Compassion Focused Therapy (CFT) is a neuroscience based type of Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT) that uses three systems to define how our bodies are wired for stress and relaxation! The 3 systems in CFT are known as the drive, threat, and soothing systems. All three influence each other.
Most people will spend their brainpower and lives (through no fault of their own) in the drive and threat systems. These two systems are what cause us to feel stressed, anxious, and talk negatively towards ourselves.
However, as the name suggests, the soothing system is where most of us want to be and is the system that helps balance out the threat and drive. It is the system that brings us the greatest amount of peace, relaxation, and overall feelings of being safe and at peace.
Activating this system can seem easier said than done. After all, if we knew how to truly activate this system, we wouldn’t have anxiety at all, right?
Well, luckily, activating the soothing system is fairly easy to do once you know what to do. One of the best ways to begin activating the soothing system is by creating and practicing your safe space through a practice called CFT Safe Place Meditation. This doesn’t necessarily refer to a physically safe place, but a mental one.
This safe place is your own state of mind where you can relax and calm yourself down. And what neuroscience has taught us is that our brains and bodies react similarly whether we are physically in a place or just visit a place in our minds. Isn’t that great news?
Not sure how to begin to create and practice your very own CFT Safe Place Meditation? Please keep reading for three easy steps on how to do this.
1. Creating Your CFT Safe Place Meditation
Your safe place is where you feel most at peace. It’s that place where you feel the calmest and at ease, as if all of your troubles have melted away.
To begin, picture yourself in this place. Not sure what to choose? Some ideas of a safe place could be near the water, in a beautiful garden, along a nature trail, in the forest, in the clouds, even in a library could work!
It doesn’t matter what you choose as long as it is a place you know you always feel relaxed and safe in. Let your brain play as it will find the perfect space for your safe place meditation.
2. Practicing Your Safe Place Meditation
Many people struggle with maintaining the imagery they need in their heads to remain in their chosen safe place. If you are one of these people, don’t feel bad – it just takes practice! And we don’t need a perfect image for it to work either.
The more you practice imagining your chosen space the better you will become at maintaining it. For many, the issue is quieting your mind enough so you aren’t distracted.
Anxious thoughts and a racing mind are the worst culprits for losing your focus. There are ways to hone in on your focus so you can stay in your CFT safe place and reduce anxious thoughts.
3. Soothing Rhythm Breathing (SRB) Can Help You Stay Calm and Collected and Remain In Your CFT Safe Place Meditation
Reducing anxiety symptoms involves more than just picturing your CFT safe place, it involves feeling what it is like to be safe. Feeling safe is both emotional and physical. Learning how to physically sooth oneself through a special kind of breathing called Soothing Rhythm Breathing (SRB) can really help you to deepen your CFT safe place meditation. Eventually you will be able to use both together, or separately for increased calm and inner safety at will.
SRB is an extremely powerful tool used in CFT. What many people don’t realize is how our breathing rhythms can affect our body and mind. This is because of the direct connection between our brain and the nervous system.
If we are breathing rapidly, or our breathing gets heavier, the nervous system may freak out, thinking something is wrong. Alternatively, when your breathing is slow and steady, it signals to your nervous system that everything is OK. You can learn more about SRB by reading a blog post about it.
Below, here is a quick guide on how to practice Soothing Rhythm Breathing (SRB):
- Taking a deep and slow breath, fill your stomach with air, and inhale. Hold for 2 seconds, then exhale for another 6 seconds.
- Gently inhale for 4 seconds then hold your breath for 2 seconds.
- Exhale for a total of six seconds.
- Repeat steps 1-3 five times. This exercise will last about 60 seconds.
- Feel free to keep going for up to 5 minutes of instant bliss! Please note the above is just a suggestion, your body might want to naturally take slower or faster breaths, so listen to your body and how you feel.
Creating and practicing your CFT safe place meditation does take time to get used to. But, once you know how to do it, you will be a pro and knowing how to effectively reduce your symptoms of anxiety and feel safe whenever and wherever you want to. If you would like to learn more about CFT and how it can help you, please reach out to me. Click to learn more about Compassion Focused Therapy (CFT)
I am a Licensed Mental Health Counselor in Hawaii and an Accredited CBT Therapist in the UK with over 15 years of experience. I specialize in helping people learn neuroscience based tools to manage their minds, bodies and lives. I have received advanced specialist training in Compassion Focused Therapy and Cognitive Behavior Therapy. Please feel free to contact me at my Honolulu or London clinic to set up an Online Therapy Test Drive.