MINDFULNESS AND INNER BEAUTY

A mindfulness student recently experienced her body as beautiful during a body scan in class.  You may already have a positive self-image and feel good about your body. You may consider your body to be “the temple of the Holy Spirit.” Or you may have a negative body image, even hating your body. Whether you love your body or hate it, you can benefit from the body scan, a foundational practice from mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR).

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MINDFUL SELF-COMPASSION

Your compassionate human desire to take good care of others is critical to the well-being of your family, friends, co-workers and community – and taking good care of yourself is the foundation for your care of everyone else.  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.

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MINDFULNESS FOR SENIORS

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-oriented ability to get things done. We depend heavily on the doing mode to take care of all our daily affairs at home and work,….

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MINDFULNESS FOR A NATION UNDER STRESS

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 Americans have increased sharply over the past year.(2)   A Blue Cross Blue Shield report found major depression has risen dramatically since 2013. This rate is rising even faster among millennials and adolescents.(3)   A Cigna survey found loneliness is at epidemic levels in America.(4)  The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported suicide has increased by 30 percent since 1999. Nearly 45,000 lives were lost to suicide in 2016 alone,(5)  and the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) reports more than half of people who died by suicide did not have a known mental health condition.(6)


Addressing the Epidemic

Just as the reasons for this epidemic are complex and multifactorial, our prevention and treatment approaches must also be varied and tailored to the educational, cultural, social, religious, financial and medical demographics of affected individuals and groups. Psychotropic medications are an essential and sometimes life-saving treatment option. But we will not medicate our way out of this epidemic. Health professionals and consumer groups are also concerned about the unintended dangers of polypharmacy and an over-medicated society. These dangers are more common in the elderly, who are more likely to have multiple chronic illnesses, but people of all ages are vulnerable to the medication burdens of cost, drug side effects, interactions between drugs and the sense of dependency on pills.


Using Both External and Internal Resources

If you or a friend or family member are affected by extreme stress, anxiety, depression, loneliness or suicidal thoughts, it is important to seek professional help from your health care provider, mental health professional or spiritual counselor. It is important to keep an open mind about medication. Even if you have a strong aversion to being on medication, remember your life may be at risk and medication can be a temporary, short-term external option while you are cultivating long-term internal resources.

MBSR and MBCT

One of the most widely researched and respected non-drug options for managing chronic illness is mindfulness, specifically mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) and mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT). MBSR has been used for over 40 years to help people cultivate inner resources to manage chronic conditions – physical, mental, emotional and relational. MBCT is a combination of MBSR with cognitive behavior therapy and focuses more specifically on chronic emotional distress.


The peer-reviewed literature on the benefits of mindfulness approaches in chronic illness shows it is increasingly well known by health care providers. Anxiety, depression and chronic pain are among the conditions for which mindfulness approaches are most helpful. As with any serious health condition or therapeutic approach, it is important to seek the advice of trusted health providers who can assess your individual needs and refer you to a certified MBSR or MBCT professional, with or without the simultaneous use of medication.


Practicing Simple Awareness

An exercise used early in mindfulness training is called Simple Awareness. It serves as an entry into the main skill of mindfulness practice. It is simply paying very close attention to your daily experience. Whether you are suffering from a chronic condition or want to prevent one, this practice is a good place to begin. This exercise is no substitute for professional evaluation. Ask your health provider if it is appropriate for you at this time.


At the link below (7), you can print out a week’s log and make daily entries based on your experience of paying close attention to the physical, mental and emotional aspects of ordinary daily activities such as eating, bathing, reading to children, walking the dog or carrying out the trash. You can record your experiences by answering these questions:



We will eventually emerge from this current epidemic of national stress. One of the reasons will be the wise and balanced use of external medication and internal resources such as mindfulness and Simple Awareness.


Sources and Resources:


  1. “Stress in America” – American Psychological Association
  2. Americans are more anxious that a year ago – American Psychiatric Association
  3. Major Depression: Impact on Overall Health – Blue Cross Blue Shield
  4. Cigna study reveals loneliness at epidemic levels in America
  5. Suicide rising across the U.S. – Centers for Disease Control
  6. Risk of suicide – National Alliance on Mental Illness
  7. Simple Awareness weekly journal

DR. JOHN PATTERSON

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

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