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Mindfulness or Mind-full-ness... Are you overthinking in your veterinary life?

Posted in Guest Blogger @ May 19th 2022 - By Cordene Midgley, Platinum CPD
Mindfulness Or Mind Full Ness

Are you in a cycle of overthinking and over-analysing?

How often have you gone through the same thoughts? Over-analysing why the outcome of your thoroughly considered treatment plan was unsuccessful or why the patient died. We go through conversations we have had with clients, colleagues, friends and loved ones; and overthink the different ways in which it could have ended, had you reacted differently in that situation. We regret decisions and beat ourselves up over how we or others responded, we go into the overthinking loop and very often, we are controlled by our thoughts.

I wanted this cycle of overthinking to change and start accepting my current situation, so I began to do guided meditation about a year ago. Honestly, I felt like I sucked at it! I did not have the time to sit and think – I had things to do! I was also not able to think of nothing… my mind started rushing in 500 different directions and I would catch myself going over my “to do” list, rethinking the past, planning the future – doing everything BUT be in the present moment. To be fair, I was a lot more mind-full than mindful. Can you relate?

What is mindfulness?

Mindfulness requires you to focus your awareness on the present moment. It involves paying close attention to thoughts, feelings, environment and sensations in the here-and-now with an acceptance attitude. Or as Eckhart Tolle refers to it in The Power of Now – focusing on non-resistance, non-attachment and non-judgment. The potential benefits of practising mindfulness include improved memory, an increased ability to think more clearly, strengthened relationships, lowered risk of depression and decreased stress.

Improves memory

How often do you forget whether you gave the patient the tablet, whether you restocked the crash cart, where you placed your keys? Many of these forgetful moments can be ascribed to something called proactive interference, which is where past memories interfere with your mind’s ability to access newer ones. In 2019, a study was conducted where participants either took a creative writing course or received four weeks of mindfulness training. Results indicated that the mindfulness training participants not only demonstrated greater reduction in proactive interference, resulting in improved short-term memory, but also showed changes in their brains. Their hippocampus (associated with memory) experienced volume changes (1).

Improves ability to think more clearly

Mindfulness has been found to result in cognitive improvements and plays a role in thinking clearly and flexibly (2). The benefits of mindfulness on cognitive abilities involve cognitive flexibility (shifting your thoughts and attention in spite of distractions), cognitive inhibition (suppressing the thoughts that interfere with focus) and sustained attention (ability to focus for a period of time). These abilities allow you to think quickly and adapt to changing information (3).

Strengthens relationships

There is evidence that people who practised mindfulness are more accepting of their partner’s imperfections and flaws, plus it had a positive impact on their interpersonal relationships (4). These people accepted their partners and did not try to change them and consequently were more satisfied with their relationships.

Lowers depression

Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) is a technique used in therapy to effectively treat depression and research indicated that it can also prevent a relapse of symptoms to the same efficacy as antidepressants. (5)

Decreases stress and anxiety

The American Psychological Association states that mindfulness can be helpful in soothing feelings of stress and anxiety (6) People use elements of yoga and mindfulness to help address their thoughts; other practices such as deep breathwork can also be used in combination with mindfulness to reduce stress and anxiety.

Firstly, understand that mindfulness is a practice. Remember your first spay? You took forever, your surgical techniques were not refined and you struggled…now you do it in under 20 minutes. It takes practice and initially you may not be the master of mindfulness at it. I struggled with this as my mind kept on wandering, I still find it difficult to sit only with my own thoughts, so I choose guided meditations. You can try a free meditation app like (https://insighttimer.com/), yoga classes or simply sitting in a quiet place and focusing on your breathing. I found that books like The Untethered Soul) and The Power of Now helped me understand the benefits and train my mind to be more accepting and less judging! 

This month, see if you can add mindfulness to your routine. Start small – even with an 8 minute meditation – here is my favourite one by Sarah Blondin to help you to surrender. 

Share with us in the Comments section below, the techniques that you use to become more mindful!

References

1. Greenberg J, Romero VL, Elkin-Frankston S, Bezdek MA, Schumacher EH, Lazar SW. Reduced interference in working memory following mindfulness training is associated with increases in hippocampal volume. Brain Imaging Behav. 2019;13(2):366-376. doi:10.1007/s11682-018-9858-4

2. Zou Y, Li P, Hofmann SG, Liu X. The mediating role of non-reactivity to mindfulness training and cognitive flexibility: a randomized controlled trial. Front Psychol. 2020;11:1053. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2020.01053

3. Wimmer L, Bellingrath S, von Stockhausen L. Cognitive effects of mindfulness training: results of a pilot study based on a theory driven approach. Front Psychol. 2016;7. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2016.01037

4. Kappen G, Karremans JC, Burk WJ, Buyukcan-Tetik A. On the association between mindfulness and romantic relationship satisfaction: the role of partner acceptance. Mindfulness (N Y). 2018;9(5):1543-1556. doi:10.1007/s12671-018-0902-7

5. Kuyken W, Hayes R, Barrett B, et al. Effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of mindfulness-based cognitive therapy compared with maintenance antidepressant treatment in the prevention of depressive relapse or recurrence (Prevent): a randomised controlled trial. The Lancet. 2015;386(9988):63-73. doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(14)62222-4

6. American Psychological Association. Mindfulness meditation: a research-proven way to reduce stress.

This post first appeared on the Platinum CPD Blog: Mindfulness or Mind-full-ness

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