Mindfulness. You have probably heard about it, but do you know how it can benefit you as an expectant parent? We asked Jennifer Gillean about what true mindfulness really is, and how to incorporate it into pregnancy, parenthood and beyond.
Question: First, can you tell us more about the practice of mindfulness?
Answer: Mindfulness has ancient roots as a key component of Buddhism. At its core, it can be described as a moment-by-moment awareness of thoughts, feelings, bodily sensations, andsurrounding environment without judging whether they are “right” or “wrong”. Mindfulnessfocuses the brain on what is being sensed at each moment, instead of on its normal worrying on the past or on the future events.
Q: Where do we see mindfulness practised in modern times?
A: These days, there is what’s known as a “mindfulness movement,” which adopts the concept as a way of living. Many school curriculums, businesses and even prisons are incorporatingmindfulness into their cultures.
Regardless of the context, mindfulness is a practice that has been well researched and stood the test of time to richen your daily life. But it’s important to remember it’s a practice, or a habit—something that we never quite master but that we try to incorporate more of into our daily lives.
Q: How can we practice mindfulness?
A: Mindfulness can include guided meditation, yoga practice and breath awareness. For me, these have all been a way of releasing stress, and taking time to focus on my physical, emotional andspiritual self and needs.
We spend so much of our daily lives in our mind, consumed with conversations about things that already happened, or running through a list of things we need to accomplish. Mindfulnessreminds us to live in the present and do what needs to be done in this moment.
Q: How can we incorporate mindfulness into pregnancy?
A: In pregnancy, it can be helpful to begin consciously connecting to your life, so that when you inevitably sprinkle in less sleep, new routines, different family and friend relationships, new expectations,and a whole new little person who needs you, you will already be practicing living in the moment.
Practice slowing down and letting go of needing to feel fulfilled by to-do lists. Ask yourself how you can bring more relaxation or peace into your life.
Sleep will soon become a big theme in your world, and if you haven’t already noticed, functioning well mentally and emotionally on less sleep is challenging! Find ways of prioritizing rest, going to bed early, reading a book, or writing in a journal before bed.
If falling asleep is an issue, or if you find getting back to sleep after a night time bathroom break (or a midnight snack!) is difficult, try downloading guided meditations or free podcasts to listen to as a way of training your mind to relax.
Try keeping a journal to check in and tangibly keep track of how you’re taking or not taking care of yourself, and to write down how you’re feeling.
Finally, if you have issues in your past or present you don’t feel great about, begin to deal with them in whatever ways you can, as these issues will resurface as a parent. Sometimes, we avoid acknowledging or exploring the difficult moments in our lives, but they have a way of catching up to us when we least expect it. Find a trustworthy friend or counselor to help sort through some of your fears or past experiences.