Motivation and emotion/Book/2022/Mindful self-care

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Mindful self-care:
What is mindful self-care, why does it matter, and how can it be developed?


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Mindful self-care is a way to look after our well-being by being aware in the present moment to our internal and external needs (Kabat-Zinn, 2015; Cook-Cottone & Guyker, 2018). Mindful self-care has been a recent development in the western world,[grammar?] the concept of mindfulness was developed in Buddhist traditions and practices of meditation (Hamilton et al. 2006; Baminwatta & Solangaarachchi, 2021). Mindful self-care looks at practices that help us to be able to be in-the-moment and pay attention to our thoughts, feelings, emotions and needs, practices help us to be able to regulate emotions effectively, handle life’s stressors, be our best self and many more which can be beneficial to support and maintain aspects of our life including our mental health, physical health, career/education life and with relationships. Mindful self-care practices can come in many forms, [grammar?] assessing the what need [say what?] should be fulfilled to maintain healthy mental or physical health, work-life or relationship levels can help decide what mindful self-care practice to use. Practices can range from meditation, getting enough rest, ensuring proper nutrition and hydration, connecting with friends or getting support at work as a few examples. Ensuring that mindful self-care is not neglected when times are stressful aim [grammar?] at reducing the risk of mental health issues, physical health issues and deteriorations with work-life, education or relationships.

Focus questions
  1. What is mindful self-care?
  2. What areas of life can be influence[grammar?] by mindful self-care?
  3. How can mindful self-care be developed?

What is Mindful Self-Care?

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[Provide more detail]

What is mindfulness?

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Figure 1. Relaxed and calm person on the beach during sunset

Mindfulness is one of the most powerful meditative practices that may be one of the easiest to take part in (Kabat-Zinn, 2015). Mindfulness is the attention and awareness to the present moment, of internal and external experiences such as thoughts, feelings, needs and demands, sensations and experiences (Kabat-Zinn, 2015; Creswell, 2017; Cook-Cottone & Guyker, 2018). The mind tends to wander up to approximately 47% of the time which takes away from our ability to be in aware and grounded in the present moment’s experiences (Creswell, 2017). The practice of being mindful can be learnt and developed through practices of meditation, relaxation and self-care practices which can help us to remain aware and present instead of our mind wandering (Kabat-Zinn, 2015; Cook-Cottone & Guyker, 2018). Nyanaponika Thera, a Buddhist monk and scholar described mindfulness as a master key in knowing the mind and is an effective tool in shaping the mind (Kabat-Zinn, 2015). Hamilton and colleagues (2006) posits that the goal mindfulness is to live fully in the present moment, and experience life completely.

What is self-care?

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Self-care is {{gr} refers to the active practices and activities people engage in to promote their physical and mental health and overall well-being. These actions has been found to limit and mediate risks associated with various illnesses and diseases as well as maintaining health and coping with illness or disability (Levnin & Idler, 1983; Mindful Staff, n.d.; Geneva: World Health Organisation, 2021; Zeb et al., 2022). Self-care includes areas of self-management which includes self-treatment and self-medication etc, self-testing including self-screening and self-diagnosis etc, and self-awareness such as self-help, self-efficacy and self-education (Geneva: World Health Organisation, 2021). Self-care is essential to an individual’s overall health and can be an easier, more affordable and more accessible option of care which may be advised by health care professional and completed without their assistance (Levin & Idler, 1983; Geneva, World Health Organisation, 2021).

Mindful self-care are active practices that aim to prevent and protect the onset of symptoms, or decrease any present symptoms associated with mental illnesses (Cook-Cottone & Guyker, 2018). Mindful self-care practices provide you with tools and resources to maintain and protect your well-being during stressful periods to prevent any internal or external issues within your control (Mindful Staff, n.d.). When mindful self-care is not prioritised or maintained it may lead to physical or mental health issues or issues in aspects of an individual’s life such as their friendships, romantic relationships or any other important relationships in their life, or issues with work and/or education (Cook-Cottone & Guyker, 2018).

