What Is Mindfulness?

  • Watching your thoughts.
  • Being in the present moment without judgment.
  • Knowing that the only time you ever have is NOW.
  • Focusing on what you are doing (e.g. just brushing your teeth).
  • Noticing your thoughts.
  • Accepting that there is suffering eases suffering.

COAL (Daniel Siegel)

Openness to possibilities
Acceptance- of life as it is
Loving kindness (compassion)

Mindful Presence

  • Presence is the practitioner’s way of being with the person who is seeking help. The practitioner is empathic of the others experience. (Siegel)
  • Presence requires openness to the other person, non-judgment, respect, concern with the person’s dignity, ability to have mutual trust, commitment, engagement and is involved, genuine and authentic. (Gottlieb)
  • Presence is conveyed through tone of voice, body language, focus solely on the patient, eye contact. (Gottlieb)

Why Practice Mindfulness In the Clinical Setting?
Mindfulness is required for nurses to engage in authentic presence and attentive listening with their patients (Gottlieb):

  • Parents-to-be are in a high stress time during labor and delivery, postpartum, or with a baby in the NICU (or any other medical procedure) and nurses have to be fully present to really hear what parents are telling them. Parents will feel more cared for and attended to when their nurse focuses on them.
  • Often patients come with stories of their situation that are overwhelmingly sad or disturbing and being fully present and in the moment (mindfulness) helps the nurse to center herself as she or he care for the patient.
  • A few deep breaths helps the nurse to calm herself and deal with anything that comes up.
  • Nurses can factor moments of meditation into the course of the workday — say, while washing their hands, having a snack or coffee, or pausing before entering the next patient room to focus on breathing.

Why Be Mindful?

  • Studies suggest that mindfulness practices may help people manage stress, cope better with serious illness and reduce anxiety and depression.
  • Many people who practice mindfulness report an increased ability to relax, a greater enthusiasm for life and improved self-esteem.
  • One NIH-supported study found a link between mindfulness meditation and measurable changes in the brain regions involved in memory, learning, and emotion.
  • Another researcher reported that mindfulness practices may reduce anxiety and hostility and lead to reduced stress, fewer fights, and better relationships.

How Mindfulness Works

  • Poly Vagal Theory: The Sympathetic fight or flight versus the Parasympathetic restoration.
  • Most people with anxiety overestimate danger and risk and are unable to inhibit defense reactions even in safe place.
  • Mindfulness can stimulate the Para-sympathetic nervous system.

Helping patients feel calm

  • Slowing down breathing activates the vagus nerve and increases parasympathetic tone.
  • One cannot have a calm mind with a tense body and vice versa. You can change the mind by changing the body.

Some tips

  • Attune your breathing to your patient’s breathing rhythm.
  • Help your patient increase awareness of breathing patterns and tension in the chest. This helps the mind and body to connect.
  • Tone of voice, facial expressions, body language & caring helps activates the parasympathetic nervous system, much like when a child looks to his/her mother for reassurance when scared.
  • Meditation, visualization, affirmation, prayer & music can activate the parasympathetic nervous system

Breath Meditations For Yourself Or Your Patients

  • Focus on your breath and slow your breath by counting to 4. Inhale to the count of 4 and exhale to the count of 4.
  • Diaphragmatic breathing technique.
  • Notice one breathe filling your chest and stomach with air, notice when you can’t take in any more air and the sensation of your breath leaving your body.
  • Relax your face, hands, and forehead.
  • Exhale longer then you inhale.

Other Mind-Body Techniques

  • Inhale through your nose and flex the muscles in your arms and legs. Hold your breath for a few seconds. Exhale through your mouth and relax your muscles.
  • Inhale through your mouth as if you are breathing through a straw. Focus on the cool air entering your body. Hold your breath for several seconds and exhale slowly through the nose.
  • Feel your feet touching the floor. Notice the pressure, temperature and sensations. Notice the places of contact between your body and the chair, your back, and the back of your legs.

Some Studies On the Benefits Of Mindfulness

  • Physiological and Psychological benefits:
    • increased subjective well-being
    • Reduced psychological symptoms and emotional reactivity
    • Improved behavioral regulation. (Keng, Smoski, Robins)
  • Significant increases in left-sided anterior brain activity which is associated with positive emotional states (Davidson and Kabbat-Zinn)
  • The Relaxation Response:
    Biochemical and physical changes in the body, including changes in: metabolism, heart rate, respiration, blood pressure and brain chemistry (Benson)
  • EEG activity begins to slow as a result of the practice of meditation (March 2006 article in the “Psychological Bulletin”)
  • Diagnoses for which Mindfulness- Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) was found to be helpful included: chronic pain, fibromyalgia, cancer patients and coronary artery disease.

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