Submitted by Aches Away
Paying attention to what’s going on right this second can be hard. We often spend more time thinking about what’s coming up in the future. Or dwelling on things in the past we can’t change. We can miss out on experiencing the present.
It’s possible to train yourself to focus on the present moment. You become aware of what’s going on inside and around you—your thoughts, feelings, sensations, and environment. You observe these moments without judgment. This is called mindfulness.
We often think of mindfulness as a sitting meditation that’s practiced in a quiet space where you focus on your breathing or sensations in your body. If your mind wanders—like thoughts popping in about things you need to do—you try to return your mind to the present moment.
But mindfulness doesn’t have to be done sitting still or in silence. You can integrate the practice into things you do every day, like walking or eating. You can also be mindful while interacting with others.
Health Benefits of Mindfulness
Studies suggest that focusing on the present can have a positive impact on health and well-being.
Mindfulness-based treatments have been shown to reduce anxiety and depression. There’s also evidence that mindfulness can lower blood pressure and improve sleep. It may even help people cope with pain.
According to Dr. Zev Schuman-Olivier of Harvard University, “For many chronic illnesses, mindfulness meditation seems to improve quality of life and reduce mental health symptoms.”
One of the first mindfulness-based therapies was used for depression. Many studies have shown that it can be effective for some people.
Mindfulness appears to help with depression in two ways. First, it helps you develop the ability to stay grounded in the present. With depression, your attention can get hijacked into the past or future. You spend time focusing on past negative experiences or worrying about things to come.
Second, mindfulness can help you “de-center” from such thoughts. Developing the skill of mindfulness can help stop you from being pulled into any one thought. People often experience thoughts like, “nothing ever works out for me,” or “it’s always going to be this way.” Over time, and with practice, you can develop the ability to stand back from these painful thought patterns.
Researchers are now studying whether mindfulness training can help with a variety of other conditions, including PTSD, eating disorders, and addiction.
Schuman-Olivier is looking at whether mindfulness can help reduce anxiety among people being treated for opioid use. This could help prevent relapse.
Developing Healthy Habits
Being mindful may also help you make healthier choices. A research team at Brown University created an eight-week mindfulness program for people with high blood pressure.
They studied whether the program increased participants’ awareness of their habits. This included how they ate. The study found that participants chose a healthier diet after taking the course.
You can bring mindfulness to your eating habits, too. Studies suggest that it can help reduce binge eating and emotional eating. Paying closer attention to your body can help you notice signals that you’re full and help you better enjoy your food.
This body awareness seems to be one part of how mindfulness helps people adopt healthier habits. If you’ve just eaten a jelly donut, you may be more likely to notice an unpleasant sugar crash. Remembering this can help you to make better food choices in the future.
This goes for positive feelings too. With physical activity, just about everybody feels better afterwards. So, with mindfulness training we’re aware of it improving our mood, and then we can use that reward to actually train ourselves.
Mindfulness may also help with setting a goal. We can place our mind on being more active or eating more fruits and vegetables. And if we place our intention there, it may be more likely that we’re going to carry through and make it happen.
Learning To Be Mindful
If you want to practice mindfulness, there are many online programs and apps. But they’re not all created equal, or they simply may not be meant for you. You can also try finding a therapist or someone with the skills to guide you in mindfulness training. The concept of mindfulness is simple, but becoming a more mindful person often requires some time and commitment.
There are several specific relaxation techniques that can help you develop mindfulness. These include:
- FLOAT THERAPY which induces a state of deep relaxation by floating in a tank of warm water that is filled with about 1,200 pounds of Epsom salts, dissolved in about 10 inches of water that is kept at a very constant 93 degrees.
- INFRA RED SAUNA THERAPY feels somewhat like sunbathing, but without the harmful effects it can have for your skin.
- MASSAGE THERAPY is perhaps the relaxation modality that people are most familiar with. There are many different types of massage therapies, so you’ll want to try one that is designed specifically for relaxation.
- MIGUN THERAPY is similar to traditional massage therapy except there is no personal contact.
Like any skill, mindfulness takes practice. Just because something is simple, doesn’t mean that it’s easy.
For more information on therapies that not only promote mindfulness, but can also help reduce stress and offer pain relief, contact Aches Away at 309-662-2900 or online at www.aches-away.com. Aches Away is locally owned by Don Thorpe and has been serving the community since 2001. Their mission is to help people feel better so they can live their best life. Their studio is located at 3807 General Electric Road in Bloomington.