How does "thinking" influence your diabetes control and management?

What is mindfulness?

Mindfulness – A word that is becoming increasingly common in our society, but did you know the practice is based on Eastern and Western traditions dating back to thousands of years ago?

Why has it stood the test of time and been practiced for so long?

One argument could be that it successfully improves individual's overall wellbeing. Mindfulness is simple, practical, efficient, and has major benefits to our overall wellbeing and functioning… it really is “priceless”.

Research (Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction and Diabetes) has shown many benefits from mindfulness activities, and more specifically in regards to diabetes:

  • Reduction in HbA1c (reduction in blood sugar levels)
  • Reduction in Blood Pressure
  • Strengthened Immune System
  • Increased Mood – Reduce Stress, Depression, Anxiety
  • Improved Concentration & Awareness
  • Weight-loss

The benefits of mindfuless was also supported in the research study The Effects of a Mindfulness-Based Intervention on Emotional Distress, Quality of Life, and HbA1c in Outpatients With Diabetes (DiaMind): A randomized controlled trial.

In simple terms, if we’re not being mindful, we’re being mindless. Overtime “mindless” behaviours, can lead to us ignoring the messages our body is giving us. We may ignore feelings of fullness, discomfort, or even symptoms of high or low blood sugar.

There are many ways to be more mindful and practice mindfulness that we’ll take a look at in detail. But at the core of each approach is the ability to be in present the ‘here and now’, to not be judgemental about our thoughts, and to have an awareness of how our body physically feels. We live in a busy world, the ‘noise’ is louder than ever before, our brain is constantly stimulated (even overwhelmed) and rarely get’s ‘time out’.

A simple way to think of mindfulness is that it’s your ‘time out’… time for your brain to focus on you, even for just a few minutes. Incorporating mindfulness in your weekly schedule can also help you be more productive and efficient – and therefore in the long-run it can save you time!

So, how can you practice mindfulness?

The great news is mindfulness is not hard to do or difficult to incorporate in our busy lives. The following exercises can help increase your mindfulness - although mindfulness is not limited to just these three.

Be Present

Have you ever found yourself in the moment where you were going from one place to another – and upon arrival you think, “How did I get here?” or “Where did I leave…?”. Have you been stopped in confusion thinking, “Did I take my medication?”. Or maybe when listening to someone else you think, “What did they say?”

Being absent minded in our daily activities limits our ability to understand things and take appropriate action. If our brain is elsewhere – then we may as well be too. Being present the “now” by focusing our attention to the current moment improves our efficiency as we make better decisions. It also reduces our tension, anxiety, and depression.

Try to be aware in ‘a’ moment, the sights, sounds, smells and even your actions – as all the other “stuff” can be thought about some other time.

Eat Attentively

Focus on the task of eating without distractions like the television, phone or work. However, when we’re multitasking instead of just focusing on eating – we eat MORE food and feel LESS satisfied.

Try to give 100% of your attention to every mouthful when eating meals and snacks, without distractions.

Just be

Quite often we’re on ‘autopilot’ in life and can miss the ‘small things’ in our surroundings. Taking the time to “smell the roses” or “just be” can be difficult to achieve, although it may be one of the most settling and simple behaviours that we can do in our life. This activity is designed to help enhance this skill –following the steps below and see how you feel or what you notice afterwards.

  • Find a comfortable and quiet place. You may want to lay on your back, or sit in a chair with your feet flat on the floor and back straight – make sure there’s no tension in your shoulders, let them drop.
  • Close your eyes.
  • Focus on your breathing – how does it feel for you chest to rise and drop. Don’t try to control your breath – just breathe in and out. Continue to do this for a minute or two.
  • Whilst you have your eyes shut and focus on your breath you may find your mind get’s distracted by a noise, a thought, a smell – this is completely normal. Just take the time to acknowledge that you have changed your focus, don’t worry or judge yourself, just let the thought “float by” and try to refocus back to your breath.
  • Continue to do this for as long as you like...

Did you notice that it was challenging to just be in the moment – without your brain talking to itself?

It really is common to find it challenging at first, however with practice this exercise can help improve our concentration and strengthen our ability to decide what thoughts we can focus on, or let float by.

Guided mindfulness meditations are one way that can help talk you through similar exercises like the one above. They can be as short as a few minutes or longer if you have the time – but if you would like to do more, have a look at the free app “SMILING MIND".

On the other hand if you found it hard to stay focused in the above activity – you could try a slight alternative. Instead of closing your eyes, pick a room or familiar object and give it your detailed attention. You may be surprised about the things you’ve never noticed before (like a crack in the wall, or how the sun enters the room).

Likewise, if sitting still was the difficulty – maybe an activity like yoga may help you achieve a similar level of consciousness in regards to your body, mind and breath.

Find a mindfulness approach that allows you to find this state of internal calmness and try committing to it for 2 weeks – at the end of the 2 weeks assess how you feel:

Do you have more energy?
Are you more productive?
Do you feel less stressed?
Are you sleeping better?

Why not jump on-board the “mindfulness movement”? – It works, it’s achievable, and you’re worth it!

Please see the following articles for more information: