Dental practitioners and students are increasingly using mindfulness to offset some of the pressures they experience in the workplace, during study/training and at home. Here are some of the benefits of mindfulness and how to get started.

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What is mindfulness

Mindfulness is a way of living with greater attention and intention and less reactivity and judgement.

Many of us are on 'automatic pilot' — our bodies operate in a routine pattern while our minds are somewhere else, anticipating future events or ruminating over something that has happened. This 'mindless' way of living can limit how we experience life, the choices we make, the quality of our relationships and can exacerbate feelings of stress. 

Practising mindfulness can help you to bring awareness to the present with an attitude of openness and curiosity. It is being awake to the fullness of your life right now by engaging the five senses and noticing your thoughts without holding on to, or pushing away, what you are experiencing.

Mindfulness can help you to recognise mental habits that limit your understanding of something or restrict your options for action.

For example, participating in negative self-talk may occupy your full attention by replaying constantly in your thoughts. By being able to notice when your mind is engaged in these unhelpful thinking patterns, you can shift your mind back to the present, interrupt negative thoughts and enhance your sense of calm and centredness.

Being mindful does not mean stopping your mind from thinking or forcing yourself to be relaxed and peaceful. Many people who practise mindfulness report that they feel more calm and clear-headed.

Why practise mindfulness

Mindfulness helps you focus on the present moment, which can increase your ability to cope more effectively with stress and reduce the risk of professional burnout.

Mindfulness can enhance communication with others by bringing a greater awareness to how and what others are communicating. Listening and speaking with greater attention can lead to more effective communication, particularly in crisis situations.

Being more mindful and bringing receptivity to whatever is happening can deepen your understanding of your relationships with your friends, family, colleagues, and ultimately yourself.

Physical benefits

The physical benefits of practising mindfulness include:

  • lowering high blood pressure by reducing cortisol secretions when stressed — fight or flight stress response
  • reducing physical health symptoms such as headaches, insomnia, muscle and joint problems
  • improving the immune system, and
  • increasing energy levels.
Mental benefits

Mental benefits of practising mindfulness have been reported to include:

  • increased serotonin production that improves mood and behaviour
  • reduced anxiety
  • improved emotional stability
  • increased creativity
  • greater happiness
  • strengthened intuitive thinking, and
  • improved clarity of thought.
In daily life

Some people worry that mindfulness practice will be time consuming, when they are already under pressure. Others may worry that they will not have the ability or the skills to learn mindfulness meditation practices.

Mindfulness meditation can be done in any location and at any time of the day. It is not necessary to practise for long periods — it can be as little as one minute of your time. Enhancing your mindfulness is a lifelong process that you can begin to explore now with a simple practice.

Getting started

You can try any of the following to get started:

Feeling your breath
Set aside 10 minutes a day (or just a few minutes, if your time is limited) to focus on your breathing. Notice the sensations of the breath as it travels in and out of your body. Do not try to make the breath happen in any particular way; just notice your breathing as it's happening. Your mind may get caught up in other mental events, such as planning or daydreaming. Mindfulness invites your attention back to the breath without criticising or judging your wandering mind. This 'awareness of breath' meditation helps slow your mental activity and builds your capacity to stay focused. Taking a few slow, mindful breaths can activate the parasympathetic nervous system, causing a 'relaxation response', helping you feel more centred and more fully present in your situation.
Tuning into your body
If your mind becomes agitated with self-criticism, worry and negative thinking, bring your attention to the physical sensations of your feet as they rest against the floor or other parts of your body that are in contact with other surfaces. You can practise this attention to body sensations anywhere to help settle your distracted mind.
Using movement
Bringing awareness to moving your body mindfully can include gentle stretches in the morning during a break in your day. Be aware of the intricate interplay of nerves, muscles, tendons, and bones that allow movement to happen. Mindful movement can slow down the busy mind and increase your sense of feeling grounded.
What can I do next?

Read some of our other articles on staying healthy:

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