Mindfulness is a specific type of meditation. As stated in Buddha’s Brain by Rick Hanson, Ph.D and Richard Mendius, M.D., “Mindfulness involves the skillful attention to both your inner and outer worlds” and is the “doorway to taking good experiences and making them a part of yourself.” In simpler terms, it is to focus intently on what you may be feeling in a moment, but not necessarily passing any judgment on said feelings. Mindfulness meditation is inherently spiritual and is rooted in Buddhist practice; however, regardless of your religious and spiritual affiliation, practicing mindfulness meditation has many benefits for anyone – including during and after pregnancy.
Pregnancy is a huge undertaking, with many physical and mental changes throughout. Because of this, both pregnant and postpartum individuals are more susceptible to mental health issues, such as anxiety and depression. Fortunately, mindfulness meditation has been shown to be effective in reducing anxiety and depression, as well as stress, therefore overall improving a person’s mood. Shelley Kind says that mindfulness meditation works because it teaches you to respond to stress with awareness, rather than responding instinctively to whatever may be happening. It also helps you to be open and accepting of your emotions, so you are better equipped to process them.
When a huge change happens to your body, especially when that change involves creating and giving birth to life, it is common for your immune system to weaken. There are studies that demonstrate that consistent practice of mindfulness meditation can lead to an increase of T-cells, a type of white blood cell that develop from stem cells in bone marrow to protect the body from a variety of infections. This indicates that mindfulness meditation can play a positive role in your overall immune health and response to infections or diseases, which can prevent the likelihood of getting sick during pregnancy.
The postpartum period can be challenging in that many moms find it more difficult to extend empathy and compassion for themselves during a huge life adjustment. David Gelles, author of Mindful Work writes in Chapter 6 that mindfulness can generate compassion for ourselves and others because we are able to recognize that our frustrations are not unique and that many people feel the same, helping us acknowledge our own and other people’s humanity. Gelles looks at using mindfulness meditation in a business setting, but it applies, because let’s be honest —being a mom is a full-time job!
Taking these amazing benefits into account, here are three different types of mindfulness meditation practices you can try!
Walking meditation centers around the concept of focusing on the action of walking. The practice allows you to be present during this activity in a way that you may not normally. This particular mindfulness meditation practice could be especially helpful during the early parts of the 4th trimester during your recovery! Whether you’ve had a vaginal or cesarean, walking itself is a great way to ease back into physical activity*. And since walking meditation is purposefully meant to be much slower than your typical walk, it really eases you back into things.
How it’s done:
*It is important to check with your healthcare provider(s) regarding your physical activity after birth, especially if you have had a c-section.
The purpose of the body scan is to connect with your physical self and acknowledge any sensations or feelings related to your body without judgment. As such, this mindfulness practice is beneficial if you are pregnant because you can become more aware of all the things your body may be telling you by tuning into each and every part of yourself.
How it’s done:
Rooted in Japanese culture, Forest Bathing is about embracing yourself and the sensations you feel, but in a forest or simply in nature. If you choose to walk in the forest, it is slightly different from walking meditation in that instead of focusing solely on your steps, you are also acknowledging the sensations that come specifically from nature. Forest bathing is a great practice during your postpartum period because it encourages you to take time for yourself, away from home. Additionally, mindfulness meditation and being in nature provides the ultimate combination to reduce stress and help you have more empathy for yourself because nature helps to lower stress, improve mood, and promote an uptick in empathy!
How it’s done:
Whether you are currently pregnant or just recently became a parent, we hope you find these three mindfulness meditation practices beneficial. With all the changes you are experiencing, both mentally and physically, these practices can be a great way to improve your mental health, support your immune system and give yourself grace during the challenges you may face. As an added bonus, you can participate in these practices whenever and wherever you want and for however long you want, making it one of the most adaptable ways to support yourself during and after pregnancy (even later in life). Regardless, if you choose to try these practices or not, remember to take a breath and give yourself a moment – you’ve got this, mama!