When the ten thousand things become one, then we return to the center, where we have always been
Over the past few years, mindfulness has made an amazing transformation in our modern society. In years past, many people considered mindfulness to be an ancient practice of Buddhist monks. Now, after lots of research has been conducted about brain imaging and mindfulness, meditation has become more mainstream not only in individual practice but also within psychology and medical fields. Mindfulness practice is now a widely accepted method of calming the mind, easing tension, and even supporting the body’s natural ability to heal. Contrary to popular belief, mindfulness does not need to be practiced in conjunction with specific spiritual practice in order to be effective.
Mindfulness is so much more than a trendy stress reduction technique. But what does it mean to practice mindfulness? Put simply, it is the focused awareness of the present moment. When we are mindful, we become fully conscious of simple sensations, like the warmth of sunlight or the ripeness of a blueberry. By unlatching ourselves from our mental processes, we are able to recognize our thoughts for what they are, and to remind ourselves that these thoughts don't necessarily represent reality. We can observe our thoughts passively, rather than becoming engulfed by them.
Why should you practice mindfulness? A few of its numerous benefits includes lower blood pressure, decreased reactive tendencies, stronger focus and lesser stress levels. Here are a few pointers to get started:
1. Set Aside Time. It can be useful to designate a short amount of time to sit in meditative silence. Start somewhere between 15-30 minutes, and increase as your slowly adjust to your new practice.
2. Minimize Distractions. Because intense focus is central to practicing mindfulness, distractions need to be minimized. When practicing mindfulness, be sure to steer clear of electronic devices that can dilute our effectiveness and challenge our ability to truly relax and enjoy.
3. Breathe Deeply. The simple act of taking deep breaths stimulates the relaxation response in your brain. This helps counter the “fight or flight” response that takes over your body when you’re dealing with a stressful situation. Throughout the day, close your eyes and take several deep breaths. You will feel the benefit immediately!
4. Eat Mindfully. Because mindfulness means bringing your full attention to whatever you’re doing, you can easily practice it during mealtime. Start by bringing your full attention to your food. No driving, working or other multi-tasking allowed! Notice the sensations involved with the experience. How does each bite of food look? How does it taste? This intense focus should increase your sense of satisfaction and well-being.
5. Practice Gratitude. It is easy to focus on what other people have, but this will just make you feel jealous and lacking. Shift your focus and start a daily journal that lists at least five things you are appreciative for in your life. Maybe it’s your family, your health, or your favorite coffee shop. Write it down with thankfulness.
Want to learn more? We recommend a visit to PalouseMindfulness.com, where you can enroll in a free eight-week online course with Jon Kabat-Zinn.
You can also call our office at 509-334-1133 to sign up for a DBT class, which teaches the integration of mindfulness into daily life.
We know it's early to start thinking about Seasonal Affective Disorder. But did you know that you can start warding off symptoms simply by starting light therapy in the summer?
We believe that August is the optimal time to start plugging in your light boxes and reaping the benefits of preventative light therapy. This will give your brain plenty of time to adjust to the new bio rhythm before the effects of shorter days start setting in.
Here are a few tips to get you started:
Remember to talk to your primary care doctor and mental health counselor before starting any kind of light therapy, and keep us posted on your progress. Good luck!
The PRC Blog
Here, the PRC staff teams up to provide our views and advice on common mental health issues.