What is mindfulness?
Mindfulness is a practice that involves bringing attention to the present moment without judgment. It’s a way of becoming aware of thoughts, feelings, and bodily sensations in the moment, rather than getting caught up in past or future events.
How can mindfulness be used to improve your clients mental and physical health?
Mindfulness has been shown to have many positive effects on both the mind and body, including:
- Reducing stress and anxiety by promoting relaxation and reducing the physiological symptoms of stress, such as increased heart rate and blood pressure.
- Increases emotional regulation by allowing a person to become more aware of their emotions and regulate them more effectively, leading to greater emotional stability and well-being.
- Improves sleep quality.
- Boosts immune system by reducing stress and inflammation, which can help protect the body from illness.
- Reduce symptoms of depression by promoting positive emotions and reducing negative thoughts.
The impacts of stress
No one likes stress, but it is a part of our everyday life. If left unchecked stress can contribute to physical and mental health problems, such as high blood pressure, heart disease, obesity, anxiety and depression. It can also influence the production of stress hormones which can cause glucose levels to go up. Making stress management another factor a person living with diabetes needs to consider. By helping a client to develop stress management techniques like mindfulness you will likely benefit their glucose levels and improve their overall health.
In what ways can we encourage clients to partake in mindfulness?
Emphasise the importance of taking a moment to pay attention to their thoughts, encourage them to slow their mind and be present in the moment. Explain the importance of allowing themselves to hear their thoughts and then letting these thoughts exit their mind without judgement.
Below are some suggestions you may provide your clients on how to achieve mindfulness throughout their day;
- Encourage them to find a quiet place to sit comfortably without distractions. They can sit in a chair or the floor with their legs crossed, whichever is most comfortable for them.
- Have them focus on their breathing by taking a few deep breaths, and then letting their breath settle into its natural rhythm. Have them focus the sensation of the air moving in and out of their body.
- Have them notice their thoughts. It is likely their mind will wander and when that happens have them gently bring their attention back to their breathing.
- Have them notice their bodily sensations. As they focus on their breathing, they may also notice other bodily sensations, such as tension or discomfort. Encourage them to simply observe these sensations without judgment.
- Encourage regularly practice. Mindfulness is a skill that takes practice. Start by having them practising for a few minutes each day, and gradually increase the length of their practice over time.
Discuss with your clients how they may practice mindfulness using real-life application;
Sometimes, being alone in a room listening to guided meditation isn’t possible and instead moments of mindfulness need to be created.
A mindfulness moment could be as small as ordering a coffee at the local cafe. While waiting for the barista to call their name and hand over their double shot, extra hot cappuccino, they should take a moment to experience all the senses happening around them. They may feel the warm morning sun on their shoulders, hear the chatter of friends catching up or see the child opposite them inhale a babyccino with marshmallow. This allows their mind to be quiet and focus on the moment they are in – then, when their name is called, they can continue their morning journey to work or whatever their day holds for them, feeling grateful for that moment.
Talk to your client about incorporating mindfulness into their mealtimes. Explain how it can be used to slow down and allow them to experience the meal with all of their senses. This includes appearance, aromas, sounds, flavours and textures. This can help an individual to enjoy the meal more, while also helping gain more awareness of internal cues of fullness from a meal. It may also be spontaneously adding to their day, in a ritual as simple as the coffee run mentioned above.
What tools can help your clients to practice mindfulness?
Mindfulness moments might be achieved intentionally – scheduling quiet moments during the day to calm their mind – or also with the assistance of physical tools and reminders. This can include mobile meditation apps such as Headspace or Calm, going to a yoga class, or listening to a guided meditation on their favourite streaming platform. These tools can help to focus on breathing and mindfulness for as little as five minutes per day, allowing daily noise to pass in and out of their mind, judgement-free. The key is to find a practice that works for the individual and to make it a regular part of their routine.
Teach the importance of ‘being kind to yourself’.
Remember, the goal of mindfulness is not to stop the thoughts or emotions from surfacing but to learn how to observe them without judgment. With mindfulness they can learn to approach their thoughts and emotions with greater clarity and compassion, leading to a greater sense of well-being in their life.