• Fresh Views

    Diabetes Technology and Solution-Focused Practice: Meditation and Mindfulness Apps

    Mindfulness is a way of befriending ourselves and our experience.- Jon Kabat-Zinn

    Lake Como in Italy. This view from our travels there a few years back we always find calm, peaceful, and a reminder to live in the moment and be mindful.

    This week in our Diabetes Technology and Solution-Focused Practice series we’re discussing the value of meditation and mindfulness apps in solution-focused practice. You may have seen the results of a meta-analysis recently published in Diabetic Medicine which showed that mindfulness and acceptance-based approaches to diabetes education may more effectively reduce A1C levels, anxiety, depression, and diabetes distress than education as usual. This impact was noted both immediately and up to 1-month post intervention. In helping your clients find what works for them, and build on that, meditation and mindfulness apps can be another tool in your solution-focused “tool box”. 

    Do you encourage your clients with diabetes to use meditation and mindfulness apps? There’s certainly no shortage of options these days! Over the last few years, more than 2000 new meditation apps have rolled out, with even more new options as a result of increased demand during the pandemic. And who doesn’t welcome those that are free! 

    5 FABULOUS FREE MEDITATION AND MINDFULNESS APPS

    These 5 apps are free, with several of them also having premium paid versions with extra content and capability. We find that the free versions are helpful to be able to get a taste of the app and it’s approach, with the option to move on to the premium version with expanded content options, if desired.

    Smiling mind. (Available for iOS) This app not only provides opportunity to take a break from life stresses through meditation, it guides in incorporating mindfulness practice throughout the day through “activities” like journaling or audio prompts bringing attention to your senses by counting things that can be seen, felt, heard, smelled and tasted. Pretty cool! There are a number of “programs” related to stress management and sleep.

    UCLA Mindful. (Available for iOS and Android). The name says it all. Heavily grounded in the science of mindfulness, this app developed by the Mindful Awareness Research Center at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), features a variety of meditations in English and Spanish. There are sessions as short as 3 minutes long and some up to a half hour long that they refer to as “podcasts”. This app can help one practice self-kindness, work through challenging emotions, as well as focus on other areas.

    MyLife Meditation. (Available for iOS and Android). You may have been familiar with this award-winning app as Stop, Think, & Breathe, which it was formerly named. There is a section focused on what mindfulness is and why it’s beneficial. We’re fans of the fact that each day when you open the app, you’re asked to “take a breath” and check in with yourself, then rate how your mind and body are on a scale of “rough” to “great”. Based on emotions you’re feeling that you select from lists of words, the app then recommends guided sessions according to those feelings. (Premium paid version also available).

    Insight Timer. (Available for iOS, Android, and web) Tami uses this on her phone. This app offers over 90,000 free guided meditations. Topics covered include anxiety, stress, sleep, mindfulness, relationships, insightful talks, and much, much more. Sometimes for quieter mindfulness and focus, she’ll use the feature where you can simply set a timer and focus or meditate to  calming ambient noise or calming music. (Premium paid version also available)

    Calm. (Available for iOS, Android, and web) Tami downloaded this free during an offer early into the pandemic. There currently is a free trial with a premium paid version.  Calm includes meditation and sleep stories focused on improving sleep quality, reducing stress and anxiety, improving focus, and overall self-improvement. Deb uses the Premium version specifically for the nightly sleep stories. She really enjoys the simple yet calming stories to help her fall asleep. Yes, they are not stories that are engaging and exciting, but that’s the plan. The goal is to not have your brain try to engage, but to relax and prepare to sleep.  

    During this crazy and chaotic year, creating opportunities to calm your mind and create opportunities to support a peaceful bedtime or a stress-free break in the middle of the work  day is very important.  

    How can you support your clients to develop positive mindfulness habits?

    We suggest striving for open and frank discussions with clients when meeting with them. Ask about their mental and emotional health to identify if a mindfulness app might help them.

    1. An easy way to move towards this conversation is to ask about their sleep patterns and quality? If they are having trouble sleeping you might ask them if an app might be an option they would consider.
    2. Ask about their anxiety level. Is Anxiety impacting their ability to make healthy behavior changes? If the answer is yes, continue to ask probing questions to identify what they are willing to do to make health behavior changes.  Remember, one small change in the direction of their goals will lead to more changes in the future.

    It may be beneficial to revisit this past year, explore how they’ve grown and changed, and consider what’s next and how to move forward. Mindfulness and meditation apps can be helpful in managing stress, diabetes distress, anxiety, and depression to ultimately help impact blood glucose and improve happiness and quality of life. 

    May is Mental Health Awareness month so a great opportunity to think about ways to encourage healthy habits.

    We plan to continue to write about a variety of other technologies that impact and influence diabetes care and education including diabetes apps, digital health tools, diabetes devices, online peer support and online coaching. Stop back by in 2 weeks to see what’s up next!

    We welcome anyone interested in our approach to Subscribe to our blog and we’ll email you when a new post is published!

