How Mindfulness Can Be an Effective Tool for Managing OCD Symptoms

calm woman in lotus pose meditating after awakening at home

Alright, let’s talk about OCD, or as I like to call it, the pesky little monster in your brain that just won’t quit. We all know how much of a pain it can be, but have you heard of mindfulness? It’s like a superhero that can help you manage your OCD symptoms and take back control of your life.

What is OCD?

OCD stands for Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder. It’s a mental health condition that affects a lot of people, and it’s characterized by two main things: obsessions and compulsions.

Obsessions are unwanted thoughts or ideas that keep coming up over and over again, even when you try to ignore them. They might be about things like germs, or harming other people, or making mistakes. These thoughts can be really distressing and can interfere with your ability to focus on other things.

Compulsions, on the other hand, are repetitive behaviors or rituals that you feel like you have to do in order to prevent something bad from happening. For example, you might feel like you need to wash your hands a certain number of times to avoid getting sick, or you might feel like you need to check the locks on your doors and windows over and over again to make sure they’re secure.

OCD can be really challenging to deal with, and it can cause a lot of distress and anxiety. But the good news is that there are effective treatments available, including therapy and medication, that can help people manage their symptoms and live a more fulfilling life.

Common OCD traits:

It’s important to remember that everyone experiences obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) differently, so there’s no one-size-fits-all answer to this question. However, there are some common everyday traits that many people with OCD might experience. Here are a few examples:

  • Needing things to be “just right”: Some people have a strong need for things to be arranged or organized in a very specific way. For example, they might need all of the books on their bookshelf to be arranged in alphabetical order, or all of the dishes in their cabinet to be facing the same direction.
  • Checking and rechecking: People might feel like they need to check and recheck things multiple times to make sure they’re done correctly. For example, they might need to check that they turned off the stove several times before leaving the house, even if they know they already did it.
  • Excessive cleanliness: Some people have an intense fear of germs or contamination, and might spend a lot of time cleaning or washing their hands. They might also avoid certain objects or situations that they perceive as being dirty or contaminated.
  • Intrusive thoughts: People might experience unwanted, intrusive thoughts or mental images that cause them a great deal of distress. These thoughts might be about harming themselves or others, or about doing something morally wrong.
  • Repeating behaviors: Some people feel like they need to repeat certain behaviors or rituals in order to prevent something bad from happening. For example, they might feel like they need to tap a certain number of times on a surface before they can move on to the next task.

What is Mindfulness

So, mindfulness is a word that gets thrown around a lot these days, but not everyone knows what it means. At its core, mindfulness is all about paying attention to the present moment – becoming more aware of what’s happening in the here and now. It’s about being fully engaged in whatever you’re doing, rather than getting lost in your thoughts, worries, or distractions.

For example, have you ever found yourself scrolling through Instagram or Facebook, only to realize that 30 minutes have passed and you have no idea what you’ve even been looking at? That’s an example of being mindLESS – not paying attention to what’s happening in the present moment. 

MindFULness, on the other hand, is about being fully present and engaged in whatever you’re doing, whether that’s cooking dinner, having a conversation with a friend, or just taking a few deep breaths.

So, when we talk about mindfulness techniques, we’re really talking about ways to help you stay focused on the present moment and cultivate a greater sense of awareness and presence in your daily life. It’s a skill that can take some practice, but it’s also something that can have a really positive impact on your mental and emotional well-being.

How does it help?

Well, one of the hallmarks of OCD is the sense of feeling out of control. People with OCD often feel like their thoughts and actions are being driven by an outside force, and they can’t stop the compulsions no matter how hard they try. 

Mindfulness can help by giving you a sense of control over your thoughts and actions. When you practice mindfulness, you learn to observe your thoughts and feelings without getting caught up in them. You become an observer of your own mind, rather than a slave to it.

Another way mindfulness can be helpful for those with OCD is by reducing anxiety. As we mentioned earlier, OCD is often characterized by intrusive thoughts that trigger anxiety. 

When you practice mindfulness, you learn to recognize the patterns of thought that trigger anxiety, and you can learn to step back from them and let them go. By doing so, you can reduce the frequency and intensity of the anxiety you experience.

Mindfulness can also help with the compulsive behaviors associated with OCD. When you’re in the grip of a compulsion, it can feel like there’s no way out. 

But by practicing mindfulness, you can learn to recognize the urge to perform the compulsion, and you can learn to let it pass without acting on it. This can be incredibly empowering, and it can help break the cycle of compulsive behavior.

