Mindfulness is a mental state obtained by channelling one's awareness on the present moment and minimizing thoughts of past and future-oriented experiences. When practicing mindfulness, the goal is to focus on the current experience developing a stronger sense of awareness of the connections between the mind and body. Mindfulness is a skill, and like most skills, it requires consistent practice and repetition. Research examining the beneficial effects of mindfulness suggests it can help to reduce anxiety, issues with sleep, depression, pain modulation, and increased engagement in occupations. Occupational therapists may incorporate mindfulness into their practice and use education and coaching strategies to help create and experience stronger awareness of the relationship between the body and mind.
Occupational therapists often use mindfulness practice to manage pain symptoms because it has shown to be a "psychological buffer." Studies examining the effects of mindfulness and pain showed significant improvements in the acceptance of pain, improved functional abilities while coping with pain, and reduced stress. Occupational therapists also use mindfulness to manage anxiety symptoms has been shown to help reduce distracting thoughts that provoke worry and anxiety. Mindfulness has many other benefits, including managing the self-regulation of emotions and behaviours, and improving or optimizing sleep.
Some examples of how occupational therapists may incorporate mindfulness into their practice include:
-breathing exercises that focus on slowing the breath to promote focus and relaxation
-body scans to focus the attention of sensations of various areas of the body
-practicing meditation to direct one's awareness of the present moment and minimizing thoughts of past and future-oriented experiences.
-education and coaching and understand why and how mindfulness works
Hazlett-Stevens, H., Singer, J., & Chong, A. (2019). Mindfulness-based stress reduction and mindfulness-based cognitive therapy with older adults: a qualitative review of randomized controlled outcome research. Clinical Gerontologist, 42(4), 347-358.