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.

….FULL ARTICLE

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,….

….FULL ARTICLE

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S.T.O.P. A SIMPLE MINDFULNESS PRACTICE

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. The S.T.O.P. mindfulness practice is one such tool. This practice can take as little time as one breath or as long as you like.


“S”  is for “Stop” and take Stock

Aren’t there times when you just need a break, even for a minute? Make yourself a promise to recognize several times each day when you need some self-care  and rejuvenation and simply stop. Step out of the unskillful, habitual reactivity of automatic pilot mode and into the present moment. Step out of the doing mode and into the being mode. Reconnect with yourself and your natural inner resources of resilience, relaxation, peacefulness and wisdom. Really tune in, paying attention to what is happening  right now, right here, without expectation, without an agenda other than a curious, open inquiry into what is actually happening inside you and around you.


Even if you don’t remember this entire sequence, just remember the word  stop. Have the intention to truly inquire into the three primary domains of your experience: 1) Body – sense perceptions and physical sensations; 2) Mind – thoughts, images, plans, memories; and 3) Emotions and feelings. Bring some well-deserved self-compassion  and kindness to yourself, especially if your experience is unpleasant,  stressful or painful.


Ask yourself, “What is my experience right now?” Simply notice what’s  going on around you and inside of you. Take stock of the situation. Take your foot off the accelerator and slow down, grounding yourself with some conscious, natural breaths. In the   process, your pleasant experiences may be more fully nurtured and your unpleasant experiences may be less onerous.


Alternatively, you may ask, “What is absent from my experience right now? What have I forgotten about myself, my work, my colleagues, my family?” Allow experiences of kindness, compassion, generosity, awe and beauty and smell the roses along the  way.

“T” is for “Take” a Breath

Take a normal, natural breath, directing your full attention to breathing. Even one breath experienced with your full, unhurried attention can counteract  the stress response. Feel the physical sensations of each inbreath and each outbreath – sensations in the nostrils as the air moves in and out – sensations as the air moves back and forth across the upper lip – sensations as the air moves in and out of the back of the throat – sensations as the chest expands and contracts – and sensations as the belly expands and contracts.


You may find it helpful to say to yourself “in” on the inbreath and “out” on the outbreath. Use your breath as an anchor to bring you into the present moment and help you tune intentionally into your natural state of calm awareness  and restful alertness.


“O” is for “Open” and “Observe”

Expand the field of your awareness beyond your breathing, including a sense of the body as a whole, your posture, your facial expression and the   sensations on your skin. Notice all your sense perceptions – touch, sight, sounds, smells and tastes. Expanding your awareness beyond your body, connect to the trees

and all the green growing things you depend on for oxygen. Notice your thoughts and their fleeting, impermanent nature. Notice that thoughts are not always facts and not necessarily true. Notice that you can intentionally choose to think your thoughts or let them go. Allow your emotions to surface, recognizing and naming them without judgment: “This is anger” – “This is joy” – “This is grief” – “This is happiness” – “This is anxiety” – “This is depression” – “I know you. I am experiencing you but you do not define me.”


Naming your emotions without self-judgment helps cultivate emotional intelligence, magnifying the benefits of uplifting emotions and reducing the power of distressing emotions. Opening your heart to your own stress, difficult emotions and suffering  can nurture your natural capacity for human affiliation and social support and your capacity to help relieve the stress and suffering of other people and all living things.


“P” is for “Proceed”/new “Possibilities”

After this intentional slowing down, stepping off the treadmill and out of the rat race, take the benefits of this practice into the next moment, the next task, the next meeting, the next conversation, the next relationship, informing ordinary daily activity with the physiological benefits of mindful self-care.


Notice the world around you, experiencing how things really are, tapping into your intuitive inner wisdom for what you need right now – a call or text to a friend, a quiet moment alone, a bite of chocolate, a cup of tea. Then proceed with more clarity, from a place of choice and skillful responding rather than reactive, habitual autopilot.


Proceed without any expectation of how others will act or speak or behave. Be realistic about your inability to control the pace at which other people are moving. Know with increasing confidence you can consciously choose the  pace of your own mind and body, where you place your attention and whether you  perceive your cup as half empty or half full. Feel your inner relaxation  response naturally balancing your stress response. With an open, curious mind, experiment with the S.T.O.P. practice several times a day, anywhere, anytime, before each meal, before starting the car, turning on the computer, bathing, brushing your teeth, taking out the trash, during conversation, going to bed, waking up in the morning – anytime, anywhere.


As you take control of where you place your attention, you will understand why mindfulness is also translated as heartfulness. Refining your ability to slow down and S.T.O.P. can help you promote resilience, manage stress, prevent burnout and cultivate compassion. Keeping a log of your practice can be extremely helpful. The  following questions are taken from the S.T.O.P. practice log (2) below.



Resources:


  1. Downloadable basic S.T.O.P. instruction  summary https://palousemindfulness.com/docs/STOP.pdf 
  2. Downloadable detailed one week S.T.O.P. practice log https://palousemindfulness.com/practice/week4-informal.pdf 

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

more articles by dr john patterson