We hear about mindfulness everywhere these days—in news articles and wellness magazines, at the doctor’s office, and on social media. We’re bombarded with images of attractive, calm people bathed in sunlight, smiling as they sit cross-legged with their eyes serenely closed.
Doesn’t it look nice? If only it were so easy for those of us who aren’t stock photography models to find bamboo forests—at just the right temperature, with nobody else around—in which to quietly practice daily meditation.
But maybe we don’t need perfect conditions to practice mindfulness. What if cultivating mindfulness were possible right here, right now? What if we could even do it during times of chaos and pain?
Mindfulness for pain management
Research has shown that even under extreme circumstances, like during childbirth, we can (and should) practice mindfulness. Of course, it won’t totally ease pain or anxiety during childbirth—mindfulness isn’t sorcery that can simply wave those away. But the practice of being grounded and mindful allows birthing parents (and their partners) to feel less fearful, more connected, more satisfied, more bonded, and even to have better postpartum recovery and better parenting in the long run.
To learn more about how mindfulness works in the context of childbirth, I spoke with Dr. Emiliana Simon-Thomas, the Science Director at UC Berkeley’s Greater Good Science Center and a mother of three. Trained in neuroscience and social psychology, Emiliana oversees research fellowships, directs key science initiatives, and teaches the The Science of Happiness worldwide. She serves as an expert voice on the origins of well-being and the most promising strategies for increasing it individually, in relationships, and within organizations.
During our conversation, I learned a lot about mindfulness in childbirth and its benefits for my baby, my partner and me, and our future health and happiness as a family. To test it out, I’ll be challenging myself to do body scan meditations in the weeks leading up to my first childbirth. Afterwards, Dr. Simon-Thomas will interview me about my hands-on experience on her podcast, The Science of Happiness. Stay tuned to see how it goes!