nurturing my mental health. It showed me that I am safe today, and I no longer need to escape.
8. An inventory of my environment
Early on in my recovery, I embraced a mindfulness technique that profoundly changed the direction of my life: taking inventory of my environment. It involved carefully looking at who I was surrounding myself with and made sure the individuals genuinely cared about me and had my best interests at heart. Simultaneously, I became attuned to my physical environment—my living space, my daily routines, the places I frequented—and examined how they influenced my mental and emotional state.
This heightened awareness prompted me to be brutally honest with myself. I faced the difficult task of making drastic cuts, even when it meant letting go of people I had known for years. It’s never easy letting people go, but it’s even harder to keep those around who constantly harm you. Applying this technique ensures that I cultivate an environment that fosters growth and safeguards my happiness.
It is not uncommon for survivors to settle for less than they deserve, convincing themselves that “it’s not that bad.” However, after enduring so much, it is crucial to remember that even the smallest thorns can cause significant pain. By acknowledging and removing these obstacles, we create a safe space for ourselves to flourish. It is a powerful realization when we admit to ourselves we deserve more than ” it’s not that bad”—it is our birthright to experience profound joy and peace.
Be mindful of who surrounds you.
9. Gratitude Email Chain
In our shared journey of recovery, a group of us found ourselves in a similar space of healing, though we were recovering from different challenges. It was during this time that we came across the concept of a gratitude email chain—an idea not of our own creation, but one we decided to embrace. Each day, my inbox would fill with messages of gratitude, written by the members of our group. Taking just two minutes to read them, something remarkable happened. My energy shifted, my heart felt lighter, and a sense of joy washed over me. Despite these not being my own personal gratitudes, they had a profound impact on my attitude.
Inspired by the collective, I contributed my own list of things I was grateful for, even during the most painful stages of my recovery. I would hit “send,” and in that moment, something shifted once more within me. I felt a glimmer of relief, a sense of connection, and a deepening of my own healing journey.
Gratitude, as a mindfulness technique, holds the power to redirect our minds from dwelling on problems to seeking out solutions. It opens our eyes to the beauty that surrounds us. By consciously training our brains to recognize and appreciate these blessings, we begin to transform our emotions, shift our outlooks, and make better and more empowered decisions. It reminds us that even in the midst of challenges, there are always aspects of life to be grateful for. We have more than we realize.
10. Walking in Nature
Walking in nature, a simple yet powerful mindfulness tool, offers solace and reprieve when life becomes overwhelming. Its beauty, groundedness, and natural calming essence have a profound effect on the soul—certainly on my own. I need to be in nature at least once a day for a complete reset. The key lies in disconnecting from electronic devices, removing headphones, and removing screens to fully immerse into the present moment. The pure bliss comes from truly appreciating the gorgeous scenery before us.
I found that incorporating your senses helps when struggling with racing thoughts. This can be done by reconnecting with the ground beneath your feet, inhaling the scent of leaves, and feeling the temperature against your skin. These mini moments spent in nature serve as a rest for our bodies, our nervous systems, and our minds. It is not uncommon to experience a surge of inspiration, increased motivation, and a greater sense of ease afterward.
11. Drawing and Creating Mood Boards
There were many instances where the pain was so deep I couldn’t articulate it correctly, so I turned to art. Through sketches and drawings, I found a visual language to convey the depths of my emotions. Magazine cutouts became pieces of a mosaic, carefully arranged to form mood boards that reflected my journey. Little did I know then that I was transmuting my pain into something beautiful.
There is a profound healing quality in working with our hands, allowing emotions to flow and take shape in the physical world. With each stroke of a pencil or brush, we externalize the internal, bridging the gap between what lies within us and the tangible world outside. Art becomes a vessel through which we can explore the vast landscape of our emotions, giving them form and color.
In this process of creation, we embark on a journey of alchemy, turning anguish into beauty, despair into hope, and confusion into clarity. The act becomes a sanctuary, a space where we can freely express the depths of our being without judgment or limitation. It is a sacred dialogue between our inner selves and the materials we hold in our hands.
So, in moments when the pain becomes overwhelming and articulation feels inadequate, consider turning to art. Let your hands guide you, and allow the colors, shapes, and textures to become the language of your soul. Embrace the transformative power of artistic expression, and let your pain become a catalyst for healing and self-discovery.
Most Importantly:Seek Support
Mindfulness can be an integral part of healing, but it’s essential to recognize when you need help. As uncomfortable as it might be to ask for support, the reality is, we can’t do this journey alone. Consider seeking support from a qualified therapist or counselor who specializes in trauma therapy. They can provide guidance, offer additional therapeutic techniques, and create a safe space for you to process and heal.
Remember, healing from any type of trauma is a unique and individual journey. It’s crucial to be patient, kind, and compassionate with yourself throughout the process. Mindfulness can be a valuable tool, but it’s just one aspect of a comprehensive approach to healing. Be open to exploring different modalities and interventions that resonate with you and support your healing journey.
This article was all about how I used mindfulness to heal childhood trauma.