Theories of mindful self-care

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Theories of mindful self-care have been developed and based on earlier models and theories formulated from positive psychology and concepts of self. Cook-Cottone and Guyker (2018) developed the Mindful Self-Care Scale (MSCS) which is a tool useful in promoting, studying and enhancing an individual’s experience and psychological well-being. MSCS was based on the Attuned Representational Model of Self (ARMS) which looked at the integration of internal experiences and external experiences as a representation of the self (Cook-Cotton & Guyker, 2018). Originally MSCS was developed to investigate how mindful self-care and disordered eating influenced one another but was found that it can be applied to other areas of wellbeing such as burnout, risk for mental illness as a preventative assessment and measure (Cook-Cottone & Guyker, 2018). A similar model to MSCS is the Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) investigates using practices of mindfulness as a strategy to reduce stress, anxiety and depression which emphasises the use of mindful meditation as the main reduction strategy (Hamilton et al. 2006). Practices of mindful meditation is consistent with the goals of positive psychology of improving one’s awareness and well-being through enhancing their resilience and mindfulness in internal and external aspects of their experiences (Hamilton et al. 2006).

Figure 2. Buddhist monk practicing meditation

Recent popularisation of mindful self-care

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Mindful self-care has recently become popular in the field of psychology as a way to reduce symptoms of, or reduce the risk of development of mental issues. The practice of being mindful can be traced to around 25 centuries ago to Buddhist traditions and practices of mindfulness meditation (Hamilton et al. 2006; Baminwatta & Solangaarachchi, 2021). Over the last 20 years, literature on mindfulness has grown immensely in the western world (Baminiwatta & Solangaarachchi, 2021; Kirmayer, 2015) after Kabat-Zinn developed his Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) in the 90s which led to research investigating the benefits of mindfulness on mental and physical health attributes (Hamilton et al. 2006; Baminiwatta & Solanfaarachchi, 2021; Kirmayer, 2015).

What is the importance of mindful self-care?

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The importance of mindful self-care is the effect it can have on an individual’s internal needs involving mental and physical well-being and their external needs involving their relationships, education and work/career (Cook-Cottone & Guyker, 2018; Zeb et al. 2022). Practices and interventions of mindful self-care can promote an individual’s participation in their own health in order to protect and prevent the onset of numerous health issues (Cook-Cottone & Guyker, 2018; Geneva: World Health Organisation, 2021). Self-care can be seen by the World Health Organisation (2022) as having the ability to improve universal health through the mechanisms of self-care practice that are accessible, affordable and acceptable, which can promote self-efficacy, self-determination and autonomy for individuals therefore reducing individuals relying on health care systems that may lack accessibility or quality. As well as health, poor self-care can significantly impact one’s working life and/or career as well as their relationships. When life gets stressful and busy, self-care is often not prioritised and is sacrificed (Black Dog Institute, n.d.) which may result in burnout, reduced productivity, breakdowns of relationships and an increase in chance of developing or exacerbating mental health issues (Cook-Cottone & Guyker, 2018; Scott, 2022). Actively practicing mindful self-care can make an individual more effective and improve their ability to regulate emotions and encourage physiological stability (Black Dog Institute, n.d.; Cook-Cottone & Guyker, 2018). Mindful self-care can have a variety of aspects involved depending on an individual’s internal and external needs including: mindful relaxation, hydration, nutrition, rest, exercise, medical care, environmental structure, supportive relationships and self-compassion (Cook-Cottone & Guyker, 2018).

Mental health

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Mental health is an important aspect of self-care that can influence a persons' well-being and can affect other aspects of their life. Mental health is incredibly important as it is shaped by the way you think what what fills your mind which shapes your mental well-being (Scott, 2022). Self-compassion and acceptance helps an individual to be kind to oneself, maintain a stable mindset in difficult circumstances and being aware to negative self-talk (Cook-Cotton & Guyker, 2019; Scott, 2022). Emotional self-care is somewhat similar to mental self-care and influence each other, emotional self-care is the coping skills to deal with negative and uncomfortable emotion and being able to express, regulate and acknowledge these emotions in a healthy manner (Scott, 2022). Spiritual self-care helps provide someones with a sense of purpose, inspiration, deeper meaning and connection to what is important to them (Cook-Cottone & Guyker, 2018; Scott; 2022). Spiritual self-care can be inspired by religion, spirituality or anything that greater than oneself (Cook-Cottone & Guyker, 2018).

