Benefits of Mindfulness on Women’s Health
Many often do not think about it, but our mood and life experiences play an essential role in our health. Our mood and life stressors can negatively impact our health outcomes and experiences. For example, women who undergo various forms of stress often experience different health conditions such as cancer, heart disease, reproductive illness, and many more.
Any illness can be alienating, stressful, and anxiety-producing for the individual. Women often experience a roller-coaster of mental, emotional, physical, and spiritual effects of receiving a diagnosis. They try to make sense of it all while continuing their day-to-day responsibilities of work and family, amongst other things.
People try to understand their health conditions by examining how it impacts their identity, self-esteem, relationships, and existential understanding of life. Acute and chronic illnesses can disrupt everyday life routines, forcing individuals to develop new patterns to accommodate the condition into their lives. This adjustment can cause them to experience a strain in their lives, making them more susceptible to anxiety, worry, depression, stress, fatigue, uncertainty, and experience a lack of pleasure or motivation. The emotional impact of being diagnosed and undergoing treatment can often cause individuals to feel helpless and develop poor boundaries, whether they are the caretakers of a sick loved one or the individual experiencing the illness.
Becoming sick is a part of life’s journey. While some claim excellent health, every person has been ill at least once in their lifetime. Every illness disrupts our lives, whether chronic or acute. Receiving a medical prognosis and diagnosis impacts one’s perspective of themselves and how one makes new meaning in life.
In honor of National Breast Cancer Awareness month, I propose a tool for the women who are the patients, caregivers, and loved ones of those whose lives were disrupted by chronic illness. I suggest creating a space to help them reclaim parts of their lives by learning self-compassion and self-care through mindfulness.
Mindfulness is the state in which one develops increased awareness of one’s physical, mental, and emotional condition in the present moment without becoming judgmental. By practicing mindfulness, the individual learns to be present with themselves and to associate emotional experiences with bodily sensations, cognitions/ thoughts, and feelings. Mindfulness enables individuals to control their thoughts rather than be controlled by them. Mindfulness provides us with the comfort we need in tumultuous moments of our lives. Daily mindfulness practices strengthen and alter the parts of our brain associated with controlling emotions and stress responses. Mindfulness teaches us how to maintain a sense of control by relieving stress. The more mindful we are, the fewer stress hormones are released due to increased relaxation.
Practicing mindfulness can be done within and outside of a clinical setting. You can include mindfulness in daily activities and hobbies such as mindfulness meditation, yoga, walking, listening to music, breathwork breathing exercises, guided imagery, body scans, sitting meditations, journaling, artistic activities, and affirmations. Mindfulness is about intentionality and bringing a focus to the here and now. You can practice mindfulness in daily tasks by setting bedtime and morning routines, putting your phone away while eating, listening to music, and creating time for spirituality.
Lastly, practicing mindfulness can help cultivate a stress-free day away from watching television or aimlessly scrolling through Tik Tok videos and Instagram reels. Instead, we replace these activities with reading the book you bought from amazon last year, attempting to complete that DIY project you saved on Pinterest last month, or simply choosing to do absolutely nothing.
Here is a tool to practice developing mindfulness in your own lives during downtime, in the morning, evening, or during breaks; ask yourself questions like:
- How do I feel?
- How does my body feel?
- What are my bodily sensations communicating to me?
- What do I need at this moment to be okay?
Stress is a negative catalyst for physical, mental, and emotional well-being. Mindfulness is intentionally living in the moment by teaching ourselves how to create intentional habits that will mature self-compassion, gratitude, and appreciation. It teaches us to trust the process in our journeys and how to extend empathy to ourselves while coping with illness.
Daniella Bonhomme, MFT, is a Staff Therapist in our University City and Center City offices and also provides online therapy. She is also the Community Partnerships Initiative (CPI) Project H.O.M.E. Onsite Therapist. To set-up an appointment, you can reach her at email@example.com or 215-382-6680 ext. 4337