What is mindfulness?
We think mindfulness is really important - especially during pregnancy. It’s at the core of what we offer in the Curious Fu pregnancy and labour app. The term 'mindfulness' is probably one that you have heard a lot but you might not know exactly what it means, or how to ‘practice’ it. So we thought it deserved to be explored in a bit more depth in this blog post.
Mindfulness is really just the art of stopping and becoming aware of where you are at that present moment, a type of meditation.
Often, with the idea of meditation comes this connotation that you have to sit still, cross-legged in silence for an hour but this really isn't necessary. Mindfulness is simply about ‘checking in’ with yourself. It shouldn't feel tedious or like a big deal. The idea is to...
> Check in with yourself to see how your body feels - a lot of the time we keep going without paying attention to ourselves or signals our body might be sending us
> Check in with your thoughts - are you worried about something? Is there something in particular you need to check in with yourself about? Is there a thought you just can’t let go of?
We all lead busy lives and sometimes we just plough on with our work and family responsibilities and forget to have any time out. If you are able to take a break from what you’re doing to just pause and centre your breath, you will notice a real difference. This simple act can have a real benefit on your emotional well being, your blood pressure and even help to ease tension in your neck and shoulders.
There is a lot of research that backs up the benefits of mindfulness. When you are pregnant it is important to stop and take time out. This gives a chance for you to flood your baby with the endorphins that come from relaxation to counteract the adrenaline and stress hormones that can be triggered by our busy lifestyles. Even just taking 5 minutes out can have an effect on your body that lasts for over an hour, it is even proven to decrease depression in pregnancy. It can also help you bond with your baby and who wouldn't want that?
Practicing mindfulness doesn’t require any special equipment or a big quiet space with no noise (though having no distractions does help). You can do it in your chair at work, on your daily commute or at home on a couch or bed - anywhere really! These 2 simple techniques offer a great introduction to mindfulness..
1. Focus on your breath
> Get comfortable - either sit or lie down depending on what feels better
> Breathe in and out slowly with the out breath longer than the in breath
> Continue to breathe in and out for 10 breaths - count the breaths and pay attention to each in and out breath (you can concentrate on how your body moves or feel the movement of air through your nostrils as you go)
> If your mind wanders during the breaths simply acknowledge the thought and then come back to your breath and start again with the last number you remember
> If you have the time then once you reach 10 go back down to 1
2. Do a 'body scan'
> Do a mental ‘Scan’ of your body - Go through each of the parts of your body and just ‘check in’ with how they feel. where can you feel pressure on your body when you are lying or sitting down? Where do you ache? How does the surface you are sitting on feel?
It’s important not to judge these feelings, just observe them. This simple process is usually enough to ‘reset’ your mind from rumination and the consistent thought patterns that run around our busy minds.
Give it a try and let us know how you get on!
We have guided relaxation sessions in the Curious Fu pregnancy and birth mindfulness app that can help you along if you’re finding it hard doing it by yourself. Download the FREE app for iphone or android