How to use mindfulness with patients to further their self-awareness
DO YOU HAVE PATIENTS WHO SHOW UP LATE OR MISS THEIR APPOINTMENTS COMPLETELY, who fail to follow even the simplest home care instructions, whose level of tension pretty much guarantees they won’t hold an adjustment, or who have no self-awareness about their bodily position and posture? Then you’d be well-advised to teach them some simple mindfulness practices.
To be mindful is to be awake and aware. Aware of thoughts and emotions moment by moment, aware of what’s happening around us and how we’re reacting to it. Aware of our bodies. And aware of how our behavior influences our outcomes. It’s the opposite of the way most people live — lost in thought, unconscious of their surroundings, mindlessly repeating destructive patterns without attention to what they’re doing.
Be mindful of the now
It’s a lack of mindfulness that allows your patients to sit for hours on end in ergonomically unsound positions, to work longer and harder than they should, to eat unhealthy foods in great quantity, never stopping to notice their own satiety cues, and to enter and reenter abusive, dramatic or contentious interactions with others, further increasing their subluxation-producing stress.
Another element of mindfulness is the capacity to observe, witness, or notice inner and outer experiences without judgement. When pain and stress are encountered or when circumstances prevent a desired outcome, most people become tense and angry. They then intensify their suffering through internal resistance to what is.
Mindful individuals, on the other hand, do what they can to change unwanted situations without becoming emotionally resistant. They accept what they cannot change. Likewise, when a mindful person feels pain, they notice it dispassionately, breathe into it, and in that space of relaxed acceptance, either minimize the intensity of the pain or dissolve it completely.
Today there’s ample research to prove the value of mindfulness. Meditators have lower blood pressure, anxiety, age-related memory loss, emotional and physical tension, addictive behaviors and emotional turmoil, to name a few benefits.
Mindfulness and adjustments
When patients tense up during an adjustment, it’s a lack of mindfulness. They are unconsciously resisting care, and they don’t receive the full value of treatment. Mindful patients can relax into the adjustment, maximizing the value of your work and increasing the likelihood of a positive outcome.
It’s also becoming clear that meditation can help in certain kinds of nerve regeneration, even within the central nervous system. The hippocampus in meditators is more likely to display neurogenesis, certain parts of the cerebral cortex are shown to thicken, and neural pathways from the insula to parts of the prefrontal cortex change as a result of meditation. The latter changes tend to reduce reactivity and increase logic.
For these and other reasons, it behooves you as a health care practitioner to add mindfulness training to your arsenal of healing tools. Mindfulness is a quality that must be learned and practiced through meditation or other focus activities such as long walks in nature, hyper-focus on menial tasks, and avoidance of multitasking. Even a brief morning meditation can have a profound effect on someone’s mood, body awareness, pain tolerance and capacity to relax.
If you’d like to assist patients in becoming smarter, kinder, more cooperative, less reactive and more responsive to their care, here is a simple process to teach. Encourage them to try it for the first few weeks of their treatment, reporting back to you on each visit how it’s impacting their mental and physical well-being.
- Sit comfortably and upright with your back straight, arms comfortably in your lap.
- Keep your eyes and your mouth closed.
- Take a few “cleansing breaths,” forgetting your cares.
- Commit to using this time for self-inquiry, not thought.
- Focus on your breath as it enters and leaves your nostrils.
- Don’t try to change anything you notice. Accept it as it is.
- Maintain perfect awareness and perfect equanimity throughout this process.
- Begin to become aware of the sensations over your body. Move your attention up and down your body, noticing whatever arises.
- If you become bored, distracted, frustrated or overwhelmed, realize that these, too, are just sensations. Observe them as you do all others.
Practice for not less than 10 minutes, morning and evening.
Use this practice anytime something upsetting or stressful occurs in your life. Bring your attention, as quickly as possible, into your body and away from your thoughts.
If you’re in pain, breathe into it and notice, without resistance, how long it lasts and how it changes moment by moment.
By establishing a mindfulness practice for your patients, you’ll be giving them something of such great value that they can’t help but feel tremendous gratitude toward you. Plus, as holistic practitioners, our goal is to assist our patients in getting to the root cause of their suffering, not merely to provide symptomatic relief. For many, a lack of mindfulness is that root cause. A patient who, through training and practice, develops the capacity to monitor their thoughts and emotions, who lives with a high level of awareness of their body and their mind, and who generates acceptance for themselves and compassion toward others, is one who heals more quickly, who avoids circumstances which erode their well-being, and who brings positivity to those they encounter.
Create your best patients
Mindful patients are your best patients. They treat you and your staff with more appreciation and respect, they follow their home care instructions, they monitor their behavior to avoid things which prevent their healing, they relax into their adjustments and they experience pain with greater equanimity.
If you want to build a bigger practice and fill your office with grateful patients who get the most from their care, refer others and bring positive energy through your doors, take a few minutes at the beginning of your care plan and share the value of mindfulness.
STEVE TAUBMAN, DC, graduated as valedictorian from New York Chiropractic College in 1982, and ran a large sports medicine practice in Vermont for 14 years. He retired in 1996, becoming a popular stage hypnotist performing worldwide. His best-selling book, UnHypnosis, is about reinventing your life and harnessing the power of the subconscious mind. His message has helped thousands build larger businesses and achieve greater happiness. He can be contacted through stevetaubman.com.