Try these three simple ways to re-focus, re-balance and de-stress for National Mental Health Awareness Month.
Mindfulness has become a new “buzz” word over the past few years, but – with roots in Buddhist meditation -- it’s actually been around for thousands of years. Thanks to research on mindfulness meditation impacting the immune system and brain in positive ways, among other benefits, and the mindfulness and stress reduction work of Jon Kabat Zinn, Ph.D., at UMass Medical School, this practice is becoming more accepted in mental health and medical circles than ever before.
Mindfulness does not have to be complicated or difficult to learn. “Being in the moment,” even for a few seconds, helps us to focus on what’s going on right now. It helps you break bad habits, and promotes balance and choice.
Imagine for a moment that your loved one does something that has annoyed you for the last hundred times. You react the same way you always do, with an angry word, they react back and the thing next you know, you’re in the same argument all over again.
Now take a moment to breathe, truly breathe. Imagine the same scene and that you are able to see what is “here and now” and make a conscious decision as to whether you want to get angry, let it go, say something funny or anything else. Now it has become your choice. You may still get angry, but it is more conscious, less automatic and over time you may respond differently and avoid the same argument.
In my job as Coordinator of the Caregiver Support Program and the Healing Touch Program at White Plains Hospital, I use mindfulness to help family members of patients relax, focus on what they have control over and what they don’t, and help them stay dialed in to the present – not the past or future. This allows them to feel calmer and problem-solve more easily.
Not everyone benefits from mindfulness, but in honor of May being Mental Health Awareness Month, it’s worth trying to see if it’s right for you.
Here are a few different techniques for sneaking some mindfulness into your busy day:
Simple reflection. Notice what’s going on inside of you. Lower or close your eyes, take three deep long breaths. Notice if anything has changed inside of you. Slowly open your eyes.
Counting breath. Sit comfortably. Lower or close your eyes. Begin to notice your breath, as you breathe in through your nose, out through your nose. Notice the sensation of breath going in and out, the response of your lungs. Begin to count your breaths: 1 for an in-and-out breath. Count to 10 and then go back to 1. If you lose track, get lost in thought or end up at 20, just start over and try again. Each day add another count of 10 to this practice.
The name game. The next time you find yourself in the middle of a daily routine, do this: Name what you are about to do – for example I am walking into the bathroom. I am washing my hands. I am brushing my teeth. Discover how much of our day we do on automatic pilot and forget to really see what is in front of us. This is not easy but it will keep your awareness in the present moment.
For more information about the Integrative Services Program at White Plains Hospital, call 914-849-7653.