Physical Health

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Figure 3. Exercise is a good type of mindful self-care.

Physical health includes nutrition, hydration, rest, exercise and any medical appointments relating to the body’s health. Ensuring the body is healthy provides us the best chance at responding to life stressors than compared to an unhealthy body (Cook-Cottone & Guyker, 2018), physical self-care helps to maintain a healthy body. Nutrition and hydration is important to providing the body with enough energy and fluids to function effectively. A lack of nutrition can influence mood regulation and sense of well-being (Cook-Cottone & Guyker, 2018) and dehydration can reduce mental and physical performance (Cook-Cottone & Guyker, 2018). Insufficient hydration and nutrition may lead to a range of serious health issues. Physical exercise can positively influence one’s well-being and has numerous health benefits. Physical exercise is proven to reduce stress by releasing endorphins, improving resting metabolic rate, increasing blood flow, lessening fatigue and other stress-related conditions (Cook-Cottone & Guyker, 2018). Rest includes enough sleep and restful breaks which affect one’s cognition and energy levels to function effectively (Cook-Cottone & Guyker, 2018). Physical self-care also includes attending regular medical check-ups and appointments and taking prescribed medication as doctors advise (Cook-Cottone & Guyker, 2018; Scott, 2022).

Career and Education

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Work-life and education can be affected by one’s well-being and their well-being can be affected by their work-life and education to[grammar?]. Work-related barriers can prevent someone to actively practice self-care, these barriers can include shift work, work-related stress, long work hours, personal barriers, and social and cultural barriers (Zeb et al. 2022). If self-care is not prioritised it can lead to fatigue, exhaustion, burnout, decreased productivity, poor decision-making and decreased motivation (Craigie et al. 2016; Zeb et al. 2022). Similarly, education can be affected in the same way that work is affected by poor or lack of self-care.


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Relationships, such as friendships, romantic relationships, work connections and community relationships are essential to an individuals' wellbeing. Taking the time to build close and supportive relationships provides a person with support network and the opportunity to improve socialisation capabilities, which is especially important when perceived well-being is reduced in the face of hardship (Scott, 2022; Cook-Cotton & Guyker, 2018). Self-care within relationships may involve consistent reflection of how one can support others, or how to reach out for support to ensure maintenance of wellbeing.

How can we practice mindful self-care?

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Practicing mindful self-care can take many forms as there are many aspects of mindful self-care including mindful awareness, mindful relaxation, hydration and nutrition, exercise, medical care, rest, relationships, enviornmental[spelling?] structure and spiritual practices (Cook-Cottone & Guyker, 2018) that an individual can take as approaches to partaking in self-care. Being aware and mindful to your internal and external needs and making an assessment is the first step to self-care. Being mindful to what needs need to be fulfilled takes practice itself, mindfulness can be redefined and learnt through practice (Kabat-Zinn, 2015). Consistent mindful self-care can prevent the consequences of poor self-care such as mental and physical health issues, productivity and motivation issues and burnout (Zeb et al. 2022). Mindful self-care can be practiced by adjusting some of the daily habits and considering the effects they have on you (Mindful Staff, n.d.). An example of habits that can be adjusted are: getting to bed earlier, taking a social-media break, taking a restful break from work, taking time to recognise what we need an intervention tool can help ensure that mindful self-care is being taken (Mindful staff, n.d.)[grammar?]. Another method is to rewire our brain [how?] to ensure we are taking self-care steps by developing a self-care plan (Mindful Staff, n.d.; Black Dog Institute, n.d.; Scott, 2022).

Self Care Plan

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A self-care plan is a fail-safe intervention tool that provides you with a plan and range of coping strategies for when situations are overwhelming, stressful and challenging to ensure you are looking after your internal and external needs (Mindful Staff, n.d.; Black Dog Institute, n.d.; Headspace, n.d.; Scott, 2022). A self-care plan aims to create positive habits to cope with stressors instead of using negative behvaiours[spelling?] to cope such as: substance abuse, withdrawal, self-harm, outbursts, suppressing emotions and yelling (Mindful staff, n.d.; Black Dog Institute, n.d.). Developing a self-care plan should be done when you are feeling the best version of yourself to avoid trying to create a plan for when you aren’t in the right frame of mind to do so and should be regularly assessed to better align with your needs as they change (Mindful Staff, n.d.; Scott, 2022).

