Mindfulness & Health

Feeling that post-holiday stress?

The holiday season can bring strong emotions, reduced energy and general stress for many of us. It's helpful to Recognize stressors, so that we can Respond instead of Reacting. When you recognize that you are feeling stressed, you can use mindfulness practices to calm and reset the nervous system.

Try it now: Take a pause to check in with your breath, and the sensations in your body. You may like to place a hand on your heart, and one on your belly, as you focus on breathing slowly and deeply. 5 deep breaths, or as little as 15 seconds is enough to shift into a more relaxed and less reactive state.

Starting in January, come see Westcoast SCI Therapists for one-on-one and small group sessions on Mindfulness, Pilates, and Yoga.

Stress

Stress is a normal part of life. Our bodies are built to experience and respond to stress, which can motivate us and produce positive results. However, continual and sustained stress without any relief can produce a negative stress cycle or “distress”. This can result in an alteration of the body’s equilibrium which can manifest in physical symptoms such as:

  • Headaches and Muscle tension

  • Digestive disturbances

  • Elevated Blood Pressure

  • Decreased focus and concentration

  • Sleep disturbances

  • Chronic fatigue


Stress is linked with many of the leading causes of death:

  • Heart disease

  • Cancer

  • Diabetes

  • Lung ailments

  • Accidents

  • Alzheimers/Dementia


Mindfulness, Meditation, Movement and Stress Reduction

The body and mind are one integrated system, and we can intentionally guide our bodies and thoughts to our benefit. Taking up a practice of mindfulness can have a big impact on our stress levels, general health and well being. Reduction in stress have been shown to improve health dramatically, and the practice of mindfulness  - even in those new to the practice - can significantly alter the physiological symptoms that stress causes in your body.

During meditative or mindfulness practices, we focus our attention in order to reduce the stream of thoughts that crowd the mind, take us out of our present moment experience, and often cause us needless stress. Stress Reduction through Focus, Breath, Relaxation, Movement has been shown to result in enhanced physical and emotional well-being.

Common Benefits of mindfulness/meditation :

  • Improved awareness and reduced reactivity during stressful situations

  • Building of skills to manage stress

  • Increased self-awareness

  • Improved focus on present moment experience

  • Reduced negative emotions

  • Increased imagination and creativity

  • Improved empathy, tolerance and communication in relationships

  • Increased self compassion/ self acceptance

Mindfulness meditation has been shown to be beneficial for many conditions, including:

  • Anxiety and depression

  • Asthma and respiratory disturbances

  • Cancer

  • Chronic fatigue

  • Chronic pain

  • Diabetes

  • Heart disease

  • High blood pressure

  • Irritable bowel syndrome

  • Obesity

  • Sleep problems

  • Tension headaches

3 Tips For Meditation/Mindfulness

  1. Mind

    Practicing Mindfulness isn't about meditating alone in a cave, it's about cultivating awareness of our experiences, moment to moment. The mind wanders easily and loses focus. Instead of judging ourselves for that, we can adopt an attitude of compassion and curiosity towards our busy mind, and work on practices which relax, calm, and focus us back to the experience of the present moment

  2. Breathing

    A great place to start cultivating mindfulness is through your breath: spend 2-5 minutes in a relaxed position, eyes open or closed, simply experience the sensations of breathing, each inhale and each exhale. Think about breathing slowly and deeply into your belly, while reducing the use of your shoulder/neck/upper chest. When the mind wanders, recognize that, and without judging bring your attention back to your breathing.

  3. Body Awareness

    When you are stressed, you are likely to be holding stress in your body without realizing it. Another simple and effective mindfulness/stress reduction practice is body scanning. Seated, standing or lying down, with eyes open or closed, bring awareness to the experience and sensations of your body. Use slow deep breath to help maintain focus as you move your awareness through the different parts of the body. Focus on doing what feels right to you and feeling comfortable

Some helpful definitions:

Mindfulness:

The process of intentionally bringing attention to experiences occurring in the present moment. Awareness of Breath and Body Sensations are often the easiest starting points, but this practice can be applied to everyday activities such as walking and movement, eating, household chores, work, as well as in communication and relationships.

Meditation:

Meditation practice takes many forms. It generally involves using a technique - such as present moment awareness, or focusing the mind on a particular object, sound, thought or activity - to train attention and self awareness, in order to achieve a more mentally clear and emotionally calm state.

Yoga:

Yoga is a system of practices, originating in ancient India, designed to strengthen the body, mind and spirit. Through physical postures, breathing exercises, energy cultivation and concentration practices and self inquiry, we can improve our physical strength, endurance and well-being while cultivating self-awareness

Pilates:

This system of movement was developed in the early 20th century, originally  to rehabilitate injured soldiers. It later gained favour with dancers and athletes and has become a popular practice for improving postural alignment, core stability, body awareness and integration of conscious deep breath with movement.

References: [1] [2] [3]