Nurses may be trained to plan ahead, too, as is the case for all medical professionals, but they should also be present 100% in the here and now – and, thus, the need for mindfulness. Contrary to popular opinion, it isn’t a hippy concept or a religious practice although it stemmed from Buddhism. In layman’s terms, mindfulness is being in the moment or bringing one’s attention to the things happening in the moment.
Brief History of Mindfulness
Mindfulness, as we know it in the modern Western world, originated from sati, a Buddhist concept considered as one of the seven enlightenment factors. Sati, in essence, means two things:
- The moment-to-moment awareness of present events
- The ability and willingness to be aware of a place, a person, or a thing
In both instances, the goal is to gain a deeper understanding of the true nature of reality in accordance with the teachings of Buddha. Mindfulness then served several purposes including but not limited to:
- Getting on the path to liberation via constant awareness of sensory awareness resulting in reduced experiences of negative emotions and cravings for unnecessary things;
- Protecting the practitioner from delusions and the like since mindfulness provided him with a clearer and deeper understanding of the present event, as well as freedom from judgments and biases that can result in anger, greed, and anxiety.
For the Buddhists then and now, mindfulness is a way to attain nirvana, the state of mind wherein delusions hatred, and anger, among others, have been overcome.
In the Western world, prominent poets and essayists Walt Whitman, Ralph Waldo Emerson, and Henry David Thoreau are credited for bringing mindfulness into the mainstream, mainly through the transcendentalist movement.
The Eastern views of mindfulness were also at odds with the consumerist, reductionist, and materialistic approach to the Western lifestyle at the time. The introduction of the Eastern concept was then welcomed by those who realized the evils of the Western worldview.
In modern psychology, Jon Kabat-Zinn introduced mindfulness into modern medicine when he established the Mindfulness-based Stress Reduction Program. But the religious context by which mindfulness was first applied in Buddhism was removed from its application, an approach that proved beneficial in the long run. Nowadays, mindfulness-based stress reduction principles and practices are applied in a wide range of settings from schools to hospitals.
Why It’s Beneficial
Mindfulness can be beneficial for nurses in many ways and, thus, the recommendation for them to apply it in their lives, particularly in their work.
Improve your in assessment skills
Mindfulness results in lesser distraction combined with greater awareness, a combination that can improve your clinical assessment skills. You will be, for example, able to identify the subtle changes occurring in your patient because you’re more aware of the things that matter most and less distracted by those that don’t. Your patients will enjoy better nursing care because you’re in the moment instead of being distracted by unrelated concerns.
Increase your performance level
Mindfulness encourages an in-the-moment attitude that, in turn, increases physical ability and mental concentration. You are then more likely to perform complex technical procedures according to standards (i.e., little to no errors). You will agree that in the clinical setting, especially in the operating room, being aware of the things going on around you increases your ability to act on them properly.
Enhance your communication skills
Mindfulness encourages greater awareness about what your patients, colleagues, and supervisors are communication, even how and why they are communicating the way they do. You are able to listen and speak with more attention to others, an ability that can result in better communication and clinical outcomes. You will also be a better team member, especially in crisis situations.
Increase ability for effective stress management
Mindfulness can be attained via meditation, among other techniques. As such, it’s a useful tool in dealing more effectively with stress and stressors, which seem to be ever-present in the nursing profession. You will have the tools needed to relax even in a stressful situation, which will contribute to better personal and professional relationships.
These benefits aren’t just anecdotal either. Neuroscience research has shown that mindfulness training increases the function of the brain regions where attention and executive performance occurs. In these areas, the brain is engaged in intentional action, problem-solving, and decision-making aspects.
Examples of How It Can Be Used In the Nursing Practice
Nurses can use mindfulness in the following ways:
- Choose to be aware of your surroundings. Your mind is always with you so you can choose to be intentional in your thoughts and actions when you’re awake.
- After opening your eyes in the morning, take a few minutes to breathe deeply, center yourself, and contemplate your surrounding and your blessings, and just be still while absorbing the sights and smells of the day.
- Focus on your breathing whenever you feel stressed, frustrated, or anxious, especially around other people. Count along with your breathing for a few seconds – even 5 to 10 seconds will suffice – until you feel more grounded (i.e., calmer).
- Concentrate on what’s happening in the here and now instead of planning the next step, the next day, and the next week. Being able to do so means that you are also able to listen and speak better than before because you’re being in the moment, not somewhere else doing something else.
Recommended Apps for Mindfullness
While taking out your smartphone may not be in line with mindfulness, you can use it well by downloading and applying the recommendations in these apps:
- The Mindfulness App
- Smiling Mind
- Insight Timer
With regular practice, you can also be more mindful in your life! Start now.