Mindfulness is the practice of being self-aware and truly present. While everyone has the ability to be “mindful,” it takes time and persistence to unlock the positive impact that mindfulness can have on mental health.
PCC’s Institute for Health Professionals has mental and behavioral health classes that include mindfulness as a tool, which can be extremely valuable and empowering when treating patients with anxiety and depression.
Powerful Benefits of Mindfulness
The practice of mindfulness encourages being in the moment. When you’re mindful, you are not caught up in obsessive or anxious thoughts, and when you do have these thoughts, mindfulness exercises can help you to set them aside without judgement and return to awareness.
While it doesn’t eliminate the stresses of life, mindfulness can help manage a patient’s reaction to stress and feel greater control over symptoms of anxiety or depression.
Mindfulness offers many other benefits, including:
- More restful sleep and greater ability to fall asleep by quieting your mind
- Improved attention and concentration throughout your day
- Better productivity and focus at work and home
- Increased self-esteem
- Enhanced emotional intelligence and resilience in the face of stressors
- Better conversation and communication skills as a result of active, mindful listening
- Improved management of stress and a weaker response to stress over time
- Improved creativity and problem-solving skills thanks to your ability to remain present
Practicing Mindfulness Isn’t Easy, But It IS Worth It
Mindfulness isn’t a magic bullet to better mental health and it alone cannot heal anxiety and depression. It is a tool that can help with these conditions, and empower your clients to be more patient and kind to themselves and others.
You or your patients may be reluctant to try mindfulness for many reasons — time is limited, meditating feels impossible, and you might wonder, does it really work? Know that your patients don’t need to set aside hours for meditating or even be good at it at first. Just trying to meditate a few minutes at a time, almost anywhere, is a good way to begin.
For healthcare professionals, there are simple steps you can take to get started in your own mindfulness practice — and share with patients to improve their mental well-being. Give it a try:
- Find a comfortable seat. If you are in a chair, place your feet flat on the floor. If you are sitting on the floor, cross your legs.
- Notice how you feel in your physical body. Notice where your limbs are touching, where you are touching the floor, if you are warm or cold.
- Straighten your spine, but don’t hold it stiffly. Let your spine sit in its natural, comfortable curve.
- Soften your gaze and relax your eyes. You can also close your eyes.
- Pay attention to your breath as it comes in, fills your lungs and leaves again.
- When your mind wanders to other thoughts, gently guide it back to your breath.
- Be kind to yourself if your mind wanders; it is natural for it to do so. Noticing wandering thoughts is the first step.
- After a few minutes, open your eyes. Think about how you feel emotionally. Do you feel calmer? More relaxed?
Encourage your patients to take a little time every day to practice mindfulness meditation. It’s something they can practice anywhere they can sit comfortably and quietly, at work or at home.
As a healthcare professional, you can improve your own well-being and the well-being of your patients with the use of mindfulness techniques. Incorporate mindfulness into your practice with help from courses at Portland Community College. At our Institute for Health Professionals, we offer a variety of mental and behavioral health courses, including mindfulness, motivational interviewing, interpersonal neurobiology and others, all designed to improve your connection to your patients.