MINDFULNESS IS a form of meditation that has been s h o w n t o help reduce stress, manage anxiety and improve mood. Often practised through deliberate slow breathing, mindfulness is increasingly being used as a wellness therapy by people with neurological conditions such as multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, motor neurone disease, challenging behaviour and chronic pain.
In some palliative and end-of-life contexts, both carers and individuals employ mindfulness as a way of handling distress and nurturing acceptance.
Mindfulness can be explored with a guide or alone. Even a small dose can be a balm for the mind and body.
HOW DOES IT WORK?
Mindfulness meditation is about becoming more aware of each moment; noticing the sensations, smells, sounds and tastes of our experiences, as well as the thoughts and feelings that occur from one moment to the next.
Unlike some other forms of meditation, it is about accepting and observing the mind’s busy chatter, not quieting it.
Mindfulness means waking up to the present, and that might be something as simple as being aware of the feel of a banister as we walk upstairs.
Types of mindfulness meditation include mindful breath awareness (usually done seated), mi n d f u l b o d y awareness (usually Nemone Jakeman: ‘Mindfulness can benefit everyone’ done in a lying position), and mindful movement, involving simple yoga or tai chi. When people train in mindfulness, brain patterns can change. Alterations in areas of the brain linked to emotion, decisionmaking, attention and empathy can have positive psychological and physiological effects.
WHO IS IT FOR?
Nemone Jakeman is a neurological conditions support manager and occupational therapist at SweetTree Home Care Services. She is an advocate for the use of mindfulness techniques in all care environments. “Working with clients with neurological conditions, I have certainly seen the benefits of mindfulness — not only among the clients but among family carers and in myself,” she says.
“I t i s too often the case in all our lives that we lose sense of our self-care and forget to be present in our own experiences.
Mindfulness can assist in readdressing our sense of balance and provide mental ‘time out’ from the tunnel vision of working through each day. Anyone can try it and everyone can benefit from it.”
ONE MINDFUL MINUTE
Are you a meditation beginner? No problem, says Nemone.
Take a seat and read aloud or record the following instructions on to a media device, ready to play back to yourself.
Make the most of this minute to relax during times of pain or stress:
Gently close your eyes and take a deep breath. Exhale. Inhale and feel your chest expand. Breathe out and feel the air leave your chest. Breathe in … and breathe out… In … and out … Imagine being surrounded with a warm, vibrant light.
Imagine the warmth of the sun on a spring day touching your skin.
As you breathe in, let this warm light fill your lungs.
As you breathe out, imagine the light spreading around your chest.
Breathe in and let the light move further this time.
Breathe out and let the light go up to your neck and down past your stomach. Breathe in and swallow even more of this warm, vibrant light. Breathe out and let it fill your head. Breathe in and fill your entire upper body with this warm, vibrant light. Feel the warmth in your arms and in your fingers.
Allow this vibrant energy to intensify in your upper body. Think of nothing but this warm, vibrant light.
If a thought comes by, allow yourself to acknowledge its presence, but then refocus on the light Breathe in … and breathe out… In … and out … On your next breath in, let the warm, vibrant light reach your thighs.
Breathe out and allow it to reach your knees. Breathe in … and breathe out … Breathe in, and let the light fill your legs all the way down to your toes. Breathe out … Breathe in … and breathe out … Focus on your breath and the warm light – nothing but your breath and the light.
Relax … SweetTree Home Care Services See sweettree.co.uk or call 020 7624 9944