A mindfulness student recently experienced her body as beautiful during a body scan in class. You may already have a positive self-
Your compassionate human desire to take good care of others is critical to the well-
You and I have two primary modes of mental activity: the doing mode and the being mode. Although we are called human beings, we spend the majority of our time in the doing mode rather than the being mode. Your “doing” mode is highly prized in our culture for schooling, work and career. It demonstrates your mastery and command of detail, data, thinking, intellect and your goal-
Most people say the gift of sight is their most valuable sense perception – and almost everyone experiences decline in visual function with aging. B One of the most common symptoms of aging is the decline in accommodation, the process by which the eye changes (accommodates) focus to maintain a clear image of objects at different distances. This decline often begins before age 50 years. Accommodation acts like an automatic reflex, but it can also be consciously controlled.
The holiday season is filled with emotion for most people. While this emotion is often happy, positive and loving, for many people it can be very unhappy and even depressing. Holiday music can trigger emotional associations with the absence of a loved one or unhappy memories from the past. The gap between the smiling faces of holiday ads and one’s unhappy emotional experience can actually lead to a deepening of the emotional darkness that often accompanies this season of lights.
As you approach the new year, you may be making resolutions for positive health behavior changes. Birthdays and other anniversaries also prompt us to take stock and vow to adopt healthy lifestyle habits. Two of the most common promises we make to ourselves are to increase our physical activity level and our stress management skills. Research is now showing that combining mindfulness meditation and physical activity can dramatically improve physical and emotional health.
Anger can be a healthy emotional response or a serious health risk. Managing anger appropriately does not require that we deny it, repress it or get completely rid of it. Brief, mild-
The Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH) is the world’s premier nutrition education resource. Harvard Medical School and the Department of Nutrition at HSPH developed the Healthy Eating Plate to provide the general public with up-
Both my parents experienced the sudden change in life’s priorities associated with the diagnosis of inoperable cancer. Suddenly, things that have occupied our mind, time and energy are reappraised in light of a stark reminder of life’s uncertainty and our mortality. Hope is kept alive by modern medicine’s remarkable results with conventional treatments and the fact that some individuals do much better than expected, even with serious and advanced cancer.
Yoga can be fun and healthy for you and your kids – physically, mentally and emotionally.What is yoga? The word “yoga” means to yoke, unite, connect or join together. Yoga helps connect the body, mind, heart and emotions. It can also help connect you to other people, animals, trees and all of nature. We tend to think of physical movements and body postures when we think of yoga. Yoga looks like exercise, but its intent is very different. Physical hatha yoga is traditionally performed as a means of .....
Where is your attention when you eat? Do you love the pleasure of eating so much that you overeat from sheer enjoyment rather than from physiologic hunger cues? Do you overeat as a self-
Being disconnected from or being self-
For many people, there is a relationship between stress and oral health. The presence of oral disease and dental disorders can cause stress from low self-
The three primary domains of your overall fitness are physical activity, healthy eating and emotional well-
Surely one of the best things about modern science is the discovery that chocolate can actually be good medicine! Chocolate As Preventive Medicine? Cocoa contains phytonutrients (plant chemicals) called flavanols that may help protect you against coronary heart disease (heart attacks). Compared to milk chocolate, dark chocolate contains two to three times the amount of these beneficial plant chemicals. A possible mechanism by which flavanols protect the heart may be enhancing.....
A cancer survivor is anyone who has been diagnosed with cancer, from the time of diagnosis through the rest of his or her life. Modern medical, radiation and surgical treatments have led to a growing population of cancer survivors, who now number over 12 million, or one in 25 Americans. Lifestyle choices such as health-
Is it necessary, or even safe, to take an antibiotic for your next illness? This question is becoming a routine part of conversations between consumers and health providers. The way we answer this question has serious implications. Consumers and health care providers are both being urged to help achieve the goals of good medicine and public health: making a correct diagnosis, using antibiotics only if the diagnosis war-
I will never forget my patient who developed Type 1, insulin-
What to Eat? The world’s leading nutrition researchers are sending a very clear public health message based on the best scientific evidence available: To promote health, prevent disease and extend life, half your food servings should come from fruits and vegetables. For more than 70 years, the Department of Nutrition of the Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH) has conducted rigorous scientific research on the relationship between food and health.
In addition to cold weather, winter sometimes brings sadness and depression. Some people experience depression only during the winter. Others with year-
The fast pace of modern life is taking its toll on our mental and physical health. Multiple surveys in the past year have documented an alarming increase in perceived stress, anxiety, depression and suicide. Our health – our very lives – depend on our ability to manage stress in healthy ways at home, at work, in traffic, in relationships – and simply inside our own skin. We need simple tools to bring some calm to the chaos – some peace to the frenzy – some kindness to the aggression and competition.
