In May, Walden began a three month mindfulness meditation pilot program, called Walden’s Mindful Moment, developed by executive and clinical staff. The program expands Walden’s commitment to a whole person approach to treatment that includes integrating mind, body and spirit.
Mindfulness is the practice of awareness that involves observing and accepting our experience of the present moment without judging, avoiding or getting swept up in it. Research shows that mindfulness helps reduce eating disorder behaviors, intrusive thoughts, anxiety and depression, among other benefits. In fact, practicing mindfulness actually begins to change the brain in as little as two weeks, and the effect is cumulative: the more you practice, the more benefits you will see.
To help patients develop a routine of mindfulness, patients are offered the mindfulness meditation group at the same time each day. After a brief introduction and explanation, the patients practice mindfulness meditation for about 10 minutes, guided by a facilitator. After the practice, patients have the opportunity to process their experience.
“There are several different ways to practice mindfulness meditation, and we want to familiarize our patients with different practices, so that they can find what works best for them,” said Natalie Hill, LICSW and one of the developers of the program.
Currently, Walden offers patients a series of four different mindfulness practices. The patient groups use the same practice every day for a week, to allow participants to get a feel for that method. Then, the next week, a new practice is introduced.
To measure the effectiveness of the program, Walden’s Braintree Eating Disorders Clinic is using a questionnaire called the Cognitive and Affective Mindfulness Scale-Revised. The questionnaire assesses four aspects of mindfulness: attention, present focus, awareness and acceptance. Patients complete the questionnaire at the beginning and end of treatment to see if and how mindfulness changes during treatment. It also helps Walden staff see if there is any correlation with other questionnaires that patients complete; assessing eating disorder symptoms. After the pilot program, if the results turn out positive, Walden’s goal is to expand the program to include additional practice methods across the full continuum of care.
“So far, the response has been positive. Out of the four practices, patients have been able to find one or more that they connect with. Patients have also been bringing mindfulness up more often in other groups and individual sessions, so it seems like it’s staying with them,” said Hill.
In addition to offering the meditations in in-person groups, Walden also offers them online so that patients and the general public can practice mindfulness on their own. To learn more about mindfulness and to begin your own practice click here