* Is Your Mind Full? Try Mindfulness

By Callie Sanders, LSW – December 12, 2017 –

With the demands of 21st century life – work, parenting, endless emails, texts, social media, etc. – people wear overstimulation like a badge of honor.

There seems to be a kind of confusion in our culture where people feel the need to be anxious and always “on the go” to be effective.  I’m just as guilty.

With that being said, we find ourselves in a mindfulness revolution.  It’s prominent everywhere.   From hospitals to corporations, 33% of Americans said they had used alternative health practices, including meditation (National Institutes of Health).

Mindfulness practice embraces the beauty of monotasking.  The way I describe mindfulness to the students I work with is simply “paying attention on purpose.”

By incorporating mindfulness practice at my schools this year, the students that are willing to give it a try leave my office feeling less stressed.  Most ask to repeat the practice during additional visits.  Let’s face it, kids are stressed out too.

There aren’t any prizes handed out for being the greatest at mindfulness. It is about connecting to our experiences in a different way and giving ourselves a chance to pay attention in the present without adding more stuff to our plate.

If you’ve used phrases like, “My mind just works too fast” or “I’ve tried it and failed,” or my favorite, “I don’t have time for that,” you’re exactly the kind of person that needs mindfulness most.  Mindfulness is a lifelong journey, not an all-or-nothing mentality, and it’s free.

According to a study conducted in 2013 by the University of Southern California, most Americans spend 13-plus hours a day consumed by media.  No wonder everyone is stressed out.

I was skeptical when the term mindfulness was first introduced to me.  But when I decided to give it a chance, I was surprised how simple it was and what I felt.

Practicing mindfulness can happen anywhere.  I like to practice in my vegetable garden or out in my yard.  When I take a second to sniff a fresh tomato after I pull it off the vine or listen to the birds singing in the background, I feel better.

For just that one second I was present; I noticed nature.  What a powerful feeling!  I encourage you to try this with your family at home.  After you take a second for yourself and enjoy nature, be grateful.

Lastly, I want to leave you with some tips for your workday, especially in the afternoon when the “two o’clock yawns” kick in.

When you can take a break, don’t go straight to your phone for at least one of the breaks.  A 2014 study found that being able to see a cellphone hinders the ability to focus on tough tasks.

If you can, go for a short walk and try not to ruminate on work.  I realize this can be difficult, but don’t be afraid to give it a try.  Ignoring your phone is a great way to practice mindfulness during the walk.

Also, do someone a favor.  Not only does this help you connect to others, it aids in recovering from stress.

Most importantly, start small.  Remember, no rewards are given for being the best at mindfulness.  I encourage you to put your phone down during dinner this evening and engage in conversation.  You will feel better being present.

* Mindfulness and Meditation

By Katherine Baker, Courier & Press, March 7, 2017 –

For the past three years, Youth First has been providing Dialectical Behavioral Training (DBT) to its social workers.  The concepts of mindfulness and meditation, which are part of DBT were new to me.

We are busy people with lots of responsibilities.  Most of us rarely take time for ourselves or our relationships.

The concepts of mindfulness and meditation can be intimidating.  After practicing DBT skills, however, I clearly see the benefits and how it can help you feel more peaceful and in control.

Mindfulness involves acceptance, meaning that we pay attention to our thoughts and feelings without judging them.  Unfortunately, our society is prone to making judgments.

Our brains move from topic to topic.  We ignore and push feelings away.  We find it difficult to focus and concentrate.  Learning how to be mindful and “in the moment” can reduce the stress in your life, improve relationships, and help sharpen your concentration and focus.

One way to begin a mindfulness practice is to find a quiet place, sit in a chair or on the floor, take a few deep breaths, close your eyes and begin to focus on your breath for two minutes.  It sounds easy, but you may find your mind wandering.  If this happens, simply return your thoughts back to your breath.

Practice this daily and gradually work up to 10 minutes.  Relax and let your body and mind work together.

According to the website Greater Good (http://greatergood.berkeley.edu/topic/mindfulness/definition), mindfulness is defined as maintaining a moment-by-moment awareness of our thoughts, feelings, bodily sensations and surrounding environment.

Some of the potential benefits of mindfulness listed in this article include the following:

  • Mindfulness is good for our bodies.  Practicing mindfulness and meditation boosts our  immune system’s ability to fight off illness.
  • Mindfulness is  good for our minds.  Several studies have found that mindfulness increases positive emotions while reducing negative emotions and stress.
  • Mindfulness helps us focus.  Studies suggest that mindfulness helps us  tune out distractions and improves our  memory  and  attention  skills.
  • Mindfulness  enhances relationships.  It helps people feel more accepting of and closer to one another.
  • Mindfulness is good for  parents  and  parents-to-be.  Studies suggest it may  reduce pregnancy-related anxiety, stress  and depression  in expectant parents.
  • Mindfulness helps schools.  There’s scientific evidence that teaching mindfulness in the classroom reduces behavior problems and aggression among students and improves their happiness levels and  ability to pay attention.
  • Mindfulness helps  health care professionals  cope with stress,  connect with their patients  and  improve their general quality of life.  It also helps  mental health professionals  by reducing negative emotions and anxiety and increasing their positive emotions and feelings of  self-compassion.
  • Mindfulness helps  veterans.  Studies suggest it can reduce the symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in the aftermath of war.
  • Mindfulness  fights obesity.  Practicing “mindful eating” encourages healthier eating habits, helps people lose weight  and helps them savor the food they eat.

Instead of worrying about what may happen, try mindfulness and meditation and be fully present.  You will be amazed at how quickly your stress levels decrease.