Self-Care Plan
Steps Examples
Identify what your stressors are Work, school, relationships, finances, health issues etc.
Identify your needs (internal and external) Better sleep, better nutrition, exercise, rest etc.
Write down your positive coping strategies Mindful meditation, connecting with friends, exercise, listening to music, gratitude, relaxation, rest etc.
Reassess your plan and adjust where needed Reassess your plan before a known stressor approaches such as exam period, or once a month.

(Mindful Staff, n.d.; Black Dog Institute, n.d.; Scott, 2022; Headspace, n.d.).


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Mindful self-care is an important practice to maintain one’s mental and physical health as well as their career/education and their relationships. Mindful self-care implements practices that fulfil internal and external needs that may be negatively influencing one’s well-being. Mindful self-care originated from Buddhist traditions of meditation but has developed into the awareness of one’s own feelings, thought, emotions and needs, and surroundings in the present moment. Being aware of what is happening internally and externally in the moment can help one to realise what needs they may be neglecting, which is important to prevent any issues if this occurs[grammar?]. Ensuring mindful self-care occurs, issues with mental and physical health may be reduced or avoided, and issues with work-life/education and relationships such as burnout and outbursts can be prevented. Practicing mindful self-care can take many forms such as meditation, listening to music, exercising, rest, adequate hydration and nutrition, communication with friends, following medical advice, taking time off from work and more. A self-care plan is a good strategy to ensure that one’s internal and external needs are not being neglected which may result in unwanted consequences, [grammar?] this may need reassessing regularly to ensure that an effective plan is in place. A self-care plan takes the guesswork out of needing to assess and plan self-care strategies during stressful periods making it easier on an individual.

See also

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Baminiwatta, A. & Solangaarachchi, I. (2021). Trends and development in mindfulness research over 55 years: A bibliometric analysis of publication indexed in web of science. Mindfulness. 12. 2099-2116.

Cook-Cottone, C. P. & Guyker, W. M. (2018) The development and Validation of the Mindful Self-Care Scale (MSCS): an Assessment of Practices that Support Positive Embodiment. Mindfulness. 9, 161-175.

Craigie, M., Slatyer, S., Hegney, D., Osseiran-Moisson, R., Gentry, E., Davis, S., Dolan, T. & Rees, C. (2016). A pilot evaluation of a Mindful Self-care and Resiliency (MSCR) intervention for nurses. Mindfulness. 7. 764-774.

Creswell, J. D. (2017) Mindfulness Interventions. Annual Review of Psychology. 68(1), 491-516. doi: 10.1146/annurev-psych-042716-051139

Hamilton, N. A., Kitzman, H. & Guyotte, S. (2006). Enhancing health and emotion: mindfulness as a missing link between cognitive therapy and positive psychology. Journal of Cogntive Psychotherapy: An International Quarterly. 20(2). 123-134.

‘Importance of self-care planning: Covid-19 mental health and wellbeing resources.’ (n.d.) Black Dog Institute.

Kabat-Zinn, J. (2015). Mindfulness. Mindfulness 6, 1481-1483.

Kirmayer, L. J. (2015). Mindfulness in cultural context. Transcultural Psychiatry. 52(4). 447-469. DOI: 10.1177/1363461515598949

Levin, L. S. & Idler, E. L. (1983). Self-Care in Health. Annual Review Public Health. 4, 181-201

Mindful Staff. (n.d.). A guide to practising self-care with mindfulness. Mindful. Accessed August 29, 2022.

Scott, E. (2022). 5 Self-care practices for every area of your life. How stress impacts your health guide.

‘Self-care ideas that stick, even when you’re busy’ Headspace.

WHO guideline on self-care interventions for health and well-being. Geneva: World Health Organization. (2021).

Zeb, H., Arif, I., Younas, A., (2022). Mindful self-care practices of nurses in acute care: A multisite cross-sectional survey. Western Journal of Nursing Research. 44(6), 540-547 91 DOI: 10.1177/0193945921100459

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