The role of mindfulness meditation in healthcare was once a topic of debate among clinicians. However, the increased demand for online solutions in behavioral health, particularly highlighted during the pandemic, has underscored the potential value of mindfulness in this field. Now, the question has shifted from whether mindfulness has a role to play, to understanding the extent of its potential benefits.
In light of this, a surge of research into mindfulness is underway. Top digital health platforms are now racing to collaborate with providers to make mindfulness apps widely accessible.
Furthermore, clinicians are increasingly recommending these apps to their patients. Some are even taking a proactive approach by enabling patients to independently download these mindfulness-focused apps. This changing landscape sets the stage for a discussion on the specific mental health issues that mindfulness can help address.
What exactly is mindfulness?
Mindfulness meditation is referred to as the practice of observing present moment to moment experiences with complete openness and without previously conditioned automatic patterns of thoughts, behaviors and emotions.
For example, you may not have control over the sensation of a particular pain,but mindfulness will show you how to control your reaction to that sensation of pain.Your choice, as a result, will directly impact the activity of your nervous system.
Just like any other skill, mindfulness requires practice,time and dedication. Here are some tips to get you started:
- Take some deep breaths through your nose to a count of 4 and hold for one second. Count 5 and exhale through your mouth. Repeat often in a day
- Take a stroll, paying attention to your breath and what you see around you.
- Be aware of every taste and flavor in every bite you eat.
- Do a body scan and see how each part of your body is feeling.This will help you connect with your body
- Seek resources of mindfulness through online programs and teacher-guided practices
Benefits of mindfulness
Advocates of mindfulness would lead us to believe that almost every patient and caregiver could benefit from being mindful.
We will start with some of the most common benefits one can expect from mindfulness that will enhance your ability to deal with everyday life struggles:
Mindfulness is a key element in fighting stress. It is said to alleviate stress by improving emotion regulation, leading to better mood and hence more ability to handle stress. You gain these benefits by simply closing your eyes and remaining silent, just for a few minutes each day.
Enhances ability to deal with illness
Mindfulness may not remove the symptoms, but it has an impact on cancer patients and those suffering from a chronic or potentially terminal ailment.
Mindfulness can not only deal with a potentially life-threatening disease but help you move away from it as well.
Mindfulness has long been considered to be an effective tool to treat depression and even suicidal thoughts by enhancing the ability to regulate emotions.
Improves overall health
Practicing mindfulness has been known to improve multiple behaviors related to general health like getting regular medical check-ups, exercising, using seat belts and avoiding alcohol and nicotine
Other important uses of mindfulness
Among others, mindfulness helps in attaining self-control, enhanced flexibility, equanimity, affect tolerance, improves concentration and mental clarity, emotional intelligence and above all the ability to relate to others with acceptance, kindness and humility.
Mindfulness has also been known to enhance self-insight, fear modulation,morality and intuition,ajj functions related to the parts of the brain. Further, mindfulness meditation has numerous health benefits like increasing immunity, reduction in psychological distress and improvement to well-being.
Is mindfulness effective?
Mindfulness has been recognized as a powerful tool in treating various mental health issues, with numerous studies demonstrating its effectiveness. This practice can help individuals gain a deeper understanding of their mental and emotional patterns, providing a way to manage them more effectively.
Conditions such as depression, Cptsd, and anxiety have been shown to respond positively to mindfulness-based interventions. For instance, Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) has been developed as a method to prevent depressive relapse. The practice of mindfulness helps break the cycle of habitual negative thoughts often associated with depression.
Similarly, for individuals suffering from anxiety, mindfulness can assist in managing worrisome thoughts and feelings, reducing the severity of symptoms and the impact on daily life. For those reasons, almost all therapy sites that offer CBT treatments now combine it with mindfulness techniques as well.
Mindfulness can also be an effective strategy for dealing with stress and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR), for example, has been shown to reduce stress levels, improve mood, and enhance overall quality of life. In the case of PTSD, mindfulness can aid in regulating emotional responses and dealing with traumatic memories, ultimately fostering healing and recovery.
In addition to these conditions, preliminary research has suggested mindfulness may be beneficial in treating other mental health disorders, such as substance abuse and eating disorders. Overall, mindfulness, when practiced consistently and under the guidance of a healthcare professional, has the potential to be a versatile tool in the mental health treatment toolkit.
Alternative treatments for mental health
If you feel mindfulness meditation is not working for you, you will need to change your understanding of what being mindful actually is for you.
This happens when one puts extra pressure on the body to adopt something that is not a good fit for you. Here are some alternatives to mindfulness that may suit your style better and can give you the results you want, even if you are not able to practice them regularly.
Body scan is an alternative to mindfulness that involves paying attention to each part of your body in a systematic manner. If you notice any tension in the body,take a deep breath and allow your body to deliberately relax those muscles.
Focus on the heart by placing your hand on it and paying attention to the heartbeat. Allow yourself to feel whatever thoughts and sensations you are feeling at the moment.
This is a different practice of mindfulness that involves focusing on the sounds,either internally or externally.
This mindfulness practice involves creating mental images of peaceful and calm scenes. It is performed in a relaxing environment such as an open space or a beach and paying attention to the sounds of the surroundings. Stay in this peaceful mode as long as possible.
Gratitude meditation is another kind of mindfulness practice that focuses entirely on the things you are grateful for in life.
As you can see, there are different alternatives to variations in mindfulness that can be incorporated in your daily life in a way that works for you.
(While mindfulness may show some benefits in some people,it should not be used as first line of treatment for mentally ill patients).