Mindfulness Meditation to improve your mental health and be more present with your children.

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Dr. Mom blog explores mindfulness meditation for anxiety

Mindfulness is a meditative practice where you intentionally bring your attention to experiences in the here and now.  It helps us to become more present in our day-to-day life by focusing on what we are doing instead of where we are going.  For example, if you are drinking a cup of coffee, you are focused on enjoying that coffee – smelling the aroma, enjoying the taste in your mouth and not letting your mind wander to other things  Mindfulness is something I try to practice daily.. It seems like it should be easy, but it was surprisingly more difficult than I thought it would be.

Some studies have suggested that having a regular mindfulness meditation can improve attention, emotional regulation, mood, self-awareness, and memory.  There have even been some brain-imaging studies that suggest there may be functional and structural changes within the brain as a result of regular mindfulness practices, most notably the communication between certain parts of the brain.

The 5,4,3,2,1 mindfulness meditation practice

  1. Find a peaceful place and sit comfortably.  Straighten your upper body and sit relaxed. 
  2. Notice 5 things you can see. Look around the room and notice 5 things you see.
  3. Close your eyes take 5 deep breaths – breathe in for 5 seconds, hold for 5 seconds, and breathe out for 8 seconds.  Sometimes I like to put my hand on my belly when I do this so I can feel the movement of breath through my body.  When you exhale slowly, you are exercising your parasympathetic nervous system which helps calm you down.
  4. Name 4 things you can feel.
    • Take a few moments to notice what your arms are doing.  Is there any sensation in them?  Are you touching anything with your fingers?  What does it feel like? 
    • Take a few moments to notice your legs.  What do your feet feel like on the floor?  Are they touching anything?  What do your clothes feel like against your legs?  What does it feel like when you wiggle your toes?
  5. Notice 3 things you can hear. What can you hear in the room?  Try and listen and notice 3 things you can hear.
  6. Notice 2 things you can smell.  Some people light a candle when they meditate or spray lavender scent.
  7. Notice one thing you taste.
  8. Take your attention back to your breath.  Take as many deep breaths (like in step 2) as you like. 
  9. Know that your mind will likely wander.  When it does, without judgement,  gently redirect it to focus on your body again.  With this practice over time, you might notice your mind wanders less and less.
  10. When you are ready, open your eyes.

I have patients that practice the 5,4,3,2,1 mindfulness practice multiple times per day. I have also tried this practice and have found my wind wandering frequently.

I try to practice mindfulness meditation for at least 10 minutes a day.  I find it easiest to practice mindfulness when I am sitting and drinking my coffee, or walking to an appointment. Having a regular mindfulness practice has helped reduce my overall stress levels. 


References

  1. Chen F, Lv X, Fang J, et al. The effect of body-mind relaxation meditation induction on major depressive disorder: A resting-state fMRI study. J Affect Disord 2015; 183:75.
  2. Tang YY, Hölzel BK, Posner MI. The neuroscience of mindfulness meditation. Nat Rev Neurosci 2015; 16:213.
  3. Davidson RJ. Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy and the Prevention of Depressive Relapse: Measures, Mechanisms, and Mediators. JAMA Psychiatry 2016; 73:547.
  4. Farb NA, Irving JA, Anderson AK, Segal ZV. A two-factor model of relapse/recurrence vulnerability in unipolar depression. J Abnorm Psychol 2015; 124:38.
  5. Fox KC, Nijeboer S, Dixon ML, et al. Is meditation associated with altered brain structure? A systematic review and meta-analysis of morphometric neuroimaging in meditation practitioners. Neurosci Biobehav Rev 2014; 43:48.
  6. Creswell JD, Taren AA, Lindsay EK, et al. Alterations in Resting-State Functional Connectivity Link Mindfulness Meditation With Reduced Interleukin-6: A Randomized Controlled Trial. Biol Psychiatry 2016; 80:53.
  7. Chiesa A, Calati R, Serretti A. Does mindfulness training improve cognitive abilities? A systematic review of neuropsychological findings. Clin Psychol Rev 2011; 31:449.

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