Why Mindfulness for Dietitians?
Did you know that everything mindful (and mindful eating) is, like, so hot right now? Yep, you've noticed!
For us Dietitians, we’d be mad not to seek a better understanding how we can incorporate mindfulness practice, given it's potential not only enhance the quality and effectiveness of our everyday interactions with clients, patients, colleagues and others, but also increase longevity in the profession as we cultivate awareness of our limits, our needs and our strengths.
In other words, mindful practice could be one of the keys to taking better care of ourselves, in order to take better care of our clients in a way that enhances health outcomes - for everyone (you included!!). Plus, as you become more confident with your own practice, you're in a wonderful position to be able to share different aspects of mindfulness (particularly around cultivating awareness of eating behaviours) with your clients and patients in a competent and confident manner.
What is Mindfulness?
One of the more common definitions is:
"A special kind of attention characterized by attitudes of openness, curiosity, and acceptance. We notice our thoughts, feelings, physical sensations, and sense perceptions as we're having them in the present moment."
In other words,
Mindfulness is paying extra-ordinary attention to ordinary experiences.
Why mindfulness specifically for Dietitians?
My thoughts are that if we’re wanting to be authentic and genuine in our practice, then it certainly seems prudent to be engaging with mindfulness practice ourselves if we are wanting to be talking about it with our clients. In other words, talking to someone about mindful eating is not like teaching someone to read a label (you know it, you can teach it). Rather, I believe that mindfulness and mindful eating are practices that we teach and share from a place of authentic understanding and personal practice.
For Dietitians, this might mean deliberately taking the time to delve more deeply into mindfulness as a practice in your own personal life, to really grasp the language, and be a role model for your clients. Being present with your clients and patients is possibly the most valuable gift you can offer. Understanding how mindfully being with your clients offers you rich information and feedback, not only about their experience, but about your experience too.
So why do I think mindfulness is such an important practice for Dietitians?
1. Because we are human…
Yes. Yes we are. And some days probably more than others right? Our human experience has shaped the reasons why we pursued Dietetics as a profession. It has also influenced how we’ve ended up in our particular workplaces, the clients we attract, and the way in which we work. Our own human experience can offer us incredible wisdom and insight that can exponentially improve the way we interact with the humans who are our clients and patients. Using mindfulness, we can come to a greater understanding our own day-to-day, moment-to-moment experiences which give us incredible information, can create space for better choices and allow us to be the most empathic, helpful, supportive and wise practitioner we can be.
2. Because we work with other humans…
Our interactions with others forms a big part of our work. We spend lots of time listening, evaluating, assessing, analysing and conversing. Mindfulness can offer us additional depth to our interactions with others by helping us cultivate greater awareness of others’ experiences, and our own. For example, when we are seeing a patient we’re in a better position to be able to:
be aware of our own thoughts as they arise (without reacting to, or judging them)
notice any physical sensations within our own bodies that provide us with valuable information
allow us to pause before reacting or saying something that might be unhelpful
find a stable, centred place from which to offer considered advice or feedback.
3. Because we work with humans who have concerns....
Some, if not most, of the clients and patients we see have concerns of some description. They may be minor concerns, major concerns, or life-threatening concerns. Our interactions with people when they’re under stress can have an incredible impact. It can alleviate some concern, or it can compound concern. Mindfulness can help us tell the difference, and guide us to carefully evaluate our options when we’re working with people under stress.
4. Because being in a caring profession can be stressful…
It’s well understood that daily stress and worries can lead to a variety of negative outcomes specifically in health professionals. These include:
Burnout (or “compassion fatigue” - see below)
apathy (about your job)
poor mental health
In some cases, being in a caring role can come at the expense of caring for yourself; and often this continued service to others can lead to what’s been termed ‘compassion fatigue’.
5. Because Mindfulness improves reduces stress and improves health
We understand that Mindfulness is often prescribed to people with health problems as a way of encouraging them to lead richer, more meaningful & healthier lives.
We’ve got plenty of research to support the positive impact of mindfulness on health and well-being. Three different meta-analyses show mindfulness based therapies can:
How you can get started:
One of the reasons I developed “The Mindful Dietitian” is because I believe that Dietitians are in a brilliant position to be regarded as experts in mindfulness practices, particularly mindful eating. However, I'm also passionate about authentic practice, and we’re probably learning about these practices and experiences beyond graduation. For some of us (ahem), waaaaaay beyond graduation!
You can do a more general & formalised course in mindfulness such as MBSR (Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction) which are run in capital cities, and some regional areas. You can find some starting points HERE.
Alternatively, Fiona Sutherland APD at The Mindful Dietitian is offering short introductions to mindfulness specifically for Dietitians - this is a real toe-dip but can give you a good place to start in terms of developing a greater understanding of the concepts, and how it applies to our practice. There is going to be 1.5 hour live workshops run throughout the year with small numbers so you can have your burning questions answered. Then, there are mindfulness-based course series which incorporate the practices you may like to understand further to share with your clients, such as appetite awareness and food cues. All this (and more!) can be found at The Mindful Dietitian, the place for everything mindful and client-centred.
Dawn Bazarko, Rebecca A. Cate, Francisca Azocar, Mary Jo Kreitzer. The Impact of an Innovative Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Program on the Health and Well-Being of Nurses Employed in a Corporate Setting. Journal of Workplace Behavioral Health, 2013; 28 (2): 107