Mindfulness is no longer an uncommon term. It is often heard in daily language as well as in research reports identifying the benefits of mindfulness. Mindfulness is suggested as a self-care practice as well as a treatment method for conditions. The overarching benefit of mindfulness is the ability to learn to live in the present moment without continued worry about the past or the future which can help to decrease symptoms of depression and anxiety.
While Mindfulness practices originated from Buddhist traditions, Jon Kabat- Zinn 1, 2 was influential in creating awareness of the use in healthcare by researching the benefits of mindfulness in patients with pain and demonstrated significant improvements in pain levels, mood, and psychiatric symptoms. This prompted other studies to examine the effect on variety of diseases, the effect on stress levels,2 and the immune function. 3 The National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health webpage discusses the positive effects mediation that it can have in many other conditions such as hypertension, irritable bowel syndrome, ulcerative colitis, and anxiety.
Mindfulness has also been found useful as a complementary treatment for people with opioid use disorder and chronic pain in methadone maintenance therapy. 4 In fact, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs has implemented a Whole Health for Life person centered approach to care and advocates for the use of mindfulness for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. 5, 6
Currently, mindfulness is a recommended practice for everyone including older adults. 7 Today’s busy world with technology overload does not allow for downtime or body homeostasis adjustments to rebalance. We live in a state of heighten chronic stress levels. It is well known that the nursing profession is a stressful career.
Implementing mindful self-care strategies by organizations employing nurses and nurse coaches will benefit by reduced attrition of nurses, and improved quality of care. The American Nurses Foundation suggests 5 Simple Ways to Feel and be Better8
- Stop, take a Breath and Observe
- Do a Body Scan
- Eat and Drink Often.
These are all the tenets of Mindfulness. Mindfulness enhances areas of the brain that are responsible for attention and executive function and modulates the amygdala or emotional brain, which improves focused attention, develops intention skills for actions taken, and decreases reactivity without reflection that leads to decreased judgement and improved acceptance of differences. Therefore, mindfulness improves communication abilities that lead to improved patient outcomes, patient satisfaction and nurse satisfaction. Increasing around the country, Healing Circle programs are being offered by holistic nurses to nurses in healthcare settings. The program develops a community of peer to peer support and an opportunity to practice mindful skills in a safe environment. The American Holistic Nurse Association provides mindfulness tools and information entitled Holistic Stress Management Is Based on Self-Reflection and Self-Care
Mindfulness practices are about increasing awareness of bodily sensations, especially the breath, and using mindful movement practices to increase the awareness of connection. There are many types of meditations each with a different twist on the technique including; Buddhist, Hindu, Chinese, Christian, Sufi, and the common practice of guided mediations. Some techniques are relaxing, some create awareness and some claim deeper transformation and/or spiritual development. Experimenting with a variety to find the one that works best for your unique needs and personality is best. The idea is to practice on a daily basis so you can call on it in times of need. Once you have become comfortable with this daily practice, the techniques can then be applied to patient care.
In Integrative Nurse Coaching, using awareness practice techniques in practice provides a time for reflection and help patients reach their inner wisdom to come up with solutions or answers on their own. This awareness creates an openness to new possibilities and motivation or engagement to aspects of the experience, without judgement or attachment. There are a variety of guided awareness scenarios that can be used for particular situations in patient care based on the need. These are learned through the self-development process and practice of Integrative Nurse Coaching.
The Basic Technique
- The goal is that awareness of thoughts, feelings, emotions, sounds, and smells are acknowledged but then let go as your awareness is returned to the breath in the center of the chest. These techniques require continued practice in letting go.
- Most techniques suggest starting in a seated comfortable position to maintain awareness. The point is not to fall asleep during the experience. Your eyes can be closed or have a downward gaze.
- As you move your awareness to the center of your chest, experience the centering as the breath enters and exits. As thoughts or sounds enter your mind or awareness, acknowledge without judging, let go, and return your awareness to the breath in the center of your chest. Continue this centering, acknowledging, let go, and return as many times as needed in the timeframe you are practicing.
- It is not uncommon to hear “this doesn’t work for me”. Awareness practices are a learned experience, the more you practice, the easier is the return, and the outcome of living life with awareness of the present moment, feeling balanced with increased clarity is gratifying. Find what time of day, or length of time works for you. Most use a 10-15 minute timeframe daily for practice. The following are quality websites that provide free access to guided mediations for self-care and patient use.
Quality Free Mindful Practice Websites
- UCLA Mindful Awareness Research Center https://www.uclahealth.org/marc/body.cfm?id=22&iirf_redirect=1
- UC San Diego Center for Mindfulness
- The Center for Contemplative Mind in Society
- Insight Meditation Society, Inc.
- Kabat-Zinn, J. (1994). Wherever you go, there you are: Mindfulness meditation in everyday life. New York: Hyperion.
- Kabat-Zinn, J., Lipworth, L. & Burney, R. (1985). The clinical use of mindfulness meditation for the self-regulation of chronic pain. Journal of Behavioral Medicine. 8, 163-190.
- Goyal, M., Singh, S., Sibinga, EMS., et al. (2014). Meditation Programs for Psychological Stress and Well-being: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis. JAMA Intern Med.;174(3):357–368. doi:10.1001/jamainternmed.2013.13018
- Robinson, F. P., Mathews, H. L., & Witek-Janusek, L. (2003). Psycho-endocrine-immune response to mindfulness-based stress reduction in individuals infected with Human Immunodeficiency Virus: A quasi-experimental study. The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine. 9, 683–694.
- Garland, E.L., Hanley, A.W., Kline, A., et al. (August 5, 2019, Epub). Mindfulness-oriented recovery enhancement reduces opioid craving among individuals with opioid use disorder and chronic pain in medication assisted treatment: Ecological momentary assessments from a stage 1 randomized controlled trial. Drug and Alcohol Dependence. https://nccih.nih.gov/research/results/spotlight/more-may-reduce-opioid-cravings-and-chronic-pain
- Hempe,l S., Taylor, S.L., Marshall, N.J., et al. (2014). Evidence Map of Mindfulness. VA Evidence-based Synthesis Program Reports. Washington (DC): Department of Veterans Affairs (US).
- King, A.P., Erickson, T.M., Giardino, N.D., et al. (2013). A pilot study of group mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT) for combat veterans with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Depress Anxiety. 30(7):638-645. doi: 10.1002/da.22104. Epub 2013/04/19.
- Geiger, P.J., Boggero, I.A., Brake, C.A., et al. (2016). Mindfulness-based interventions for older adults: A review of the effects on physical and emotional well-being. Mindfulness. 7(2):296-307. doi: 10.1007/s12671-015-0444-1.
- American Nurses Association Enterprise. American Nurses Foundation. Healthy Nurse. Retrieved August 24, 2019 at eb81/globalassets/foundation/anf-health-tips-flyer_print.pdf