Mindfulness Isn't Just For Kids
Mary Ellen Lough is a Mindfulness teacher and freelance writer specializing in trauma recovery and poetry therapy. She teaches Mindfulness in organizations and community groups and is a Poet-in-Residence at the Charles George VA Hospital in Asheville, NC. Lough faciliates mindfulness workshops for the "Mindful in the Middle" program. Here's five things about mindfulness that Lough believes adults should also know:
1. Mindfulness is simply a way of paying attention on purpose.
"We all want to be more 'present in the moment,'" Lough said. "Unfortunately, most of us simply don’t know how. Mindfulness is a practice that provides tools for becoming more present in your own unfolding experience moment to moment. Stress is the silent killer behind many of the most pervasive illnesses, from depression to heart disease. Mindfulness does not take away stress, it simply changes our relationship to our stress. Stress is actually a matter of the perception of our abilities to meet the demands being placed on us. Often, we become overwhelmed with those demands and turn to unhealthy behaviors to cope with our sense of lack of control or hopelessness. Mindfulness is a gentle, everyday way to approach life from a moment-by-moment experience. In turn, this transforms our relationship to worry, anxiety as we learn to live more in the moment and less in the pain of the past and fear of the future. In retraining our minds, we become better able to make wholesome and supportive decisions and have an overall sense of reduced stress and increased enjoyment of life.
2.Research on mindfulness is demonstrating its ability to impact overall health and wellness.
Studies on the effect of mindfulness-based on anxiety and depression and the growing body of research about its clinical application for a variety of specific conditions, demonstrate mindfulness can increase overall sense of well being, decrease our perceptions of pain or stress, and facilitate more happiness in our lives. "These are all the cornerstones of wellness and health," Lough said. "Mindful practices such as daily gratitude, deep breaths, noticing joy, and self-compassion are very simple practices that don’t take much time - only intention. And the rewards are manifold."
3. Your health is unique to you - mindfulness encourages self-awareness as a path to health
"Mindfulness is a way of knowing your own body and listening to the cues and feelings of your body that might go unnoticed," Lough said. "Eating and exercise are very personal experiences. Far from being the same for everyone, our health very much depends on our ability to know and listen to our bodies. Mindfulness is a way of noticing what is happening in your body and creating space between our urges and reactions. It gives a us a short breath or pause to notice, am I hungry? Or am I lonely? Am I tense? Or even “Hmmm. I get really hungry for a sugary snack every day at 3pm. I also have noticed when I check in with my body that I feel tired and tense during that time of day."
"From that place of awareness, you are able to gradually notice what makes you feel better and choose supportive options based on what our body really needs," she added. "Maybe what I need is a glass of water and to stretch my tense back. Maybe I need to go for a ten minute walk because I’m actually feeling kind of down and walking will help me clear my head. Or, when I eat sugar at 3pm, I usually feel worse not better. How can I help myself feel better? Mindfulness is a way of being present to yourself and accepting of your experiences rather than living under unexamined and harsh self-judgements that lead to unhealthy behaviors in the end."
4. Mindfulness unfolds as a process.
"We don’t decide to be thinner or nice or happier and the next day wake up thinner or nicer or happier," Lough said. "Even though setting intentions to be so is very important, and a part of mindfulness, the practice of mindfulness is a way to becomes your own loving, supportive guide on the journey to your health."
5. Mindfulness practices don't need to be difficult, but can have a big impact.
"Mindful practice can be as simple as remembering to take three deep breaths three times a day when you notice you are getting tense or upset, or it can be downloading a mindfulness app on your phone and doing a ten minute guided meditation each day," Lough suggests. "Or taking a walk. Or slowing down and noticing how the soap and water feels on your hands when you wash the dishes. It is a practice that fits easily into your life but over time creates big shifts.
Associate Producer, The Fitness Files