Simple Steps to Improve Mindfulness
by Jessica Moyer, MA CCC-SLP
Mindfulness is defined as “the basic human ability to be fully present, aware of where we are and what we are doing, and not overly reactive or overwhelmed by what’s going on around us”. It is a state of mind. One specific approach, Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) was developed by Jon Kabat-Zinn in the 1970s at the University of Massachusetts Medical Center. MBSR is meant to reduce or alleviate anxiety, depression, and stress. There are 7 traits to attaining “mindfulness”:
• Beginner’s Mind
• Letting Go
Mindfulness is a type of meditation that may be useful to a person as an individual or within a healthcare environment. In a 2011 article in Psychotherapy, What Are the Benefits of Mindfulness? by Daphne M. Davis, PhD and Jeffrey A. Hayes, PhD, they discuss the research-based benefits of mindfulness. Being mindful can assist in a positive well-being and implement other qualities such as calmness and concentration. Mindfulness has also shown to decrease depressive symptoms, improve attention and metacognitive awareness. With an improvement in attention and metacognitive awareness, it may in turn increase emotional regulation strategies, improve self-compassion, and reduce anxiety and stress.
As we relate mindfulness to rehabilitative therapy in the healthcare setting, many qualities that mindfulness entail may improve the therapy process and patient improvement. Some of these qualities include:
• Increased attention to tasks and self-awareness: increased awareness of posture and gait
• Improvement with urinary incontinence
• Increased working memory and cognitive flexibility
• Increased thought processing
• Reduced anxiety: assists in treatment with people with aphasia
• Improved language scores in people with fluent aphasia
• Improved communication skills between staff, family members, and patient
Could mindfulness or MBSR help bridge a gap in rehabilitative therapy? Could patients with aphasia benefit from the practice of mindfulness for improved attention, therefore possibly bridging a gap between attention and language or for improved self-awareness – bridging a gap to improved posture or gait? Current research suggests yes, mindfulness and being fully present has many benefits for patients in rehabilitative therapy as well as other healthcare situations including nursing, palliative care, and for healthcare providers as individuals.
Mindfulness for self-care of healthcare providers has shown to decrease burnout, increase flexibility, increase ability to alternate attention, increase connection with colleagues, increase empathy, and increase awareness to situation.
Mindfulness is a state of mind that can benefit our patients, improve quality of life, as well as benefit our daily lives at work and at home as the busy-ness of life often times allows us to “do or fix” rather than “just being”.