It’s about being kind to yourself

Friday, April 21, 2017

By Rhonda Johnston

I began thinking about mindfulness in relation to my own practice a few weeks ago. I realized that my practice had fallen by the wayside, bumped out of my schedule by the busyness of two little ones, work, and home responsibilities. I realized there was no better a time to get back to basics.

So what is mindfulness?

For me, mindfulness has become a way to find a little peace. It’s a simple way to meditate and observe my thoughts and emotions, all without judgement. It just takes focusing on the flow of my breath {and a little practice}.

Regular practice allows me to gain a deeper understanding of my thoughts and feelings, ultimately helping me be more present in my life. It causes me to stop and notice the simple pleasures in my day, which are so easy to ignore when stress and schedules become too great.

Mindfulness & Meditation? Those are two M&Ms I’m not so sure about…

I know that these two concepts can seem intimidating, scary even. In essence, mindfulness is just sitting or lying in a comfortable position and breathing consciously. Doesn’t get much easier than that.

Turning to apps on your smartphone, or YouTube videos, are also a great place to start. There is a multitude of guided meditation tools at your fingertips. I suggest you do a little searching and find one you like. I’d also recommend starting with a 10 minute practice, a few times a week. This is enough to encourage consistency and promote the long-term benefits of mindfulness

**A tip – if during first listen you’re annoyed by the voice of the person talking, keep searching {it’ll only get worse}.

If you find that apps, videos, and guided imagery is all too much, you can do away with technology and get back to basics. You can simply take three deep breaths. Focus on your breathing every time your To Do list pops into your head. And repeat. You might find it’s easiest to link your practice to a daily time-limited task like brushing your teeth or doing dishes.

How does it apply to OT?

People living with a disability, pain, or mental health problems can struggle with negative thought processes. And it’s easy to become stuck on these negative thoughts, creating worry, stress, anxiety, and sadness. Mindfulness techniques can help clients be present in the moment. Without judgement. Without failure. Just breathing.

The biggest takeaway for my clients practicing mindfulness – they learn to be more kind to themselves.

Beyond that though, there are small changes, like less tension, muscle discomfort, and headaches, even changes in mood.

Over time, clients become more aware of signals the body is presenting, thereby limiting stressors before they become overwhelming.

Mindfulness – a fact-based approach

Mindfulness isn’t just a bunch of malarky. There has been extensive research about its benefits. Here are a few highlights for those who like numbers.

  • A Yale University study found that mindfulness decreased activity in the part of the mind responsible for it wandering. Wandering minds are associated with low mood, being less happy, and worrying about the past and future.1
  • Changes in the brain were also found related to the structures that govern memory and learning and emotional regulation. Reduction in the volume of the area responsible for fear, anxiety and stress.2
  • A Harvard University study found that an 8-week mindfulness course can have measurable changes on the brain in the areas of memory, sense of self, empathy, and stress.3

If you are interested in learning more about how mindfulness can improve your life, please get in touch. ModernOT also offers a Mindfulness Group, running for 6 weeks. Our next session is set to begin in the fall. Please click here for more information.

  1. Brewar, Judson, et al. “Meditation experience is associated with differences in default mode network activity and connectivity,” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 208, no. 50 (2011).
  2. Lazar, Sara W., et al. “Meditation experience is associated with increased cortical thickness.” NeuroReport, 16, no. 17 (2005).
  3. McGreevey, Sue. “Eight weeks to a better brain.” Harvard Gazette. January 21, 2011.