Your guide to mindfulness – brought to you by Nurse and Midwife Support
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Nurses and midwives are increasingly using mindfulness to offset some of the pressures experienced in the workplace and at home. Here are some of the benefits of mindfulness and how to get started.
What is mindfulness?
Mindfulness is a way of living with greater attention and intention and less reactivity and judgement. Many of us are on ‘automatic pilot’ — our bodies operate in a routine pattern while our minds are somewhere else, anticipating future events or ruminating over something that has happened. This ‘mindless’ way of living can limit how we experience life, the choices we make, the quality of our relationships and can exacerbate feelings of stress.
Practicing mindfulness can help you to bring awareness to the present with an attitude of openness and curiosity. Many people who practice mindfulness, report that they feel calmer and more clear-headed.
Why practice mindfulness
Mindfulness helps you focus on the present moment, which can assist you to cope more effectively with stress and reduce the risk of professional burnout.
Being more mindful and bringing receptivity to whatever is happening can deepen your understanding of your relationships with your friends, family, colleagues, and ultimately yourself.
The physical benefits of practicing mindfulness include:
- lowering high blood pressure by reducing cortisol secretions when stressed — fight or flight stress response
- reducing physical health symptoms such as headaches, insomnia, muscle and joint problems
- improving the immune system, and
- increasing energy levels.
Mental benefits of practicing mindfulness include:
- reduced anxiety
- improved emotional stability
- increased creativity
- greater happiness
- strengthened intuitive thinking, and
- improved clarity of thought.
In daily life
Some worry that mindfulness practice will be time consuming, when already time poor. Others worry they will not have the ability or the skills to learn mindfulness meditation practices.
Mindfulness meditation can be done in any location and at any time of the day. It is not necessary to practice for long periods — it can be as little as one minute of your time.
You can try any of the following to get started:
- Pay greater attention to routine activities – while brushing your teeth, in the shower or walking the dog, try to notice and bring curiosity to these routine activities, as if you were doing it for the first time. Explore with all senses; sight, smell, sound, touch or taste.
- Feel your breath – set aside 10 minutes each day (or fewer) to focus on your breathing. Notice the sensations of the breath travelling in and out of your body. Simply notice your breathing as it happens. Your mind may begin to wonder, that is normal. Mindfulness invites your attention back to the breath. Taking a few slow, mindful breaths can activate the parasympathetic nervous system, causing a ‘relaxation response’ helping you feel more centered and present.
- Tune into your body – If your mind becomes agitated with self-criticism or worry, bring your attention to the physical sensations of your feet as they rest against the floor. You can practice this attention to body sensations anywhere to help settle your distracted mind.
- Use movement – bringing awareness to moving your body mindfully can include gentle stretches in the morning during a break in your day. Mindful movement can slow the busy mind and increase your sense of feeling grounded.