Mindfulness, put simply, is the ability to physically and mentally be aware of the present, while not being distracted by our surroundings and thoughts (https://www.mindful.org/what-is-mindfulness/). You may wonder why this is important, or even relevant to caregiving. The fact of the matter is mindfulness is crucial to your mental health. This blog will delve into mindfulness, why it is important, the benefits it reaps and how it can be performed. That said, as usual, we would love some feedback as we are always seeking to improve. If you have any advice or questions, email nfay@irishhomecare.ie or send us a message on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/irishhomecare/).

What makes mindfulness important? Considering it is not widely practiced or spoken about, one might believe that it is not important. The truth is, mindfulness is very important. It has numerous benefits, each of which can help us through life. Some of these benefits are listed below:

Stress Reduction – In studies conducted in 2010, researchers found that mindfulness meditation led to stress reduction. The participants were exposed to television with sad themes. Generally, the human reaction tends to be sadness and/or depression after watching a sad movie/television programme. That said, those who practiced mindfulness reported reduced depression after being exposed to sad material. Furthermore, it led researchers to believe that people who practiced meditation gained greater control of their emotions and were able to experience emotions based on their selection.

Boosts Memory – In 2010, another study was conducted whereby three groups were examined. Of these groups, 2 were military (one took part in mindfulness and one did not) and one non-meditating civilian group. Of the groups, the meditating military group showed better memory recollection.

Less Emotional Reactivity – Research has further proven that people who practice mindfulness are less emotionally reactive to sad images/stories than those who did not practice. With regards Caregivers, this is a very useful tool as losing a client can be emotionally stressful.

Improved Cognitive Flexibility – You may be wondering what cognitive flexibility is. Simply put, it is the process by which your brain shifts its focus from thinking about one concept to another. For example, when you see a car you will recognise what colour it is. Then you may study its shape or the make of car it is. This transition from thinking about the colour to the shape/make is cognitive flexibility. That said, studies conducted in 2003, 2006 and 2007 illustrated that the participants who practiced mindfulness exhibited greater cognitive flexibility thank those who did not (http://www2.apa.org/monitor/2012/07-08/ce-corner.aspx).

Having discussed what mindfulness is and how it improves our lives, you may be interested in testing it out for yourself. Consequently, the following is one method of practicing mindfulness and has been laid out in 5 steps. Please note that there are numerous methods of mindfulness, all each as good as the other, but for the sake of this blog we will examine one method. To study further methods, visit http://www.heysigmund.com/different-ways-to-practice-mindfulness/.

  • Find a space that you feel is calm and quiet. It can be anywhere as long as you feel calm and can listen to your own thoughts. Some use their homes, some use a beach and others a park.
  • Now you have found your space, let’s set a time limit. If you are new to this, start with a short session. Set a timer for between 5 and 10 minutes. This is how long you will practice at the beginning.
  • So, you have your space and your timer is set. The next step is to assume a comfortable position. You can sit on a cushion, on a chair or on the ground. Wherever you choose, make sure it is comfortable as you are going to remain in that position until your session is complete.
  • Have you completed the above steps? If so, we’re ready to start. Take deep breaths, in through your nose and out through your mouth. Focus on your breathing and clear your mind.
  • Accept that your mind will wander. You will be sitting there focusing on your breathing and the next minute you catch yourself thinking about someone/something. Do not worry! You are not failing the session as this is perfectly natural. The important thing is you recognise your mind has wandered and return your focus to your breathing (https://www.mindful.org/how-to-practice-mindfulness/).

That’s it! Simple as that. It does not seem like much but I can assure you, after practicing, you will feel calmer and more at peace. Continue meditating and you will see further results, such as the benefits of mindfulness listed above.

In conclusion, mindfulness is a very significant and yet undervalued method of caring for one’s mental health. It helps you to clear your mind and gain focus on anything of your choosing. Your pulse will slow down, your breathing will become deep and you will feel better off afterwards. Mindfulness is by no means a cure to anything but it certainly is beneficial to everyone. That said, we encourage you to practice it and get back to us with your results. Have you been feeling better since you practiced? Have you recommended it to anyone?  

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