A recent American Psychiatric Association poll found anxiety in Americans has increased sharply over the past year, up five points since 2017. Also in the past year, a Blue Cross Blue Shield report found major depression has risen by 33 percent since 2013. This rate is rising even faster among millennials (up 47 percent) and adolescents (up 47 percent for boys and 65 percent for girls).
Are you a victim of the epidemic of stress we are experiencing as a nation? We have a serious public health epidemic. Public health officials are increasingly alarmed by the growing epidemic of stress, anxiety, depression, loneliness and suicide in America. The American Psychological Association recently found more than half of Americans said they consider this the lowest point in U.S. history they can remember.(1) An American Psychiatric Association poll found anxiety levels in…
Human beings are social creatures by our very nature. We depend on each other. We need each other. Even though we may feel self-
Hearing and listening are often confused. Hearing is one of the five major sense perceptions, along with seeing, tasting, smelling and touching. We use the sense of hearing when we are in conversation with another person and we may refer to that elemental sense of hearing as listening. But listening also has a much deeper meaning. In the corporate world and the medical and psychological sciences, the quality of active listening or deep listening is recognized as a critical element in interpersonal….
As our annual holiday of giving comes to an end, we often begin a new year full of hopes, intentions and resolutions to take better care of ourselves. Many of us also vow to take better care of others. We want to be more kind. But it’s hard to be more kind to others when we feel our own cup of kindness is running low or is completely empty. It is difficult or impossible to relieve the suffering of others without first wisely managing our own suffering. Self-
You may have recently made 2019 resolutions for positive health behavior changes. Each new birthday and each new year often prompts us to take stock and vow to adopt healthy lifestyle habits of mind and body. Two of the most common promises I hear are to increase exercise/physical activity and learn to manage stress in a healthy way.
Recent surveys describe an alarming level of stress in the United States. Anxiety, depression, loneliness and suicide are increasing – not just in adults, but also in children and youth. Public health officials and educators are looking for ways to limit the harm caused by the fast pace of modern life and the endless stream of disturbing news. Mindfulness practice has emerged as an important tool that can benefit children, teachers and parents.
Just relax! It sounds so simple, but it isn’t necessarily easy. There are many unskillful, unhealthy ways to relax. But you can achieve significant cardiovascular and other health benefits from the regular practice of skillful relaxation for stress management. One of the best ways to skillfully relax is by practicing the Relaxation Response. Harvard cardiologist Herbert Benson coined the phrase “relaxation response” after studying meditation’s affects on cardiovascular disease….
The National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH) is your best resource for evidence supporting the combination of mainstream medicine with safe, effective complementary approaches for health promotion, disease prevention and the treatment of acute and chronic conditions.
Children and teens are experiencing increasing levels of stress. Parents and teachers are struggling to understand the sources of this stress and find ways to help manage it. Those same parents and teachers have their own increasing levels of worry, fear, anxiety, depression and chronic stress-
By our very nature, human beings are craving creatures. Cravings can occur in response to natural physiologic needs such as hunger, thirst and social contact. Cravings can also become unhealthy habits in response to emotional cues such as anxiety, depression, anger, grief or loneliness. Mindfulness can help us take control of our wants, needs, urges and cravings so we can stop being controlled by them.
Cancer survivor” refers to anyone who has been diagnosed with cancer from the time of diagnosis through the rest of their life. Early cancer detection and improved treatments, including surgery, radiotherapy, chemotherapy, hormone therapy, biological therapies, bone marrow and stem cell transplants, have led to a growing population of cancer survivors, which now exceeds 12 million, or 1 in 25 Americans.
Mindfulness can help us promote resilience, the ability to bounce back from life’s stressors as they push and pull us off our center. Mindfulness can help up manage stress and even find its energy potentially motivating. Mindfulness can help us prevent the burnout and exhaustion so prevalent across society. Mindfulness can be practiced by anyone. It can help us avoid self-
Walking and mindfulness both have significant physical, mental and emotional health benefits. You can combine them by practicing mindful walking. Empirical evidence over centuries from many cultures and traditions supports the use of mindful, meditative walking as part of a conscious, contemplative lifestyle.
Our lives are filled with busyness, moving at high speed to achieve goals, solve problems and get somewhere else. We see obstacles, conflict and painful experiences as unwanted and undesirable impediments to happiness and getting things done. We are rewarded for our ability to do more and more, faster and faster. We are trained from childhood to use the doing mode of our brains to recall facts for passing exams and train for our adult work.
Surveys show increasing levels of anxiety, depression, loneliness, substance abuse and suicide. Optimism can help you fill your cup, promote resilience, prevent burnout and perhaps save your life – and you can cultivate it.
Even before the current pandemic, surveys over the past couple of years showed increasing levels of anxiety, depression, chronic pain, sleep disturbance, substance abuse, addiction, loneliness and suicide. Sadly, these trends have affected Americans of all ages, including teens and youth. New polls taken during this coronavirus pandemic show even more people are anxious about the possibility of themselves or their loved ones becoming seriously ill or dying.
