Monday, August 05, 2013

Fundamentals of Relaxation Part 4 - Mindfulness

Our culture is so busy.  Instant news on TV.  Instant communication via cell phones.  Instant food either through drive-thru or by microwave.  We are just busy, and juggling several things all at once!

But are we really enjoying the moment?  Are we at peace?

The answer to both questions is probably “no”.  How can we enjoy the moment when there are 10,000 thoughts going through our minds?  How can we be at peace when we are either living in the past (thinking about what has happened) or living in the future (thinking about what will happen)?

According to the website,, “mindfulness has now become one of the hottest topics in mental health. One study, in the Journal of Clinical Psychology, has shown that it increases happiness and well-being, while a major study in Psychological Science revealed such changes help regular meditators live longer, healthier lives. Other research has shown that it improves memory, creativity, and reaction times. It also boosts the immune system and lowers blood pressure.”

What is mindfulness?  Originally from the Sanskrit meaning awareness, mindfulness practice or meditation is a way to slow the brain chatter, stop juggling life, reduce stress and improve overall mental health.  In 2011, the National Institute of Health’s National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine released a study showing improvement in overall brain function (via MRI) in the participants of mindfulness  meditation.  Being mindful means to observe thoughts and feelings almost as if from a distance, without judging.  It means to live in the moment and be aware of all of your senses.  Mindfulness also involves quieting the “monkey mind” (bouncing from one thought to another).  Quiet moments and meditation can increase mindfulness significantly.  With eyes closed, focusing on just one thing, such as the breath, can calm the mind and body and bring on the sense of mindfulness.

Think it sounds very “crunchy” and “granola”?  In a January 23, 2013 Associated Pressarticle, a pilot program for mindfulness meditation was highlighted.  Who is in this pilot program for stress reduction? US Marines!  

"Some people might say these are Eastern-based religious practices but this goes way beyond that," said Jeffery Bearor, the executive deputy of the Marine Corps training and education command at its headquarters in Quantico, Va.. "This is not tied to any religious practice. This is about mental preparation to better handle stress."

What role does mindfulness play in pregnancy and childbirth?  The adrenal glands provide the hormones (adrenaline- triggers the "fight-or-flight" response, cortisol-promotes natural resistance and longevity, and DHEA-improves physical condition) necessary to deal with the day-to-day experiences. However, when we allow the stresses to become extreme, the adrenal glands become overworked, thus causing a cascade of physical and emotional trauma to the body. This can be even worse for the pregnant body!  A study from 2009 reported that women practicing mindful yoga in their second trimester reported significant reductions in physical pain.    

The University of Oxford Medical Sciences Division is currently involved in a study exploring a Mindfulness Based Childbirth and Parentingprogram

There is even an app for that!  Be sure to check out the Mindfulness for Pregnancy app on iTunes for $2.99.

When teaching about birth, explore teaching from a mind/body/spirit perspective.  Childbirth class becomes the perfect launching pad to teach mindfulness not only for pregnancy and birth but also as a continued lifestyle.  Peace, rebalancing, and inner wisdom have been shown to reduce both physical and emotional complications.  In many countries that have better maternal/infant outcome rates than the US, the midwifery model of care dominates – midwives do provide care based on the mind/body/spirit perspective.  Perhaps we need to learn from our history and from the present of others, to improve our future.

Follow Jon Kabat Zinn, who wrote the forward for Mindful Birthing: Training the mind, body and heart for childbirth and beyond,  through Breathscape Guided Meditation.

Bardacke, N. Mindful Birthing: Training the mind, body and heart for childbirth and beyond.  HarperOne Publisher.

Beddoe et al.  (2009)  The effects of mindfulness-based yoga during pregnancy on maternal psychological and physical distress.  Journal of Obstetric, Gynecologic and Neonatal Nursing.

Vieten, C. and Astin, J.  (2008) Effects of a mindfulness-based intervention during pregnancy on prenatal stress and mood: results of a pilot study.  Archives of Women’s Mental Health.

Uvnäs Moberg, K. The Oxytocin Factor: Tapping the hormone of Calm, Love and Healing.  Da Capo Press.

Vieten, C. (2011) Mindfulness for Moms: The Basics.  Psychology Today Webblog.

1 comment:

Hildegard said...

This is gorgeous!