I’m going to start with a disclaimer:
The title of this blog entry is a lie.
What I’m about to talk about isn’t new, and it isn’t a drug. But it can work wonders, which is why I hope you will read this post from start to finish.
When you hear the word “mindfulness,” what do you think? It’s an overused buzzword? Some new age mumbo jumbo? Another marketing scheme put forth by big business to get you to spend your money?
I’m here to tell you, it is none of those things.
Mindfulness is a simple tool that can help transform your health, your mind, and your relationships, and it doesn’t have to cost a dime. It’s not an expensive medication or supplement. You don’t need pricey classes or paraphernalia. All you need is a bit of time, a quiet place, and the desire to change the way you perceive life.
One widely used definition of mindfulness is, “A mental state achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations.”
Simply put, it’s a way of concentrating on the here and now.
What does focusing on the present moment do for you? It breaks unhealthy cycles, for one. Cycles of negative or unhelpful thought patterns, reflexive responses, and judgmental or controlling interactions with others. It helps us overcome resistance and learn acceptance. It helps us stay in the present rather than living in the past or the future.
These are very powerful skills.
While the practice of mindfulness meditation does have roots in eastern philosophies and religions, the science-based version, Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (or MBSR), took root in the U.S. thanks to MIT graduate Jon Kabat-Zinn. Known as the father of mindfulness, he is the creator of the Stress Reduction Clinic and the Center for Mindfulness in Medicine, Health Care, and Society at the University of Massachusetts Medical School.
Since its inception in the late 1970s, the eight-week MBSR program has been adopted in all kinds of settings, including hospitals, schools, veterans’ centers, prisons and workplaces.
Why? Because it works.
Analyses of thousands of scientific tests in which subjects utilized MBSR techniques–along with accepted treatments for physical and psychological conditions (medication, therapy, etc.)–showed an increase in positive outcomes across the board.
Lower blood pressure, improved markers for heart disease, improvements in mood disorders such as anxiety and depression, better focus, greater creativity, and lessened chronic pain are just a few of the benefits MBSR training has imparted in the lives of those who have learned to practice it.
However, you don’t need a formal eight-week course to begin practicing mindfulness and reap the benefits of meditation in your life.
You can start with a simple breathing technique that can slow your heart rate, lower your blood pressure, and calm your mind. Try this one:
Breathe normally but begin to focus on the rise and fall of your belly as you inhale and exhale. Do this for two minutes. Then, breathe in for a count of 4, hold for 7, exhale for 8. Practice this for 3 minutes.
It’s a simple as that. Five minutes to start.
I learned mindfulness techniques when I was a college student suffering from acute anxiety many years ago. “Tricks” to take me out of the whirlwind in my mind. But it wasn’t until I became the wellness coach here at Meadowood that I took my interest to the next level and became a certified Mindfulness Meditation teacher.
I now have the privilege of working with our residents to help them increase their peace and health every day by sharing the methods that have helped me live a more present and joyous life.
And that, my friends, isn’t big business. It’s simply priceless.
Until we meet…