You may have heard of mindfulness but what is it, really? Let’s take some time to learn about what it is (and what it isn’t) and how it can help you to navigate the stresses and challenges, and deepen the joys in your daily life.
What is mindfulness?
Mindfulness is the practice of being present to whatever is before us in this moment. This may sound simple but it is not easy! It takes practice and lots of it!
Our minds are constantly moving from thought to thought, evaluating, analyzing, judging, thinking about the past or the future. We are hardly ever here in the present moment.
Jon Kabat-Zinn, founder of the Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction Program at the University of Massachusetts defines mindfulness as “… the awareness that arises through paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment, non-judgmentally”.
When we commit to paying attention without judging ourselves or our experience we can learn to be with whatever arises. These skills can be useful when navigating life’s many challenges but can even be helpful in allowing us to take in the joys more fully.
Why be mindful?
The short answer to this question is that we tend to be happier! Mindfulness has been shown to decrease symptoms of depression and anxiety, reduce physical pain, improve our sleep and overall sense of well-being.
Women struggling with infertility who practice mindfulness find that they have an enhanced ability to cope with the challenges of infertility. They also experience greater self-compassion. And most importantly, they have increased pregnancy rates than in the control group. In pregnant mothers practicing mindfulness, there are lower reported rates for depression and anxiety. Parents who practice, also reported using their mindulfness skills to cope with the stressful aspects of pregnancy, birth, and early parenting.
Mindfulness can even be useful when we are in labor. Ina May Gaskin says “Don’t think of it as pain. Think of it as an interesting sensation that requires all of your attention.” Practicing mindfulness can help you cultivate that attention.
How do we do it?
Guided meditations are the best way to get started and to cultivate a strong mindfulness practice. Whether you use an app or audio program, join a class, or work individually with an instructor, there are lots of options for guided meditations that can help you develop your skills for paying attention in the moment and experiencing the benefits of mindfulness. These include:
- Awareness of breathing – Just simply paying attention to the sensations of breathing one breath at a time.
- Body scan – This practice allows you to bring careful attention to the various parts of the body in a systematic way, usually from the feet up through the head and sometimes the other way around.
- Loving-kindness practice – This meditation is a concentration practice that helps us cultivate compassion.
- Yoga and walking meditation – Both are forms of formal meditations grounded in mindful movement.
You can also incorporate small moments of mindfulness throughout your day, with simple things like eating mindfully or brushing your teeth with awareness. You can bring the qualities of mindfulness and kind curiosity to anything you do.
Where can I go for more info/experiences of mindfulness? Baby+Company is now offering Breathe, an introductory mindfulness class that is part of the Well +Prepared pre-pregnancy program. Women who are already pregnant, or their partners, can also enroll.
Well+Prepared is a pre-pregnancy program from Baby+Company. Get expert consultation, informative classes, and 1-on-1 coaching to help you conceive a healthy pregnancy. Well+Prepared is available in all Baby+Company centers. Find the center near you:
Sign up for a Well+Prepared Consultation and Coaching visit today to receive personalized weight recommendations and help achieving your nutrition and weight loss goals.