Mind, Spirit and Community
Episode #8 of the course 10 days to better wellness by Alyce Eyster
“Health is a state of complete harmony of the body, mind and spirit. When one is free from physical disabilities and mental distractions, the gates of the soul open.” —B.K.S. Iyengar
Hello, my friends! Today we talk all about the mind, spirit and social aspects of wellness and how it promotes a healthy life.
Modern society is distracted. We have these amazing computers in our hands and the web at our fingertips and thanks to Google, we can research just about anything or answer any question. In many ways they make tasks and life easier. But darn it if they are not a constant source of 24/7 distraction to the point that rarely are we ever alone with ourselves. (If you are not distracted by your device, sounds like you have superhuman will and can move right along to Lesson 9!) This section will discuss the mind-body connection.
Quite simply, mindfulness is living in the present moment. Are you always thinking of what needs to be done next, what you will say next or multitasking? That is NOT living in the moment. Mindfulness is being aware of what is going on RIGHT NOW, listening and giving your full attention to RIGHT NOW. Whomever or whatever you are engaging with RIGHT NOW, are you giving it your full attention? If you are performing a task, are you 100 percent engaged? If you are by yourself, consider your senses and what you see, feel, hear, taste, touch NOW. How do you feel NOW?
In the study Effects of Mindfulness on Psychological Health, Keng et. al. found that “mindfulness brings about various positive psychological effects, including increased subjective well-being, reduced psychological symptoms and emotional reactivity, and improved behavioral regulation.”
Meditation is sitting quietly and taming the inner voice or the monkey mind. Meditation can be challenging because our brains want to constantly be doing, and doing means thinking of everything on our calendars, to-do lists and anything else that comes to mind. It takes practice, but start small—3 minutes.
Take a few relaxing deep breaths and focus on your body—how do you feel? Are any muscles tense? Does anything hurt? Continue the deep breathing. If a thought like, “Apples, need to add to grocery list” comes to mind, acknowledge it and let it go. In one study, Harvard researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) found that meditation literally rebuilds the brain’s gray matter in just eight weeks.
Also helpful at slowing the pace and improving the attitude is gratitude. Don’t put too much pressure on yourself with gratitude—show it for the tiniest thing—like that the sun is up or a smile from a stranger or that your cat just brushed up against you. Or bigger things like healthy drinking water from your faucet, a job or a new baby.
Gratitude connects people to something larger than themselves, whether it is other people, a higher power or nature. It helps people feel more positive emotions, relish good experiences, improve their health, deal with adversity, and build strong relationships.
Studies have linked it to better well-being, optimism and fewer visits to the doctor, as reported in the Harvard Mental Health Letter.
The American Psychological Association says that it is easier to stick to a weight loss plan when you have support in the form of an exercise buddy or someone to share tips and ideas with. Studies have shown that a support system is huge in motivating oneself through tasks like exercise. Also helpful are the social media networks and groups tied to a cause where you can find like-minded folks, get support, inspiration and motivation.
Tip: Before meditating or getting into the present moment, take a deep breath for a count of seven, hold it for a count of four and slowly release at a count of seven. Repeat three times. Do this breathing exercise anytime during the day when you feel overwhelmed.
Tomorrow: We discuss obstacles and roadblocks that may turn up on your journey to better wellness.
Download an app like myfitnesspal or try a meditation app like headspace.
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