We often incorporate mindfulness and meditation practices in our work with people who stutter. What is mindfulness exactly? Jon Kabat-Zinn, the founder of the popular Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction program, defines mindfulness as “paying attention in a particular way: on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgmentally.” While meditation is the formal practice of mindfulness, we can also practice mindfulness in our daily lives by simply noticing what is happening within or around us: the feeling of a cool breeze on our skin, the touch of a loved one’s hand, or the sensation of our feet contacting the ground as we walk.
In recent years, there has been an explosion of research on the effects of mindfulness and meditation practice. Researchers have found that practicing mindfulness can lead to greater emotional regulation and reductions in stress, anxiety, and depression. To learn more about the benefits of mindfulness, such as improved attention, check out this article on the science of meditation or this article on the health benefits of mindfulness.
For people who stutter, practicing mindfulness can be transformative, leading to greater awareness of what’s happening in both the body and the mind during a stuttering moment. Mindfulness allows us to pause, to notice our habitual patterns, and to make a choice in how we respond in each communication situation.
There are many ways to practice mindfulness and meditation, and you may find that a particular approach resonates with you. During our recent immersion program at the Arthur M. Blank Center for Stuttering Therapy in Atlanta, we practiced a different meditation technique each morning. If you would like to experiment with some of these techniques for meditation, try these free guided meditations. For more resources, including apps to help you get started with meditation, check out this blog post by Carl Herder.
For beginners to meditation, developing an awareness of the breath is a great place to start. Here is a beginner-friendly introduction to this foundational meditation technique. For a straightforward, engaging guide to meditation, check out Dan Harris’ book, 10% Happier.
This meditation technique builds on the basic breath awareness practice, by directing attention to different parts of the body. You may notice that you are often lost in thought throughout the day and not aware of what’s going on in your body. Practices like the body scan will help to develop a sense of the mind-body connection.
Developing self-compassion can be especially beneficial for people who stutter. When you are in a difficult speaking situation, for example, what do you say to yourself? You might find that your self-talk is harsh and judgemental, unlike the encouraging words you might share with a friend in a similar challenging situation. The following meditation by Kristin Neff focuses on a felt sense of self-compassion. For more information about self-compassion, check out her website and her book, Self-Compassion: The Proven Power of Being Kind to Yourself.
Link to meditation:
When you experience adversity, it can be difficult to acknowledge and face strong emotions that arise. Like many people, you may have a tendency to push away your negative emotions, seeking solace in distractions that abound in our culture: social media, Netflix binging, overindulging in food or alcohol. Meditation teacher Tara Brach offers a healthy alternative to working with feelings that arise in challenging situations. In this guided meditation, listeners are invited to follow the RAIN acronym by Recognizing, Allowing, Investigating, and Nurturing difficult emotions. If you enjoy this meditation, check out Tara Brach’s website for many other free guided meditations.
The American Institute for Stuttering is a leading non-profit organization whose primary mission is to provide universally affordable, state-of-the-art speech therapy to people of all ages who stutter, guidance to their families, and much-needed clinical training to speech professionals wishing to gain expertise in stuttering. Offices are located in New York, NY and Atlanta, GA, and services are also available Online. Our mission extends to advancing public and scholarly understanding of this often misunderstood disorder.