Happy 2021! I know we can all say we’re happy to see 2020 behind us! And, of course, what would New Year’s be without resolutions? While resolutions can sometimes be far-fetched, we feel mindfulness is easy to implement because it only takes a few minutes of your time! Before we dive deep into mindfulness, let’s consciously take a minute to practice with an excerpt from an article by Pauline Lucas:
“Observe your next three breaths. Feel the air at as it enters your body ideally through the nose; notice the brief pause as the in breath turns into and out breath and then notice when the outbreath is complete and ready to turn into another in breath. At the end of the three breaths notice how this practice made you feel. Were you able to maintain awareness of the breathing experience or did you notice your mind wandering? If so, were you able to bring the mind back to the practice without judging yourself? Did you find yourself analyzing your breathing patterns, or was it easy for you to simply experience the movement of the breath?”
Congratulations! You just made your first step towards practicing mindfulness!
But What Actually is Mindfulness?
Most of us have heard the term mindfulness tossed around in the general context of paying attention. However, mindfulness is much more complex than just focusing. Mindfulness refers to a present state of mind and having an awareness of your own present moment experiences. It means to intentionally pay attention and be present in the moment with kind, curious focus and without judgment. The Center for Greater Good Science Center at University of California, Berkeley defines mindfulness as maintaining “a moment-by-moment awareness of our thoughts, feelings, bodily sensations, and surrounding environment, through a gentle, nurturing lens.”
The concept of mindfulness originates in ancient Eastern philosophy, but it didn’t become popular in the West until much later. Mindfulness was first introduced in the West by molecular biologist, Jon Kabat-Zann, PhD, founder of the popular Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) program. Since then, thousands of research studies have been done on mindfulness and have demonstrated that benefits are not only physical, but also psychological and cognitive domains when integrating mindfulness in our daily living. Mindfulness has gained popularity in the past 10 years and has been introduced health care institutions, but also churches, schools, prisons, professional sports and large businesses.
A few large companies such as Aetna, Google, Apple, Nike and Intel have implemented mindfulness programs for their employees. Since their implementation, research has shown employees exhibit improved productivity, reduced stress level, greater job satisfaction, increased happiness, mental clarity and enhanced creativity. An article in Forbes describes the importance of mindfulness programs in fast-paced businesses, not only to increase employee well-being, but also to improve companies’ savings as a result of reduced medical claims.
Now think of the moment in your life when nothing else seem to matter but the present. Remembering that memory was a moment of mindfulness. You were focused on a memory in your life and that moment only and you are still able to re-live it. We can learn to be in this state and experience more fulfillment and pleasure in so-called “mundane situations” with practice and consciously focusing on mindfulness. Mindfulness is most commonly practiced in seated meditation, mindful walking, yoga and body scanning practices, but as you practice and become more present, mindfulness eventually becomes a way of living. So, next time we are stuck in some unprecedented situations, such as the year 2020, we are able to consciously focus and become aware of our state of mind.
Before mentioned author, Pauline Lucas, PT, DPT, suggests five steps that we can implement today in order to become more mindful:
- When you wake up take one minute to notice the state of your body, state of your mind and pace of your breath.
- Choose a recurrent activity in your day like hand washing and commit to practicing it each time with full attention.
- When sitting down for a meal, take a moment to contemplate what it took for the food to end up on your plate, from this seed planted in the soil to the vegetable prepared on your plate. Then take your first bite with full awareness of the taste, texture, and your experience of eating.
- Take a long slow breath before you answer the phone, a text, or email.
- When meeting a new person, practice being fully present as they introduced themselves. Perhaps notice the color of their eyes.
Lucas suggests possibly starting by implementing only one of these into your daily routine for a week and then eventually adding more and more moments like this throughout the day. After all, it has been proven by research and literature, that simple moments like this can be significant in relieving stress, anxiety, headaches, and even depression.
I challenge you to take charge of your 2021 by becoming more mindful.
You can learn more about making and retaining resolutions in our previous blogs! If you want to try physical therapy this year give us a call today! Direct Access in NJ allows you to get in for an evaluation without you having to see your Doctor, probably quicker than you could even get that appointment, while also saving you both time and money!
Please, call us to schedule you evaluation at one of BeneFIT’s locations in Bridgewater (908.203.5200) or Chester (908.879.5700) with one of our highly-trained Doctors of Physical Therapy!