Liz Rosies, Diploma in Wellness Coaching student

Practicing mindfulness as a part of everyday is about incorporating mindfulness practice into every part of daily life. So often in life we think we understand our world in which we live, and live life based on a limited understanding. Our current mental capacity to take on board all of the stimuli and input we receive on a daily basis means we all too often misinterpret our surroundings. Mindfulness on a daily basis allows us to move away from our “illusion” of reality and cultivate “conscious attention and awareness of the moment in a non-judgemental way”[1]  experiencing the moment and a calmness which allows us to remain rational and in tune with our surroundings.

Simple ways to relate mindfulness in order to maintain awareness of the present might include focus on a single task at the time – this involves giving full attention to one thing and not trying to do multiple things at the same time. By slowing down and enjoying the present moment it allows the mind to experience the moment. If time is the now – it is the only place in which we can currently exist. This also involves the daily practice of concentrating on the present without allowing the mind to drift into the past or future i.e. not borrowing troubles from tomorrow. On a daily basis, the act of mindfulness allows us to act with greater measure and control such as maintaining emotional strategies to allow better cognitive function in areas of emotion, memory, engagement, stress and social skills.

Research has shown that this method of focus has been shown to improve moods and boost health and wellbeing with a direct influence on the physical and psychological health of the individual. From a psychological perspective mindfulness based cognitive therapy (MBCT) has shown a reduced rate of depression in individuals[2] and is recommended by NICE as part of the treatment plan for depression[3]. Research has shown MBCT to be as effective for reducing depression as antidepressants.

Mindfulness based stress reduction (MBSR) has been effective at addressing stress which can eventually lead to physical illness has been effective allowing patients to focus on awareness of the body and mind to deal with stress[4] From a physical perspective MBSR is a consideration when working with diabetics who are known to be five times more likely to suffer stress than the general population due to the many aspects of disease management.

As well as helping people deal with stress, anxiety and other psychological issues – the implications of mindfulness also help address physical states. Research has shown that in the workplace higher levels of contentment, job satisfaction and improved communication were also results of mindfulness[5].  Research has also suggested an improvement in physical traditional health habits such as sleep, exercise and diet can be measured when practicing dispositional mindfulness on a daily basis. A suggestion that dispositional mindfulness might be able to influence our health behaviours and be a predictor to “better physical health” is an interesting observation[6].  There has also been evidence to show positive benefits to cardiovascular health following training in dispositional mindfulness[7].

When coaching a person with a psychological or physical condition mindfulness is able to support “purposeful, adaptive self-regulation” which allows a person to remain flexible and diffuse any unhelpful thoughts that may prevent optimal performance though habitual thought patterns and thus mindfulness can provide a source of support in reframing and changing unhelpful patterns of thought and behaviour.

There are several challenges in using mindfulness. The first challenge is the fact that any new skill needs to be taught. Mindfulness is a skill like any other which will need practicing to become disciplined. In a coaching setting this means that the coach must have a good understanding of mindfulness in order to provide knowledge to the coachee and have already developed a relationship that allows the coachee to be open and willing to learn a new skill. If it seems appropriate the coach can provide the resources for the coachee to learn.

The discipline of practicing a new skill is not always easy for a person and some people might struggle with the habitual practice required for long term changes.  This will involve discussion of the obstacles and how they can be overcome as a part of the coaching session as well as considering cognitive strategies for setting up new habits.   Discipline in learning will also only come from a desire to learn and use the practice – it is also important to manage expectations and realise that if the practice is about the moment – worry about whether it will work or not is a future consideration.

While mindfulness is relatively simple to understand, expectations and preconceptions can get in the way – causing resistance.  Those with pre-conceived ideas and belief systems which have written off such practices might need to initially explore their current thinking before being open to explore mindfulness. This is particularly pertinent to a health and wellness coaching session where the coachee might have other health considerations such as diabetes, pain, stress etc.  and having tried many other treatment options sees mindfulness as one more thing to try thus creating resistance.  By teaching mindfulness, the coachee might feel that their physical condition is being likened to a psychological condition which can then cause hostility.  This challenge provides an excellent opportunity for the coach to practice mindfulness and allow the coachee to ask the questions and initiate further discussion[8].

A specific challenge for many people is the interruptions and external distractions that we have created in our daily lives. Stopping use of a mobile device for the time required to practice daily mindfulness, for example, requires discipline and equanimity. Acknowledging if a distraction can’t be avoided but accepting and responding in a calm manner requires consideration.

When practicing mindfulness on a daily basis and as a part of daily life at home and work, means that sometimes difficult emotions or feelings potentially rise up which might not feel appropriate to deal with and can potentially cause a person to avoid rather than deal with.

 

REFERENCES 

[1] Passmore and Marianetti (2007) The Role of Mindfulness in Coaching – The Coaching Psychologist 3(3), 131-137

[2] Williams et all (2014) MBCT for Preventing Relapse in Recurrent Depression, Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, Volume 82(2)

[3] Depression in Adults: Recognition and Management NICE 2009

[4] Lengacher et all. (2009) Randomized control trial of MBSR for survivors of breast cancer, Psycho Oncology Vol 18(12)

[5] Barrios-Choplin An Inner Quality Approach to reducing stress and improving physical and emotional well-being at work, Stress Management 13(3): 193-201

[6] Murphy et al (2012) The Benefits of Dispositional Mindfulness in Physical Health Journal of American College Health Vol 60(5)

[7] Loucks E et al. (2015) Positive Associations of Dispositional Mindfulness with Cardiovascular Health: The New England Family Study, International Journal of Behavioural Medicine Vol 22(540-550)

[8] Dunkley C and Stanton M, Teaching Clients to use Mindfulness Skills: A Practical Guide, Taylor and Francis, 2013

 

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