    If you are a health care professional and interested in learning more about our solution-focused practice and approach, when you subscribe to our blog, we’ll send you in return a FREE resource of 10 Solution-Focused Questions to start a solution-focused discussion with your clients. 

    Deb is employed by Dexcom, but her words and opinions in this blog are her own.

    Tami is employed by the University of Kentucky HealthCare Barnstable Brown DIabetes Center, but her words and opinions in this blog are her own.

  • Fresh Views

    Diabetes Technology and Solution-Focused Practice: Applied to Activity Tracker Conversations

    Tami walked the length of the Sahara Desert!

    Just keep taking the next step and keep having excellence in the ordinary. – Dave Ramsey

    In this week’s Diabetes Technology and Solution-Focused Practice post we’re discussing taking a solution-focused approach to activity tracker and physical activity conversations. We are both huge advocates of activity trackers, and have used several different versions ourselves over the years. Currently, Deb relies on her Apple Watch, while Tami likes her Fitbit (although it’s on it’s last leg…so something new will be coming soon!)  Recent estimates are that about 1 in 5 Americans use a smartwatch or fitness tracker. Whether a smart watch, wrist band, clip on pedometer, smartphone app, or other variety, activity trackers can give extra incentive to get active. They also provide a wealth of statistics on workouts and general health to have the data needed to achieve fitness goals. Many track not only steps and movement, but distance, activity intensity, calories burned, mindfulness, sleep, heart rate, and more. There are even fitness trackers for children with a variety of fun functions beyond tracking activity.

    A Facebook memory popped up the day we were posting the blog – Tami and Deb walking 10,000 steps along the Chicago lakefront with their husbands!

    Focus on “exceptions”, rather than gaps

    When reviewing physical activity frequency, duration, step counts etc with clients, there is  opportunity to implement a solution-focused approach (rather than focusing on “gaps” in activity). For example, when reviewing fitness tracker logs such as the one below, where this individual’s goal was to get 10,000 steps each day – rather than focusing on 3/10, 3/11, and 3/12 where step counts were far below their goal, turn instead to focus on 3/7 where they achieved 7016 steps, and 3/13 where they got 8681 steps. If we focus on the days where activity was low, we miss out on identifying successes

    4 questions we could ask when acknowledging those “successful” days are:

    1. How did you work that many steps into your day? 
    2. What were you doing differently than on 3/10-3/12, for instance?
    3. How can you do that more often? 
    4. What are some other ways you can be more active?   

    A case example from Tami…

    Years back, I worked with a client that was a dentist, and as such was fairly sedentary most of the day. When I began seeing her, she had recently learned that she had type 2 diabetes and was trying to increase her activity, in addition to managing her weight and blood glucose. Over the course of several visits we talked about the huge benefits of physical activity and the value of activity trackers in raising awareness around physical activity. While initially resistant to “exercising”, she eventually agreed to purchase a wrist band activity tracker with an initial goal of wearing it for 2 weeks to learn what her average movement and step count was during the day. She learned that she averaged 1200-1500 steps/day. She found that information enlightening, and immediately started considering how she could be more intentional to increase her movement. When she returned a month later for her follow-up visit with me, she had already increased her average step count to 5000-6000 steps each day. Wow! 

    I acknowledged her mindfulness, intentionality, time, and hard work. In applying the 4 questions above with her, I learned that to increase her activity, she was getting up between appointments and walking around the office. Then, she decided that at home in the evenings while watching TV and knitting, she would get up and walk around the house during commercials. From there, she went on to take-up swimming laps, then added doing a circuit work out at a local gym. She built upon her successes and leveraged those. 

    She was one of those special people you never forget. She had a fantastic sense of humor! She  enjoyed traveling and I frequently would have photos show up in my email of her swimming in a pool on a cruise, swimming in the lake at her lake house, or getting a “hydro massage” after working out at her local gym.  Applying a solution-focused approach to activity and activity tracker conversations assisted her in self-discovery and leveraging her successes in moving more for even greater successes.

    While activity tracking apps can help motivate individuals to make health behavior changes, just like anything else, if we focus on the negatives, success will be more difficult to achieve. When working with clients, help them set realistic goals to achieve to set them up for success, then build upon their achievements in a slow and steady process.

    We plan to continue to write about a variety of other technologies that impact and influence diabetes care and education including diabetes apps, digital health tools, diabetes devices, online peer support and online coaching. Stop back by in 2 weeks to see what’s up next!

    We welcome anyone interested in our approach to Subscribe to our blog and we’ll email you when a new post is published!

    If you are a health care professional and interested in learning more about our solution-focused practice and approach, when you subscribe to our blog, we’ll send you in return a FREE resource of 10 Solution-Focused Questions to start a solution-focused discussion with your clients. 

    Deb is employed by Dexcom, but her words and opinions in this blog are her own.

    Tami is employed by the University of Kentucky HealthCare Barnstable Brown DIabetes Center, but her words and opinions in this blog are her own.

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