The current pandemic is a global stress we are all experiencing together. By managing our own stress, we contribute to the relief of stress throughout society. Research shows mindfulness can help you cope with stress and improve your health, allowing you to better serve others in need. Mindful breathing is a simple stress-
Modern research shows journal writing is an effective, simple, inexpensive and convenient form of self-
The viral pandemic has caused an outbreak of anxiety, depression, loneliness, domestic violence, substance abuse and suicide. Cravings can become unhealthy habits in response to these emotional cues. Many people are self-
Receiving the diagnosis of cancer strikes fear in the heart of most people. Livelihoods and relationships can be affected. Side effects from complicated therapy or surgery can cause emotional distress. As treatments have advanced, many people are living longer with cancer as a chronic condition. Stress is often a constant companion of the person living with cancer. Fortunately, there are practical mind-
Aging is a mixed blessing. We want to live a long life, but aging often comes with disability, pain, loss of function and loss of loved ones. Aging well involves healthy lifestyle habits, including healthy eating, physical activity, restful sleep, social support and stress management. Mindfulness is an extremely practical skill that can help you manage stress and achieve your best overall health – physically, mentally and emotionally.
We experience the breadth of human emotions in our hearts. The heart is where we feel the love for our romantic partner, dear friends and family, children and pets. Those who have had the experience of holding their newborn child or grandchild for the first time report a feeling in the heart unlike anything they have ever known or even considered themselves capable of feeling. We feel the grief and loss of loved ones in our hearts as well.
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Your compassionate human desire to take good care of others is critical to the well-
However, it is sadly true that we often take better care of others than we do of ourselves. It’s as if we need a new Golden Rule: Do unto yourself as you do unto others. We would never say or do to someone else some of the things we say and do to ourselves. Some of our actions toward ourselves are hurtful, negative, critical, judgmental, demeaning and harmful, even to the point of injury, self-
Here are three practices to consider as part of your compassionate self-
Your heart is much more than a muscle and a pump. We all feel emotions in the center of the chest, an energy center that Eastern philosophies refer to as the mind or soul as well as the heart. Recall your own experience of loss and grief, love and romance, fear and anxiety. You may recall that much of that experience involved the energy center in the middle of the chest.
In his poem Two kinds of intelligence, the Sufi poet Rumi (1207-
Although you can be aware of your heart anywhere, anytime, it is helpful to begin an intentional, dedicated heart-
physically, weaving awe and gratitude for the heart into your exercise routine. You may include a few minutes of heart awareness in your contemplative practice of prayer, yoga or meditation.
You can practice sitting, reclining or lying down. Adjust your body so you are as comfortable as the position permits. Without any expectation of results or particular experience, simply let your attention rest in the heart center. You may find it helpful to feel physically the sensation of the breath moving into and out of the lungs, oxygenating the blood and flowing into and out of every cell in the body.
Some people easily feel their heart beating in their chest and all over the body. Those who find this initially challenging can access this interior sense by first feeling the pulse at the wrist or neck or abdomen. However, it is not necessary to feel the pulse in the body in order to practice mindful, heart-
Intentionally connecting with your body is a powerful antidote to stress. Bringing an attitude of openness, inquiry, discovery, kindness and compassion to your mind, body and heart can help you live mindfully at home, at work, alone and with others. The first foundation of mindfulness is mindfulness of the body. While rubbing or gently pressing with the fingertips, bring an attitude of kindness and friendliness to the act of touching your body as you move either from head to feet or from feet to head. Feel your body touching your body. Feel your body being touched by your body. Let thoughts come (without following them and thinking them) and let them go (without rejecting them or pushing them away), simply returning your attention to the physical sensations in the body and the very clear intention to be kind and friendly toward your self.
The compassion practice of loving kindness can be a particularly warm and soothing antidote to the stress of life, isolation and unhappiness. My mindfulness classes always end with a brief loving-
Begin by sitting or lying down with eyes open or partially closed, then repeat these phrases once or twice silently to yourself.
May I be safe.
May I be happy.
May I be well.
May I be peacefully at ease.
After performing any of the three practices above, you may find it helpful to journal about your experience. The mindful self-
I have recorded two versions of Loving Kindness practice at the Mind Body Studio Web site. They can be listened to or downloaded at www.mindbodystudio.org/?page_id=1594
Dr. John Patterson is past president of the Kentucky Academy of Family Physicians and is board certified in family medicine and integrative holistic medicine. He is on the family practice faculty at the University of Kentucky College of Medicine and the University of Louisville School of Medicine, Saybrook University’s School of Mind Body Medicine (San Francisco) and the Center for Mind Body Medicine (Washington, D.C.). He operates the Mind Body Studio in Lexington, where he offers integrative medicine consultations