Originally posted August 28, 2017.
As a practitioner of holistic, or mindbody, psychology, I use an integrative approach to healing. Integrative means taking the best parts of evidence-based, “traditional” talk therapy and blending it with mindbody (now evidence-based as well!) complementary therapies.
Mindfulness is an intervention that is now so very widely used in mainstream holistic psychology, we all pretty much have at least heard of it or read an article about it. Mindfulness can be viewed as a tool that helps manage stress and helps you live a more peaceful life. Some people love it so much they adopt mindfulness as a way of life….
Mindfulness doesn’t have to be complicated. Mindfulness is learning to live more fully in the present moment without judging yourself or others and is one of the healthiest lifestyle choices you can make. It’s also an effective self-care and support as your identity undergoes the seismic change of incorporating motherhood and parenting.
It sounds like a difficult concept, but it’s actually simple. Mindfulness is a way to broaden your experience of life. You learn to move your focus away from the concerns of the everyday self to a more diffuse awareness and appreciation of what is going on within and without you in your present reality. Moving away from the endless concerns of the past and future towards awareness and feeling your inner and outer experiences in the present moment.
Mindfulness has been used as a healing technique for thousands of years. And it’s a valuable tool for new mothers. People in the US are incorporating mindfulness into their lives today as scientific research confirms what ancient civilizations always believed: that the energy of positive intention and mindfulness make a profound emotional and psychological difference.
And guess what? To reap the benefits of mindfulness, research shows that you do not need to learn to sit and meditate for 20 minutes, although this practice has great benefits as well.
Current research shows that taking a short break to do something mindful and self-compassionate 6 – 7 times a day, for about 30 seconds – two minutes a day each time, over 6 – 7 weeks, brings you effective benefits of calming your stress hormones in the moment and over time, reconditioning your nervous system to the relaxation response. This works by engaging and strengthening different systems in your brain and nervous system. Pendulating between focused awareness on the self and defocused awareness on inner and outer experiences engages different brain patterns, which, over time, develops habitual brain pathways capable of invoking and sustaining the observer self and the relaxation response when needed (Graham, p. 64, 2013).
There is a lot of research that has revealed some amazing things about mindfulness: not only can it ease some of your stress on a daily basis, it reduces severe anxiety and depression. New research has even shown that mindfulness and positive intention can help your body heal faster from physical conditions or illnesses.
As you transition into motherhood, mindfulness can (and should) play an even bigger role than ever before. The big transitions in your life that occur as you become a mother can magnify self-doubt, anxiety and depression. Don’t judge yourself- everyone experiences these emotions! Instead, work on developing mindbody tools such as mindfulness that can quiet your thoughts and fears.
Mindfulness, when practiced consistently, reduces circulating stress hormones and quiets muscular tension and that brings a host of health benefits for new mothers. Mindfulness can bring perspective on everyday hassles, better sleep, healthier eating habits and help with managing substance issues. Mindfulness can help decrease your reliance on substances like caffeine or moderate amounts of alcohol as you become more in tune with yourself.
Don’t worry that you won’t be able to achieve mindfulness; it’s something that we’re all capable of and can be learned!
A few times a day, take a step back and, instead of judging negative emotions or immediately reacting to them, observe them calmly and with compassion. Breathe. That small behavioral change can help you treat yourself better and help make you a better mom.
Graham, L. (2013). Bouncing back: Rewiring your brain for maximum resilience and well-being. New World Library, Novato: California.
Stay tuned for Part Two, about the research behind mindfulness and Part Three, a mindfulness exercises.