Mindfulness: treating the whole patient
Integrative health is care that focuses on the whole person. It combines the expertise of healthcare professionals and a variety of therapeutic approaches across disciplines to achieve optimal health and healing. It is the union of mainstream medicine with complementary health practices.
Mindfulness is one of many complementary health practices offered through the Integrative Health program at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP). Mindfulness is the active state of being aware and keeping your attention in the present moment. When you are mindful, you observe your thoughts and feelings without judging them as good or bad.
Mindfulness can be practiced in different ways: through meditation or other exercises, and informally in daily life by being present in a moment or an activity and putting aside distractions.
Research has found many health benefits from the practice of mindfulness. It can reduce stress and anxiety, lower heart rate and blood pressure, and help people better manage chronic pain. It has been shown to be effective in keeping patients well after treatment for depression. Mindfulness may also help with academic success by helping to increase attention and working memory and improve emotional regulation.
How CHOP brings mindfulness to patients
In association with the Penn Program for Mindfulness, we offer classes in mindfulness to preteens and teens. All are welcome to attend sessions, either as a compliment to a medical treatment plan or to help a well child gain the emotional and mental health benefits of mindfulness practice.
In each session, an instructor will guide your child through a variety of mindfulness practices. He or she will also have the opportunity to learn about stress and stress management. Everyone in the class will sit or lie down and be asked to close their eyes or lower their gaze. They will be asked to pay attention to a specific point of focus — for example, their breathing, their body or sounds in the room. They will then be guided through a process of deepening this focus, and will learn how to notice distractions as they arise and how to gently let them go and return to their point of focus.
Who can benefit from practicing mindfulness?
Mindfulness is designed to be a daily practice your child can use throughout their life, through adolescences and adulthood. It can help children and teens deal with the anxiety surrounding an illness or medical procedure. It can help them cope with stress, chronic pain or depression. And it can help them build a sense of well-being, even in the face of adversity.
Serious side effects from the practice of mindfulness are rare. Children with psychotic disorder should not participate. The mindfulness sessions at CHOP are closely managed to ensure your child’s safety and sense of accomplishment.
Please talk to your child’s healthcare provider if you are interested in mindfulness training sessions for your child.