Benefits of Mindfulness

Incorporating mindfulness practices into your daily routine can have a ton of great benefits for both your mind and body! Here are a few examples:

  • Mindfulness can reduce stress and anxiety by teaching individuals to focus on the present moment and let go of worries about the past or future. As a result, many individuals report feeling more relaxed and less anxious overall.
  • Practicing mindfulness can also improve mood and reduce symptoms of depression. By regulating emotions and finding more joy and happiness in daily life, individuals may experience an overall improvement in mental well-being.
  • For those who struggle with sleep issues, mindfulness can be an effective solution. By learning to quiet the mind and relax the body, individuals may find it easier to fall asleep and achieve a more restful night’s sleep.
  • In addition to mental health benefits, mindfulness can enhance focus and concentration. Consistent mindfulness practice can improve the ability to concentrate, leading to enhanced performance in various areas of life, from work to personal relationships.

Where to begin?

Practicing mindfulness for OCD can be tough, especially if you’re used to relying on your go-to compulsive behaviors to deal with your anxiety. But trust me, it’s worth it! Once you get the hang of it, mindfulness can be a game-changer when it comes to managing those pesky OCD symptoms.

But let’s be real, it’s not all sunshine and rainbows. Practicing mindfulness can be difficult, especially when you’re in the middle of an OCD episode. 

It takes time and effort to develop a consistent practice, and there may be times when you feel like giving up. But don’t worry, you’ve got this! 

With patience and persistence, you can learn to tolerate discomfort and uncertainty without resorting to those compulsive behaviors. So go ahead, give it a try. Your OCD monster will thank you for it.


This is the classic form of mindfulness practice, where you sit quietly and focus your attention on your breath, your body, or a mantra. 

When you notice your mind wandering, you simply bring your attention back to the present moment. This can be a great way to build your mindfulness skills and reduce anxiety.

Read more about: How to Meditate Mindfully to Relieve Stress


Not only is it a fantastic way to get moving and improve your flexibility, but yoga can also help calm your mind and ease anxiety. There are so many different styles of yoga out there, from power yoga to gentle restorative yoga, so there’s bound to be one that suits your needs.

As you focus on your breath and move your body, your mind starts to quiet down and you feel a sense of calm wash over you. This is the power of yoga – not only is it a great workout for your body, but it’s also an incredible tool for managing anxiety and OCD

Read more about: 10 Minute Full-Body Yoga for Stress Relief

Tai Chi

If you’re looking for a more gentle movement practice, consider trying Tai Chi. It involves slow, flowing movements and deep breathing, which can help you relax and cultivate a sense of mindfulness. Plus, it’s super low impact, making it accessible to almost everyone.

As you focus on your movements and your breath, you start to feel more grounded and centered, which can be incredibly helpful for managing OCD


Simply take a stroll and focus on the sensations in your body as you move, like the feeling of your feet on the ground or the movement of your arms. As you walk, try to let go of any thoughts or distractions and just be present in the moment.

As you let go of any thoughts or distractions and simply be present in the moment, you’ll find yourself feeling more relaxed and less anxious.

Read more about: 8 Benefits of Daily Walks


Not only is it a fun and creative activity, but coloring can also be meditative and relaxing. Grab some colored pencils and a coloring book specifically designed for mindfulness, or just doodle away and let your mind unwind.

As you begin to color, you find yourself lost in the simple pleasure of the activity, your mind quiet and focused on the present moment.

Exposure Therapy 

This involves intentionally exposing yourself to the things that trigger your OCD, and practicing mindfulness while doing so. 

For example, if you have a fear of germs, you might intentionally touch a dirty surface and practice mindfulness while doing so. By facing your fears in a mindful way, you can reduce the anxiety they cause and build your resilience.

Remember, mindfulness is a skill that takes time and practice to develop. Be patient with yourself and don’t expect to be a mindfulness expert overnight. 

If you find your mind wandering or your OCD symptoms flaring up during your mindfulness practice, don’t beat yourself up. Just notice what’s happening and gently bring your attention back to the present moment.

In addition to formal mindfulness practice, there are other ways you can incorporate mindfulness into your daily life. 

For example, you might try taking a mindful walk in nature, or practicing mindful breathing exercises when you’re feeling stressed or anxious. The key is to be intentional about bringing your attention fully to the present moment, no matter what you’re doing.

In Conclusion

Adopting a practice of being present and accepting of your thoughts and emotions can greatly benefit those looking to manage their OCD symptoms. 

By learning to let go of unhelpful behaviors and responding to your symptoms in a more compassionate way, you can improve your overall well-being and break free from the cycle of obsessions and compulsions. 

Mindfulness is not a cure for OCD, but it can be a powerful tool for managing your symptoms and finding greater peace, clarity, and balance in your life.

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