What is mindfulness?

By Adelaide Women's Physio | October 19, 2017

Mindfulness is a technique used to build an awareness of the present moment and of what our thoughts and body responses are without judgement. As busy women we are often presented with multiple tasks to just get through the day. It can be difficult to switch off the inner voice of all the things we need to accomplish. This constant state of “being on the go” can lead to chronic stress states where our body is tight, tense and achy, breathing is shallow, our digestion is poor and our immune and hormonal systems are out of balance.  Mindfulness can help you relax and to calm bodily stress responses.

How do I develop mindfulness?

Mindfulness can be developed through being aware of the present moment. You may do this through deep breathing, carrying out a mental scan of your body and letting go of tension, being aware of your thoughts or through mindful movement tasks.  It is important to do this in a non-judgemental way and to be kind to yourself.  Realise the stress responses in our body are normal. The increased heart rate, muscular tension, quick breathing and high mental alertness or anxiety (the “flight or fight” response) are designed for dangerous situations where we need to escape or fight. In today’s society stress is present frequently or often constantly and we do not usually need to fight or flight, so we have no release of this stress response. Recognising this stress response and not labelling it as good or bad but just a normal bodily reaction can help, getting stressed about being stressed is not helpful! The next step is to perform some mindfulness tasks or movements and to use thought processes that help us let go of the tension and to cope with and release our bodies stress response. Recognising that time to relax and using mindfulness is an important part of your day is valuable for better health. Many women lead such busy lives that they think relaxation is too difficult to fit in or find it too boring. Mindfulness may feel difficult or boring in the beginning but it gets easier with practice and your body and mind will thank you for it if you persist. Sometimes you need the help of a professional in mindfulness and/or meditation to get you on your way.

What can mindfulness be used for?

Mindfulness can be used with our treatments at Physiotherapy for Women to manage pain and to ease tension. You may also notice it will help with depression, anxiety, digestion and other chronic illnesses.

How does it work?

Evidence is showing that with regular mindfulness our nervous system changes. The “flight or fight” response is decreased and the “rest and digest” state is increased allowing for better bodily repair and for the mind to quieten (helpful to get to sleep!). Also the parts of the brain responsible for emotional balance, fear responses, homeostasis (body regulation) and empathy make positive changes on MRI. The hormonal system in the brain are also better balanced which helps you improve your health related behaviours. During your consultation our physiotherapists can help with your breathing patterns and encourage mindfulness behaviour for you at home to enhance your healing process.