Mindfulness Practice During Pregnancy 

 
A few early research studies indicate the benefits of mindfulness–widely identified in research of the general population–apply to pregnant women as well. Mindfulness practice can lower symptoms of stress, depression, anxiety and pain, while increasing resilience and self-compassion–all of which can make for a healthier pregnancy, smoother childbirth, and better postnatal attachment between mother and child.
So what exactly is mindfulness practice, and how can you incorporate it into your day?

Mindfulness is comprised of two key components: 1) present-moment awareness and insight, and 2) non-judgmental observation and acceptance of ‘what is.’

A few skills to actively practice in order to build awareness include:
  • Do one thing at a time. Multitasking is a myth– our conscious mind can only focus on one thing at a time. So try out mindfulness by bringing your awareness to the task at hand. When you are washing dishes, notice the sights, aromas and sensations of dish washing. When other thoughts slip in, note them and move your attention back to the experience of dishwashing.
  • Label your thoughts as thoughts. It’s easy to fall into the trap of believing our thoughts are objective reality instead of inventions of our mind. So try this simple trick: add the phrase “I’m having the thought that…” before any thoughts that bring up stress or another challenging emotion. Instead of, “I’ll never get everything ready in time,” “I’m having the thought that I’ll never get everything ready in time,” usually helps us stay calm and make better decisions.
  • Scan for emotions and sensations. Increase awareness of your feelings by checking in a few times a day. Notice if your holding tension in your neck or if you’re feeling resentful or exhausted. Once you’re aware of your feelings you can make a conscious choice about what to do in response.
  • Try a short guided meditation. I love guided meditations for beginners, and there are so many available for free on YouTube. Sit for 5 minutes or less when you first start. Your mind will wander (that’s a normal part of the process), but gently bring your attention back to the guide each time.
To increase your acceptance, imagine taking on the role of a nonjudgmental observer, like an anthropologist studying an exotic culture. The human mind has a natural instinct to label things as good or bad, attract or avoid. As you become more aware of your thoughts, notice how many of them judge reality in this way, and work towards neutral observational statements.
‘Accepting reality’ can feel like surrendering, but Mindful Acceptance is not passive, it’s active. Acceptance is an intentional willingness to acknowledge reality as it is, which moves us from experiencing emotional distress to choosing wise action.  It’s not “I can’t believe this traffic is so slow! If it doesn’t speed up soon I’m going to be late! This is awful and so unfair!” (judgment and resisting reality) or even “This traffic is very slow. I can’t change the traffic, nothing can be done. I guess I’ll just get there late.” (passive surrender), but instead, “This traffic is very slow. I may be late. Hmmm, I could take a different route, or call to let them know. Maybe I will leave earlier next time.”
Lindsay Pasdera, MS RDN

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