Mindfulness has certainly invaded pop culture and may be one of the most mis- and over-used words that often stray from the actual practice. However, the research and benefits continue to increase its application in non-clinical and clinical settings. In non-clinical settings, research has demonstrated tremendous results leveraging Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction, which has been shown to be helpful for managing chronic pain and a myriad of other ailments such as hypertension, sleep, menopause and palliative care. In more clinical settings, mindfulness-based practice has providing compelling evidence in areas such as anxiety, depression, ADHD and clinical provider compassion. A large part of the success of mindfulness application is that the person practicing can experience the benefits in a fairly quick time frame of 2 weeks. After just six 20 minute sessions over 2 weeks, sustainable changes were shown in functional MRI studies to provide:
– fewer negative mood states
– more and longer positive mood states
– increased cognitive ability/capacity
– increased working memory
– better overall physical health.
– better cognitive processing speed
– reduced fatigue
– increased prefrontal cortex activity
– decreased anxiety symptoms for those with anxiety disorders
– decreased depression symptoms for those with depressive disorders
– increased cardiovascular health
Businesses have certainly noticed the benefits and many leading companies have found ways to integrate mindfulness into the work day with increasing success in terms of workplace satisfaction, production and the bottom line. While many folks claim to be able to multitask in the workplace, neuroscience has demonstrated that only about 2% of the population can (and most are women) and that people’s ability to multitask continues to become less efficient almost immediately after starting, where tasks are completed less accurately and less quickly than if they were addressed individually. In addition to impacting productivity, it has been estimated that American businesses are losing money to the tune of almost a half a trillion dollars annually thanks to inefficient multitasking.
So where do parents fit into this equation? Often, with the demands of raising children, working and trying to find time to attend to normal life demands, likely not easily. Most parents, if provided with a magical 25th hour every 2nd or 3rd day of the week would quickly find ways to have tasks (work or enjoyable) fill that additional 60 minutes. There is a reasonable amount of research that shows that practicing mindfulness is an investment in creating a more relaxed, thoughtful and compassionate approach to not just our life tasks, but our parenting responsibilities as well. We discussed the attributes of parenting mindfulness a little over a year ago that documented one of the most startling pieces of research where practicing parenting mindfulness skills can actually lower our kid’s negative mood states.
Since that article was published, mindfulness apps and assisted devices have more than tripled in availability and, in addition to the increased benefits of being a parent practicing mindfulness, there is no cost whatsoever. Headspace, Inmind, Calm, 10% Happier and Insight provide free mindfulness training applications that can be accessed from anywhere and provide as little as 5-20 minutes of exercises at any time to take a break and train the brain to approach tasks mindfully. Muse is an incredibly compelling device that measures brain activity and provides in-the-moment feedback about your mindfulness practice (and may have the most enjoyable guided meditation voice of any app!). Mindfulness may not only help your parenting….there is also compelling evidence that it can benefit spousal relationships through defusing arguments and creating a better, calmer and more thoughtful space when marital discord is approaching.
One of the largest barriers, outside of finding time, that parents identify is “How do I start my practice?”. For those that find using an app diametrically opposed to the concept of mindfulness, there are oodles of resources available to help get to the starting line and stay on course by keeping your practice interesting and fresh. In terms of the commitment and how to start, Vanessa Loder created a very reasonable guide to help initiate your practice. Once you have a commitment set and are looking to expand your repertoire of exercise choices, here are 22 exercises that will help maintain a varied practice. The most important piece in keeping a mindfulness practice is that it is not about going about it in a way that is ‘right’ or ‘wrong’, but finding a way that feels effective for you and can be easily maintained.
Do you have exercises that would be helpful resources for other readers? Please add them to the comments section…….