It will consist of different tidbits of information that are all pieces of a puzzle, all interconnected in this thing call healthy living.
This first week we will touch on something you have probably heard about, Mindfulness.
We are all learning that as important as it is to pay attention to what we put in our mouths and on our skin, surviving in the environment we surround ourselves with, what we think and feel is equally a part of our health.
So, what is Mindfulness? (Taken from http://greatergood.berkeley.edu/topic/mindfulness/definition),
Mindfulness means maintaining a moment-by-moment awareness of our thoughts, feelings, bodily sensations, and surrounding environment.
Mindfulness also involves acceptance, meaning that we pay attention to our thoughts and feelings without judging them—without believing, for instance, that there’s a “right” or “wrong” way to think or feel in a given moment. When we practice mindfulness, our thoughts tune into what we’re sensing in the present moment rather than rehashing the past or imagining the future.
Why Practice Mindfulness?
Studies have shown that practicing mindfulness, even for just a few weeks, can bring a variety of physical, psychological, and social benefits. Here are some of these benefits, which extend across many different settings.
Mindfulness is good for our bodies: A seminal study found that, after just eight weeks of training, practicing mindfulness 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. Indeed, at least one study suggests it may be as good as antidepressants in fighting depression and preventing relapse.
Mindfulness changes our brains: Research has found that it increases density of gray matter in brain regions linked to learning, memory, emotion regulation, and empathy.
Mindfulness helps us focus: Studies suggest that mindfulness helps us tune out distractions and improves our memory and attention skills.
Mindfulness fosters compassion and altruism: Research suggests mindfulness training makes us more likely to help someone in need and increases activity in neural networks involved in understanding the suffering of others and regulating emotions. Evidence suggests it might boost self-compassion as well.
Mindfulness enhances relationships: Research suggests mindfulness training makes couples more satisfied with their relationship, makes each partner feel more optimistic and relaxed, and makes them 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. Parents who practice mindfulness report being happier with their parenting skills and their relationship with their kids, and their kids were found to have better social skills.
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. Teachers trained in mindfulness also show lower blood pressure, less negative emotion and symptoms of depression, and greater compassion and empathy.
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 prisons: Evidence suggests mindfulness reduces anger, hostility, and mood disturbances among prisoners by increasing their awareness of their thoughts and emotions, helping with their rehabilitation and reintegration.
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 do eat.
This first week I will share one practice to begin your mindfulness journeybecause we can learn about something, but unless we practice, it is lost.
I chose "Listening" because I have experienced such a profound difference in the way I interact with people when I truly listen. I don't wait for my turn to talk, I respond to what the other person has said after carefully and truly LISTENING. There is a very big difference in how a conversation or connection unfolds.
I have included an exercise I found on http://www.mindful.org that was easy to understand.
When we are listening mindfully, we are fully present with what we’re hearing without trying to control it or judge it. We let go of our inner clamoring and our usual assumptions, and we listen with respect to precisely what is being said. We listen to our own minds and hearts and, as the Quakers say, to the “still, small voice within.” We listen to sounds, to music, to lectures, to conversations, and, in a sense, to the written word.
For all of these kinds of listening to be effective, so we understand and remember what is being heard, we need a mind that is open, fresh, alert, attentive, calm, and receptive. We often do not have a clear concept of listening as an active process that we can control, but, in fact, mindful listening can be cultivated through practice.
Wake Up Listening
Early morning is especially good for listening. Try this: As you wake up, instead of turning on the TV, your iPhone, or your computer, be still and just listen. In a rural setting, the sounds may be birds and animals waking up. In a city, sounds of outside action begin: garbage collection, building construction, traffic. On campus, the sounds of opening doors, feet walking in the hallways, other students talking. Listen for the soft sounds: a cat purring, leaves rustling. Rest your full attention on one sound until it fades away, then let another come to you. As thoughts come into your mind, gently let them go and return to the sound. Then get out of bed and enjoy the sound of the water on your skin in the shower.
In the Groove
Put on some music, maybe classical or slow tempo. Notice the sound and vibration of the notes, the sensations in your body as you listen, and the feelings the music brings up in you. When you notice thoughts arising, gently bring your attention back to the music. Breathe.
In the Shelter of Each Other
Thoreau said, “The greatest compliment that was ever paid me was when one asked me what I thought and attended to my answer.” Mindful listening helps us be fully present for another person. It is the gift of our attention. It moves us closer to each other. It allows the speaker to feel less vulnerable and more inclined to open up to the listener. Not listening creates separation and fragmentation, which is always painful.
To listen mindfully to another person, stop doing anything else, breathe naturally, and simply listen, without an agenda, to what is being said. If thoughts about other things arise, gently let them go and return to the speaker’s words. As responses arise in your mind, wait until you’ve heard all that has to be said before replying. Try not to let your story overcome the speaker’s. Be curious; don’t assume that you know. Listen for feelings as well as the words.
And you will want to be listened to also. But when you’re speaking, if the person you’re talking to doesn’t appear to be mindfully listening, be patient. As Winnie the Pooh once said, “It may simply be that he has a small piece of fluff in his ear.”
I hope this is helpful and am excited to share each week something I have learned or gathered from a trusted source. We all can learn every day if we open our minds and hearts.