The spiritual support that hospice care provides reminds patients and family members of the importance of remaining mindful. Being mindful is about more than just having a general awareness of your current situation. It is about living in the present moment, purposefully paying attention and making a concerted effort to remain non-judgmental. While it often feels easier to try to avoid pain and suffering by ignoring grief, remaining mindful offers certain advantages, especially long-term. Let’s take some time to explore them.
Practicing mindfulness helps you to recognize and accept the reality of your current situation. It is not meant to convince yourself or anyone else that everything is okay. It does not minimize your need to cry, get angry or experience other emotions. In fact, in many ways, it gives you permission to experience these emotions more openly.
Shift Your Self Talk
When you practice mindfulness, your self-talk often shifts. Instead of feeling guilty or angry about the grief you are experiencing, you acknowledge your pain and even face it head on. Surprisingly, it takes less energy to confront grief than it does to run from it. Practicing mindfulness helps you conserve that much needed energy and refocus it on more important tasks.
Physical and Health Benefits
Mindful meditation and other related tasks help you better manage physical pain too. When you are in the moment and truly focusing on how you are feeling and how your body is responding, you release muscle tension. Headaches and unpleasant sensations in your stomach or chest are also often reduced. Sleep often improves, your immune system gets a boost and you improve your chances of remaining healthy through this difficult period.
Living mindfully is not difficult, but learning how to do this often takes practice. Since this is a way of being, it often takes a little time to get in the habit and make mindful living a normal part of your daily routine. Many individuals benefit from trying a few exercises as they are starting down the path toward living more mindfully. These exercises are simple, not time consuming and ideal when your loved one is in hospice and the extra hours in your day might feel limited.
Breathing mindfully is something you can do anytime and anywhere. Practice it by your loved one’s bedside, while the hospice nurse is taking vitals or even when you are settling down for the evening and preparing for bed. Simply focus your attention on your body as breath enters and exits it. Consider how your chest rises. Think about the way in which your lungs are filling and emptying. Does the air feel warm or cool? Can you expand your nostrils a little more as you breath in? Try to slow the breath down and perhaps breathe a little deeper. This helps to calm your body and mind, and it is also wonderful if you are feeling anxious or stressed.
Mindful walking combines mindfulness with physical activity, and this enhances the benefits. If you tend to isolate yourself when you are experiencing grief, this activity will get you outside for a change of scenery and breath of fresh air. Try to walk in nature if possible. Stop along the way and close your eyes for a minute. Consider the smells and sounds around you. Pay attention to your feet when they hit the dirt or pavement. How does it sound? How does it feel? Look for colors, shapes and textures. Reach out and touch them. Try to clear your mind and simply be in the moment.
We all often fill our heads with negative comments. This is especially true when life feels difficult. Create a mantra for yourself. There is no need to make it complicated – simply repeating “I am loved”, “I am at peace” or “I am worthy” might be enough. Then, spend a few minutes each day reciting this mantra to yourself either in your head or out loud. In time, this mantra will become your reality. The more you say it, the more likely you are to believe it.
Mindful living is not about diminishing grief. Rather, it helps you to gain acceptance and an awareness of both where you are today and what your strengths are. Begin your mindful practice today. If you need support, reach out to your hospice chaplain at Salus Homecare Los Angeles and together, we will work toward helping you accept where you are today and embrace this moment in time.
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