Mindfulness and Occupational Therapy

What is Mindfulness?

Mindfulness is a mental state achieved by focusing on the present moment (the here and now). It works through bringing awareness towards oneself in order to connect the body and mind. 

It allows an individual to attend to and accept one's experiences non-judgmentally. Mindfulness has been known to help with anxiety, stress, depression, emotional regulation and several other mental health disorders. In addition to that recent studies have shown that incorporating mindfulness into occupational therapy practices can improve a patient’s recovery progress. 

Benefits of Mindfulness
  • Reduces anxiety
    By refocusing on the present children can learn to let go of the distracting thoughts that might be provoking worry and anxiety.
  • Self-Regulation
    Mindfulness exercises such as body scan and breathing exercises help improve a child’s self-awareness about their body and the emotions they are feeling. This allows them to self-regulate easily. 
  • Reduces Pain
    Mindfulness tools can help patients ease their experience of pain, whether pain is persistent, intermittent, acute or chronic.
  • Improves Sleep
    Mindfulness can calm an overactive mind and reduces stress. In turn this improves quality of sleep. Adding mindfulness practice to bedtime routine may be a helpful tool to facilitate sleep for patients experiencing sleep difficulties.
  • Improves quality of life
    Mindfulness improves a patient's acceptance and patience for their problems and present state, while increasing their openness and gratitude for life. This leads to an overall increase in the quality of life. 
How can mindfulness aid Occupational therapy?

Our minds are preoccupied by thoughts of past and future events and cannot attend fully to the engagement in occupations. Mindfulness improves impulse control, focus and emotional regulation. Due to this a person is better able to fully attend to and connect with the task at hand. 

As per research occupational therapy and mindfulness may support each other in supporting patients with physical dysfunction, neuro-cognitive and neuro-motor disorders. 

How to incorporate mindfulness into Occupational therapy?

The terms most commonly used for mindfulness in Occupational therapy practice are “mindful occupation”, “occupational presence”, “occupational awareness” and “occupational engagement”. 

Your child’s OT can incorporate mindfulness into the occupational therapy practice by combining a variety of interventions including:

  • Meditation: An Occupational Therapist can use guided meditation in order to get your child to become more present and centred. This can be done before or after a session or whenever the therapist feels a child needs to be centred or needs to re-focus their attention. 
  • Yoga: An Occupational Therapist can ask a child to practice mindful movements during the session to improve mind-body connection.
  • Body scans: Body scans allow a child to focus attention on various areas of the body and sensations felt. Its purpose is to tune in to one’s body and reconnect with the body (physical self). Body scans help with managing chronic pain, reducing anxiety or stress, and getting better sleep.
  • Breathing exercises: An Occupational Therapist might ask your child to focus on their breathing. The act of focusing on the breath usually slows it down, making one feel more relaxed. 
  • Education and awareness: An Occupational Therapist might help your child become aware of the “why” behind mindfulness practice. They can educate a child about how our brain is preoccupied and loses focus on the present and how mindfulness can help individuals gain that focus.
  • Homework and practice: Mindfulness does not just have to be confined to the occupational therapy session. Any child can practice it at home or at school, even for as little as 30 seconds. The desired result can only be achieved with daily practice.

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