Mindfulness for Mothers: Our Hints and Tips
As a new mother, change will be a big part of your life, and mindfulness is likely to be the last thing on your mind. There’s so much newness to which you must adapt. New responsibilities, new routines, new sleeping patterns, the list goes on. So, it’s easy to get caught up in the busyness of it all.
That said, practising mindfulness can really help to slow you down and get you back in tune with yourself and your emotions. It’s also a great way to centre yourself and can help you be more present with your baby.
At Hiccups and Buttercups, we know how daunting motherhood can be, so we’ve put together a guide on mindfulness to help you get to grips with the practice. In this article, we’ll explore:
- What mindfulness is and a bit about its history
- How mindfulness can be helpful for mothers
- Some mindfulness techniques and practice tips
Mindfulness and its history
Mindfulness finds its roots in Buddhism, and the term traces back to the Pali word sati, which means awareness, attention, and vipassana, which refers to the insight gained through meditation. While the practice originated in the East, Jon Kabat-Zinn, the founder of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR), modernized it, bringing it into the western landscape in the 1970s.
The practise of mindfulness is essentially a form of meditation, whereby participants focus their attention on the present moment. Mindfulness involves a range of different techniques, including breathing methods and guided imagery.
There are also a few key principles that can help to guide beginners. The main pillars are:
- Non-judging - This involves being an impartial witness to your own experience and having an awareness of your judging mind without trying to stop it.
- Patience - Here, one should let things unfold at their natural pace, without trying to rush things. So, for example, enjoying the present moment for its offerings.
- Beginner’s mind - This pillar encourages participants to be open and receptive to new possibilities and not look at the world through a lens of ‘I know it all, but rather, look with fresh eyes.
- Trust - This pillar highlights the value of trusting one's instincts, honouring one’s feelings, and seizing responsibility for one’s wellbeing.
- Non-striving - It’s easy to get caught up in wanting to experience the next thing or focus one’s attention on the next goal; however, this pillar encourages participants to embrace who they are within the present moment.
- Acceptance - We can often feel tested by events we have experienced in the past or feel frustrated that our lives aren’t where we expected they would be. This pillar emphasises the importance of being willing to see things as they are. This doesn’t mean you should let go of your goals or tolerate that which irks you, but rather accept the current moment in its present state.
- Letting go - For many, this may seem to be easier said than done, but it goes hand-in-hand with the pillar of acceptance and is the practice of non-attachment, allowing things to be as they are.
How can mindfulness be helpful for mothers?
Mindfulness can be incredibly helpful for mothers for several reasons. At Hiccups & Buttercups, we spoke to Claire Plumbly, a clinical psychologist, to get her perspective.
She said: “Often mums have become experts in multi-tasking and spend a lot of time in their heads lost in planning, thoughts or worries. Everyday mindfulness allows a moment to bring yourself back into the present and interrupts that thought train.”
“Giving you a break from this can help you to manage your stress levels and also help you to detach from your thoughts, which is a great skill, particularly for anxious thoughts.”
Research into mindfulness in parenting is still an emerging field; that said, there are some studies that reveal just how impactful mindfulness can be. In 2019, a study into the impact of mindfulness on mothers' psychological well being found that mindfulness significantly reduced self-perceived stress and depression. A study by Laurent et al. in 2016 found that postnatal mindfulness in parenting is good for babies, too and is predictive of infant stress regulation.
Mindfulness techniques and practice tips
When it comes to mindfulness, one size doesn’t fit all. Every mum has different availability, needs, time restraints and goals, so there are different options available for mums to try.
Dr Claire Plumbly explains the two different ways of practising mindfulness: “There are two ways of practising mindfulness: formal meditations and everyday mindfulness. The first kind is certainly helpful for getting deep into the practice but involves sitting down with audio to be guided through a practice for 15-40 minutes. For busy mums, this is often not practical because they are time-poor.”
That’s why everyday mindfulness can be a better option for mums with less time. “Everyday mindfulness (also known as informal mindfulness) involves doing something you already do but mindfully: i.e. using the activity to anchor your attention in the present moment.”
“When your thoughts drift off (which is normal), you can then bring your attention back to the activity. Good options for everyday mindfulness are: drinking your cup of coffee, showering and eating your lunch. These options are good because they are usually short activities that you are doing anyway and are wonderful sensory experiences that we usually miss because we live life in our heads a lot of the time. (Think about how wonderful the splashes of water from the shower feel on your skin, the lathering of the soap, the smells etc.).”
These days, there truly is an app for everything, and while too much dependency on the digital can increase stress, there are several mindfulness apps that can help you on your journey. These include Headspace, Calm and Aura.
Carving out time for mindfulness is a great form of self-care, and unlike other forms of meditation, it isn’t time-consuming and doesn’t have to be another thing you have to add to your to-do list. Breathing, walking, eating, showering or even brushing your teeth can all be done mindfully.
So, if you’re a mother who is curious about finding ways to improve your wellbeing, lower your stress levels and be more present in your life, mindfulness might be the meditative practice for you.