Today we finalized and published our fall Mindfulness class schedule and I am really excited about it.
What is Mindfulness?
Here is a textbook definition: Mindfulness is the practice of paying attention to our thoughts and feelings purposely, in order to become more present within our own lives.
Need more clarification? Here is how I explain the concept of Mindfulness to my patients: Mindfulness is a tool to create some distance between yourself and your “brain chatter”.
There will always be stress. Often in life it seems we finish dealing with one stressor, and there is another waiting around the corner. We can't change that. What we can change is our reaction to stress. We don't have control over the presence of stress in our lives, what we do have control over is our response.
When you start to think of stress in these terms, the concept of stress itself becomes external. You can put a little distance between yourself and the stress. By doing so, the effects of stress are less likely to "take over" your mind and body.
If you feel chronically “stressed”, it is likely that you have a good amount of what I like to call “brain chatter”. As a Type-A busy working mom, I am very familiar with this concept. “Brain chatter” is all of that stuff that is spinning around in your brain. It is the to-do lists, the thoughts about what happened at dinner last night, about where the kids need to be picked up later, about your worries about your job, about that kitchen faucet that still needs to be fixed, and everything else. It is all of those thoughts that are spinning around in your brain while you go about your day.
With a brain so full of chatter – it’s difficult to concentrate on anything else. You go about your day almost on “auto pilot”. You could get yourself ready in the morning, eat breakfast, and drive to work and yet be totally unaware of your actions because you are so distracted by your “brain chatter”. If that chatter is full of worries and negativity, it can cause you to be irritable and snap at others for no apparent reason. You react quickly, perhaps in a negative way, because you are not focused and present within moment, your brain is focusing instead on negative chatter. The chatter escalates and spreads throughout your body, causing you the physical symptoms of stress (muscle tension, headaches, and heart palpitations to name a few).
It is called Mindfulness practice for a reason. You can read about the concept all day long, but it is putting it into action that gives you results. It isn't easy! It takes time to retrain your brain to become more aware and less reactive. With patients I often use the analogy of running a marathon. You wouldn't just wake up one day and run a marathon. You would spend months, oftentimes up to a year, to train. It is similar when training your brain. When learning Mindfulness meditation, you start with a few minutes here and there, and gradually work your way up to longer meditations.
"STOP" is a quick and easy way to start incorporating Mindfulness into your daily routine as a means of reducing the effects of stress. It takes about 30 seconds. I often do this routine in between seeing patients.
S = Stop what you are doing
T = Take a deep breath. A " belly breath", Relax your abdominal muscles and breathe deep as though you are filling your belly with air.
O = Observe. How is your body feeling? Where are your thoughts right now? If your mind is spinning with "brain chatter", acknowledge this chatter and then set it aside. Put a little bit of space in between you and your "brain chatter"
P = Proceed. Go on about your day with a mind that is slightly more clear and a body that is slightly more relaxed.
Have I sparked your interest? I’ll discuss the science and research of Mindfulness in future posts, but if you are interested in getting started this fall we will offer everything from one-night workshops to a six-week course to teach the principles and practices of Mindfulness.
Back by popular demand, we will be offering our six-week introductory course "An Introduction to Mindfulness for Stress Reduction". This course is facilitated by Chris Frasz, MSW who has facilitated several courses for us in the past and gets many rave reviews and requests for additional classes. Chris recently completed a week-long Mindfulness intensive under the direction of Jon Kabat –Zinn, the founding and executive director of the Center for Mindfulness in Medicine, Healthcare, and Society at the University of Massachusetts Medical School. Learn more about this class and Chris Frasz by clicking here, www.carinnielsenmd.com/stress-reduction.
In addition to the six-week introductory course, clinical psychologist Dr. Kelly Daunter will be offering three one-night Mindfulness Workshops - Mindful Eating, Mindful Parenting, and Mindfulness for Stress Reduction During the Holidays. These workshops are a great way to “get your feet wet” and see what Mindfulness Practice is all about, while applying the concept to everyday life stressors. If you’ve ever mindlessly ate a bag of potato chips, snapped at your kids and regretted it, or felt run-down by Holiday stress, one of these workshops might be for you! www.carinnielsenmd.com/events