What is Mindfulness?
Mindfulness is an awareness that arises through paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment, non-judgmentally.1 Research has revealed that mindfulness has helped nurses reduce stress levels, increase relaxation, and a practice of self-care.2
A practice of mindfulness includes a practice of self-acceptance, self-understanding, and self-care. This can include a practice of meditation but is not mandatory. Mindfulness is not just a meditation practice for when things are rough. Mindfulness is a way of living, a way of being. 3
The health care model incorporates the well-being of the clinician and a practice of mindfulness is particularly important for health care professionals.4 Beach et al. (2013) found that physicians, nurse practitioners, and physician assistants who identified themselves as mindful care givers were able to engage in patient centered care with more satisfied patients.5 Learning to manage stress and support self-care should be an important part of professional development.
A review of the Attitudinal Foundations of mindfulness and mindfulness meditation has helped me learn how to apply this practice to my daily life. The Attitudinal Foundations of Mindfulness includes a practice of discernment and description, patience, a beginner’s mind, trust, non-striving, and letting go.7 I describe these attitudes and share how you can apply and practice daily.
Discernment and Description
This involves remaining neutral to your experience. You pause and pay attention with compassion. As you provide care, instead of evaluating and judging, you describe to yourself what is. You respond instead of reacting and connect rather than correct. For example, when you care for an anxious client who arrives late and refuses a periodontal exam as they are in a rush, you become frustrated. This is the opportunity to practice discernment and description. Pause, take a deep breath, and let go of your frustration. Pay attention to an understanding that their response is based on anxiety, then share what you have discovered on the initial exam and options that you feel would best suit their oral health. Take a step back and let them come to a decision. Give this a try – observe over the next ten minutes how much you are preoccupied with disliking and liking your experience. You can try this for even just thirty seconds to a minute while you are in clinical practice.
With patience, you do not rush. You let your thoughts unfold in their own time. For example, when a client is overdue for care, you may rush to complete care. A practice of mindfulness includes being patient with yourself. As you rush, you begin to lose focus on intent. There is no need to rush through your care to feel accomplished. With patience you become more sensitive to not only your client, but to yourself. Acknowledge this and, instead of rushing to completed debridement, spend time educating your client on oral self-care.
Mindfulness allows you to shift your perspective to a beginner’s mind. With a beginner’s mindset, you begin to see everything as if it’s the first time. This allows yourself to be open to new opportunities and avoid getting stuck. Each moment is unique and contains new possibilities. Try this- treat your client as if you are meeting them for the first time.
Learning to trust yourself and your feelings are important parts of a practice of mindfulness. This is an integral part to your daily practice as a care provider. We are caught up in making sure we meet standards of practice and making sure our clients are comfortable but often we do not trust ourselves and how we feel. This includes the acknowledgment of the need for self-care. It means allowing yourself to discover how you are feeling and pay attention. If you need to separate yourself from work and take a five-minute break from your coworkers at lunch, leave the office and take a walk.
Non-striving involves taking a neutral perspective to an experience. This involves taking the time to pause and pay attention. As you provide care for your client, are you anxious because you are behind schedule? Are you concerned whether your client will accept care? Are you worried about how your kids are doing at school or at home? Notice the path of a judging mind whether it be good, bad, or neutral. There is no need to focus on what is not clear. Simply pay attention to how you feel, how you react, and continue with the care of your client. Let things flow.
When we become more mindful of our inner experience, we begin to discover that there are certain thoughts and feelings that our mind holds on to. If pleasant and positive, we try to hold on; if negative, we attempt to distract ourselves or try and get rid of them. Mindfulness and mindfulness meditation can include paying simple attention to our breath. By doing this we purposefully put aside the habit of focusing on negative feelings and let them go.
A practice of mindfulness might be new for you or you may have tried and have given up. You may have expected that the practice is simple so, therefore, easy. I have been there, and I agree that it can be difficult. It takes time and that is okay. I have personally experienced that mindfulness can help support self-care. This is integral not only as we work but long term as we manage through the ups and downs of life. I invite you to simply pause and pay attention to your breath. Stay curious. Understand that accepting your progress at whatever stage you are in is amazing. Pause and be present.
- Kabat-Zinn, Jon. (1994) Wherever You Go, There You Are. Mindfulness Meditation in Everyday Life. New York: Hyperion.
- Cohen -Katz, J., Wiley, S.D., Capuano, T., Baker, D.M., & Shapiro, S. (2004). The effects of mindfulness -based stress reduction on nurse stress and burnout: A qualitative and quantitative and qualitative study. Part III. Holistic Nursing Practice, 19, 78-86.
- Shapiro, S.L., & Carlson, L.E. (2017). The Art and Science of Mindfulness. Integrating Mindfulness Into Psychology and the Helping Professions. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.
- Shapiro, S. L., Astin, J. A., Bishop, S. R., and Cordova, M. (2005). Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction for health care professionals: Results from a randomized trial. International Journal of Stress Management, 12, 164-176.
- Beach, M. C., Roter, D., Korthuis, P. T., Epstein, R. M., Sharp, V., Ratanawongsa, N., Cohn, J., Eggly, S., Sankar, A., Moore, R. D., & Saha, S. (2013). A multicenter study of physician mindfulness and health care quality. Annals of family medicine, 11(5), 421–https://doi.org/10.1370/afm.1507
- Newsome, S., Christopher, J.C., Dahlen, P., & Christopher, S. (2006). Teaching counselors self-care through mindfulness practices. Teachers College Record. 108, 1881-1900. DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-9620.2006.00766.x
- Kabat-Zinn, Jon. (2013). Full catastrophe living: using the wisdom of your body and mind to face stress, pain, and illness. New York: Bantam Books.
About the Author
Lizelle Tucci has worked as a Dental Hygiene practitioner and educator for over twenty years. She is a lifelong learner and completed a master’s in health studies with the University of Athabasca. Her thesis was on Mobile Technology in Dental Hygiene Practice and Education. Lizelle then started a Doctorate of Distance Education also with Athabasca University to learn more about how to apply mobile technology to practice. She became extremely stressed and had to stop her studies. She then completed a certificate on the foundations of Mindfulness and Mindfulness Meditation with the University of Toronto. She learned that there was increased evidence-based research on how the practice of Mindfulness can reduce stress. She has conducted workshops for colleagues and students to help decrease stress levels and learn more about mindfulness. Her goal is to continue sharing the benefits of mindfulness and how this supports a practice of self-care much needed by health care professionals. She wrote a children’s book to help children practice mindfulness with a parent and caregiver. She has received positive feedback not only from a calming response from children but also parents. Lizelle can be contacted on www.lizellemarpatucci.com , at firstname.lastname@example.org , and IG @amindfulmakeover.