How do you define trauma?
Trauma is the response to a deeply distressing or disturbing event that overwhelms our ability to cope, causes feelings of helplessness, changes our sense of self, and diminishes our ability to feel a full range of emotions and experiences. Traumatic events are often unexpected, and if we don’t have the resources to cope and find a sense of restoration and balance after the event, we may go on to have difficulty with our physical or mental well-being, relationships, work, or other aspects of life.
What are the types of trauma these healing practices best support?
The types of trauma that these healing practices best support are any of the possible types a person themselves may define as a “traumatic event”. More classically we think of trauma as acts of war or combat, rape, violent assaults, serious accidents or natural disasters. But trauma can arise from experiences that cause us to feel a sense of loss of control- medical trauma (illness, surgery, childbirth), loss of a loved one, betrayal, bullying, abuse of power, emotional abuse, helplessness, political unrest, systemic racism, pandemics, the climate crisis. Trauma may be felt in an individual or collective/generational experience.
If you experienced a very distressing event, that was unexpected, caused you to feel out of control and you didn’t have the resources at that time to cope and restore balance after the event- it is likely that this was a traumatic event, and the residual of the event may be stuck in your body and nervous system. These healing practices are designed to support the range of any possible type of trauma you may have experienced and hopefully help you to change your relationship to the trauma itself, seeing how it can be a source of wisdom, strength, and resilience as we learn to heal.
What is some of the research on how mindfulness, nature and somatic healing improves health and supports healing trauma?
When trauma is unhealed there can be challenges with physical, mental, emotional, behavioral and relational impacts in life. Examples of this might be hypervigilance, tension, ruminative thinking, intrusive thoughts, heightened anxiety, irritability, depression, anger, difficulty in use of addictive activities or substances, withdrawal from others or difficulty with personal relationships.
Many of these challenges associated with trauma have been shown to improve when we can practice mindfulness and experiencing somatic healing. Clinically mindfulness has been shown improve healing difficult states of mind, body and relationships that are affected by trauma and somatic practices have been shown to heal PTSD, anxiety, depression, chronic pain, and secondary traumatic stress (i.e., therapists, first responders, frontline healthcare workers). Also, the ability to experience the heart rate slowing, the prefrontal cortex quieting, stress hormone cortisol decreasing, improved mood and alertness and less preoccupation with problems, just from spending time in nature all point to supports to heal trauma.
The research to support our healing by spending time in nature, practicing mindfulness and learning somatic practices all points to great benefits to healing trauma. By weaving these respective healing systems into the healing process we have the potential to radically transform and heal trauma.