Mindfulness in dental practice: Q&A with Dr Sonia Sonia

During #MindfulMay we will be hearing from practitioners from a range of professions who are sharing aspects of their mindfulness journey. In this article dentist Dr Sonia Sonia answers questions on her approach to mindfulness in work and life.

What made you decide to practice mindfulness in your life especially in your career as dental practitioner?

Mindfulness means being conscious of your surroundings, your actions and their effect.

Dentistry can be very stressful at times. Dental professionals actually have one of the highest suicide rates. Owning multiple dental practices, along with raising a young family is challenging. I am also establishing a not -for-profit organisation, ReStored: Be A Helping Hand. They all need your time and attention. You need a balance in all the chaos. Mindfulness gives you that peacefulness.

Due to time restraints in my life, I need to feel content and present in every moment. I wanted every moment to be invaluable and special, I wanted to give my 100% to my family, clients, and team. That search for balance and peace led me to mindfulness. I wanted to be a better leader, better mother and better person. If you are leading a team of 15-20 people, the fact is your words and behaviours are affecting yours and your team’s personal and professional lives. You are shaping both their professional and personal futures. I truly believe that as a leader you need to be mindful of every word you say and every gesture you make as people are watching you, they are following you.

You are inspiring them, so be inspirational.

As a mother I am taking part in shaping my kids’ futures, Imagine the people they will become if I can infuse mindfulness in their little brains at a young age. They are like sponges, they absorb everything faster.

How has being mindful helped you so far in your career as a dentist?

Have you ever walked in to a dental or medical clinic and instantly felt stressed or nervous? As a dentist, most of my patients are scared or anxious. They do put on a brave face sometimes but we see racing hearts and sweaty palms. We feel their anxiety and nervousness. As a health professional, our prime role is to calm them down. Trying to combat their nervous energy can be draining – even though you consciously do not realise it, your subconscious mind is absorbing it all. Practicing mindfulness has made me more aware of my surroundings. I can quickly sense anxious or nervous patients and also figure out what makes them feel that way. Mindfulness calms my voice and mood. My patients often comment that my AURA is very calming and they do feel connected to me. It has increased my popularity amongst patients.

Mindfulness allows me more opportunities to do what I love most!

Mindfulness leads to better connectedness with both yourself and others. I attend many seminar and conferences and I am a part of the SAM coaching programme – a team of 16 top dentists in Australia. I still remember the first day I walked in and met the other 15 people, I could handpick three people Sanjay, Wei Shen and Kinnar Shah.

As I was in their presence, I felt happy, calm and energised with positive thoughts. I kept thinking why would I feel that way around them and as the programme went on, that’s when I realised that these three people practice mindfulness more often than others and these qualities have become their personality traits and they are spreading positive vibes and energy – it just cannot be ignored! This is the feeling I want myself, my clients, my friends and my loved ones to experience when they are around me.

How has mindfulness affected your life in general?

I am joyous, I enjoy moments more than achievements. I am not saying I do not get stressed but I handle stress better. If my kids throw tantrums, I manage them better. I used to hate going to work, was depressed, overweight and not in a very happy zone in my life. To the outside world, I had a dream life: career, business, husband and children – but inside I was in a very unhappy place.

Vinh Gang told me, “Imagine life in seconds, you have lived 35 seconds of your life, you probably only have 35-45 more seconds to go. Are you going to waste them feeling like this, or turn it around and make them the best years of your life.”

August 2017 was the first time I was introduced to mindfulness. It all seemed a big gimmick at that time, but slowly I started looking into it more deeply. I must say in less than six months, I experienced unbelievable personal and professional growth. I lost 15 KG, became fitter than ever, won two beauty queen titles, which was my teenage dream. My businesses are thriving. I am connected with some of the wisest people. Above all, I am a pleasant person to be around for my family, friends, clients and acquaintances.

I am not DEPRESSED any more, I do have my low energy days, but remember we are human, made of emotions, not a bottle of “V” energy drink. I meet so many high achievers and often hear, “I am not in a happy place right now” or “Things do not excite or make me happy anymore.”. I hand them my little Mindfulness tip or Mindspace app and say: “I know how you feel, I was there nine months ago.”

What are your tips on practicing mindfulness?

  • Discipline. You must do it regularly. Practice it at every moment. It’s about being aware, so be aware of your surroundings, your words, gestures – every moment. For example, leave your phone, go for a walk ..feel the air blowing, feel the chill or warmth in the air, listen to the birds or any other sounds. Do this for 5-10 minutes every day during your lunch break, at work or at home.
  • Be present! For instance, at the dinner table, look at your family, live in the moment of sitting with them, eating a meal, enjoy the smell of the food, enjoy every bite you take, let the flavour dance on your tastebuds. Feeling everything and enjoying it is MINDFULNESS!
  • One of my dear friends Sanjay taught me to set alarms. He has been doing this for years. Every hour I set an alarm, when the alarm goes off I practice 1 minute of mindfulness. I say positive affirmations in my head, I let go of any negative thoughts and energy. I have only been doing this for three months now, but it’s powerful stuff. Not easy to get use to. Let people around you know that this is your mindfulness alarm. I call it my “E alarm”. It gives me energy and calms me down.
  • Another practice: I have started filtering out negative people from my life now. Sometimes it’s difficult not to engage in negative conversations, I am training my brain where I count to five and then “block out” or you might call it “phase out”. I have found if I do this with any kind of negative conversation, my mind does not react to it in a negative way.

Tell us about the challenges you faced in practicing mindfulness.

Myself. Me, my personality, my routine was my biggest challenge. Making excuses for not doing meditation or listening to words of wisdom. Setting up a routine and discipline was and still is a challenge at time – with young kids, sometime things do not go as planned.

But I will say they don’t have to, if you could not meditate in the morning, do it at lunch time, do it at night. People usually say it’s difficult to meditate or practice mindfulness, and I agree it can be, but no-one said it was going to be easy.

Mindfulness is transformational and any transformation is going to be challenging. Prepare yourself for it, let your family and the people around you know that you are doing it. Is changing your lifestyle easy? No. Is losing weight easy? No.

We talk about choosing a healthy lifestyle nowadays, going vegan, treating our body as a temple – but how about the mind? Why not Go VEGAN for mind? Filter bad thoughts before they enter your mind. Go for a walk for your mind, pay gym fees for your mind. I pay for the Mindspace app so that i can practice mindfulness whenever, wherever with help.

Why not have a healthy diet for our minds? Have good books to read, watch good movies, engage in good conversation with people. Filter out negative information and thoughts. It will become easier when you are surrounded by positivity. Have a positive diet for your mind!

Thank you.

sonia sonia headshotDr Sonia Sonia graduated with a degree in Bachelor of Dental Surgery GDC in Haryana, India and ADC in Australia. She is a dentist and a businesswoman owning a total of three dental practices: Kallangur Dental Surgery, Buderim Park Dental, and Wellington Point Dental.

She enjoys traveling and meeting new people, exploring new places and nature.

She loves cooking for her family and friends, she says cooking is therapeutic – a stress buster for her.

Currently Dr Sonia is focused in advocating for the health and well-being of domestic and family violence survivors. And because of her dedication to this cause she is in the process of establishing a charity of her own, which will be named ReStored: Be A Helping Hand at www.restored.org.au

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