3 Ways the Healing Art of Observation can Improve Your Health

Using the power of observation to connect to yourself.

Observation is a tool frequently used in meditation mindfulness to help focus the brain. When we take our attention to one specific object and not only helps to eliminate distracting thoughts, but we can also learn something about ourselves.

Recently I have deepened my studies in the practice of meditation. Learning that observations are powerful tool I’ve also started bringing this into my medical practice. I have offered patients prompts they can use to observe their mind and body.

I have been pleasantly surprised at how the power of observation is helped my patients to understand themselves and has allowed me to help them more effectively. Here are three ways in which observation can be used in your own healing journey.

Gathering data

The clinical encounter medicine can serve multiple purposes. Sometimes there’s a simple question that needs to be answered. Sometimes there is an emotional connection that will be made. Many times there is a transaction of information in which the patient must share. Data gathering, which often takes place in the form of history taking is extremely important.

Physicians and patients struggle with the exchange of information during the clinical exchange. Physicians are trained to think scientifically and to read patients like a book. Patients experience their symptoms in a linear fashion that is often noted to coincide with life events. Physicians become easily frustrated when patients share details that are often on the surface irrelevant to why they’ve come in.

When I’m working with a patient that’s having trouble relaying information, I will ask them to make observations about what their experiencing. This isn’t to be judgmental and it is definitely not to lay blame. But with a few gentle prompts, patients can start to make observations about their symptoms that are very helpful.

Dealing with addictive habits or self sabotage

Primary care physicians often act as health coaches. It is not unusual to offer more coaching advice rather than diagnosis. This can include inspirations to achieve a healthier lifestyle such as through nutrition or healthy movement.

Addictions and self-sabotaging behavior a much more common than most people realize. Patients often have a real struggle coming to groups with why they would return to a habit that’s hurting their bodies.

I have found that teaching patients about the power of observation and asking them to perform 90 seconds of observation before engaging in a destructive habit is extremely powerful. The instructions are simple. Before you pick up the cigarette set a timer for 90 seconds. During the 90 second seconds, observe how you feel prior to smoking. Then when the timer goes off observe if you wish to still smoke the cigarette, proceed with lighting the cigarette.

In the case of addiction, that observation period can often help the brain rewire itself and calm down the reward system in the brain.

Obervation to Empower

Traditionally the practice of medicine was based on a paternalistic model. This meant that the doctor gave orders to the patient that were accepted and never questioned. Times have changed. This is no longer an acceptable way to practice. Due to complexity of healthcare patients must participate in their own care.

Patients that have not felt empowered in most of their life will have a struggle with this. When it is time to make a decision about treatment options they may feel like throwing up their hands and want the physician to make the decision for them.

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