How Mindfulness can Help with PTSD

Oct 07, 2018

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) can affect a person’s everyday life – from the ability to work to dealing with family or friends. Often seem disinterested or distant, people with PSTD try not to think or feel in order to avoid memories they don’t want to remember.

PTSD is described as a severe response to a trauma associated with symptoms such as re-experiencing the event, avoiding anything that reminds of the event or feeling emotionally numb, and hyper-arousal, which consists of an overly sensitive startle response.

According to Helané Wahbeh and colleagues, PTSD may occur when a person has been exposed to a traumatic event that involves actual or threatened death, serious injury, or threat to the physical integrity of self or others [1].

The severity of PTSD symptoms may vary from person to person and can be chronic or intermittent. If untreated, PTSD can increase the likelihood of developing severe depression, substance abuse and suicidal thoughts.

Mindfulness for PTSD

One good way of coping with PTSD is using mindfulness. Mindfulness has been around for a very long time. Today, it has been starting to be recognized to provide benefits for people suffering from PTSD.

Mindfulness can help a sufferer get back in touch with the present. It can also reduce the extent to which they feel controlled by unpleasant thoughts and memories.

What Studies Say

Jenna E. Boyd et al wrote that mindfulness-based treatments may be used as an alternative to trauma-focused treatments. These approaches are “present-centred,” in that they encourage nonjudgment and acceptance of thoughts and emotions as they occur in the present moment [2].

Anthony King and colleagues looked at the effects of mindfulness meditation on the brain of people with PTSD. A study involving 23 male veterans who served Afghanistan and Iraq were divided into different treatment groups. One of these groups includes mindfulness-based exposure treatment.

Whilst each group showed promise, the mindfulness-based exposure therapy group experienced brain changes even after treatment. These changes indicate mechanisms that tell mindfulness could potentially help in treating PTSD [3].

Mindfulness may be important to consider and include when managing stress, coping and resilience. Another study by Bruce Smith et al investigated the link between mindfulness, other resilience resources, and several health measures in 124 urban firefighters.

The participants completed health measures of PTSD symptoms, depressive symptoms, physical symptoms, and alcohol problems and measures of resilience resources including mindfulness, optimism, personal mastery, and social support. They also completed measures of firefighter stress, number of calls and years as a firefighter.

The researchers used the Mindful Awareness and Attention Scale to assess mindfulness. The results showed that mindfulness was associated with fewer PTSD symptoms, depressive symptoms, physical symptoms and alcohol problems [4].

Mindfulness in Reformer Pilates

Mindfulness exercises such as Reformer Pilates can play an important role in helping people with PTSD recover and gain confidence.

Reformer Pilates lets you have an “inner” workout that comes with a deep concentration of the performance of the mental exercise. This rejuvenates the mind and restores the spirit. It also promotes consciousness in which the client must be fully present to perform the exercises.

People are usually looking for bigger interventions. But even as simple as the breathing you do in Reformer Pilates can calm your senses, get you grounded and allow you to think more clearly.

It may be challenging to begin an exercise program for someone suffering from PTSD but here at Happy Physio, our Reformer Pilates instructors will make sure you’ll be motivated and provided with tools that will help you change for the better and improve your quality of life.

Need to talk to the experts? Our team will be happy to help. Call us on 9272 7359!



  1. Wahbeh H, Senders A, Neuendorf R, Cayton J. Complementary and alternative medicine for post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms: A systematic review. Journal of evidence-based complementary & alternative medicine. 2014;19(3):161-175. doi:10.1177/2156587214525403.
  2. Boyd JE, Lanius RA, McKinnon MC. Mindfulness-based treatments for posttraumatic stress disorder: a review of the treatment literature and neurobiological evidence. Journal of Psychiatry & Neuroscience : JPN. 2018;43(1):7-25. doi:10.1503/jpn.170021.
  3. King, A. P., Block, S. R., Sripada, R. K., Rauch, S., Giardino, N., Favorite, T., Angstadt, M., Kessler, D., Welsh, R. and Liberzon, I. (2016), ALTERED DEFAULT MODE NETWORK (DMN) RESTING STATE FUNCTIONAL CONNECTIVITY FOLLOWING A MINDFULNESS‐BASED EXPOSURE THERAPY FOR POSTTRAUMATIC STRESS DISORDER (PTSD) IN COMBAT VETERANS OF AFGHANISTAN AND IRAQ. Depress Anxiety, 33: 289-299. doi:10.1002/da.22481
  4. W Smith, Bruce & Alexis Ortiz, J & E Steffen, Laurie & M Tooley, Erin & Wiggins, Kathryn & A Yeater, Elizabeth & D Montoya, John & Bernard, Michael. (2011). Mindfulness Is Associated With Fewer PTSD Symptoms, Depressive Symptoms, Physical Symptoms, and Alcohol Problems in Urban Firefighters. Journal of consulting and clinical psychology. 79. 613-7. 10.1037/a0025189.