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,….

….FULL ARTICLE

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STRESS AND ORAL HEALTH

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-image, which can have a negative effect on well-being and personal happiness. Stress, chronic anxiety and depression can lead to self-neglect, including neglect of dental hygiene. For many people, dental self-care is not a high priority. It is especially common for stressful economic times to be associated with lapses in the proper oral hygiene habits of regular brushing and flossing of teeth and professional dental exams. Turning to sugar-laden comfort foods for stress relief can also lead to dental caries (tooth decay).


Emotional disorders and stress at home or work can lead to the excess production of dental plaque, which in turn can lead to periodontal (gum) disease, leading to gingivitis and bleeding gums. A highly emotional response to financial hardship, in particular, has been shown to increase gum disease. Periodontal disease is the leading cause of tooth loss, and Kentucky ranks first or second nationally in tooth loss. A healthy diet, regular brushing, flossing, anti-bacterial mouth rinses and regular dental evaluations can save your teeth.


Stress can increase the frequency of canker sores. Also known as aphthous ulcers, these painful lesions occur inside the

mouth and are not contagious. Students often have more canker sores during the school year than during holidays and summer vacation. Cold sores, also called fever blisters, are contagious, painful blisters around the lips, nose or chin caused by the herpes virus. Stress is a common trigger for these blisters. Though canker sores and cold sores resolve with or without medication, their resolution and their prevention can be helped by healthy approaches to stress management.


Stress, worry, anxiety and anger can also lead to bruxism, the clenching and grinding of the teeth during sleep or while awake. This grinding of the teeth can eventually lead to problems with the temporomandibular joint (TMJ). TMJ problems can cause popping or clicking of the jaw when opening the mouth or chewing. It can also cause facial pain or tenderness in the face, jaw joint, neck, shoulders and around the ear when chewing, speaking or opening the mouth. A custom-made dental bite guard may be required to prevent damage to the teeth and the TMJ from frequent grinding. Individuals may be unaware of their teeth grinding and jaw clenching. Signs include flattening of the tips of the teeth and increased dental sensitivity from loss of dental enamel.

There are many ways to help prevent stress from having an adverse impact on your dental health. You can probably find something on this list that fits your lifestyle and personal preferences. To help you manage stress:


•  Try to reduce your exposure to the circumstances, patterns of thinking, habits, people or other sources of your stress.

•  Seek financial, emotional or pastoral counseling to help you deal rationally, thoughtfully and methodically with your stress rather than    self-medicating with drugs, alcohol and overconsumption of unhealthy foods.

•  To reduce mental and emotional stress, connect more with your body through your preferred physical activity – walking, jogging,    swimming, yoga, dancing or sports.

•  Practice daily skilled relaxation, meditation or prayer.

•  Spend some time each evening reading inspirational material that uplifts your spirits.

•  Keep a daily gratitude journal (count your blessings).

•  Get a massage.

•  Hug a loved one.

•  Play with children and animals.

•  Spend unhurried time in nature.

•  Do something for others who are less fortunate. Generosity is good for both the giver and the receiver.

•  Participate in social and community activities that reduce feelings of isolation and loneliness.


There are several resources that offer self-directed approaches to stress management. They do not take the place of professional help should your burden of stress feel overwhelming or get worse over time. Speak with your dental or medical provider for a professional stress management referral if your self-care strategies are not helping. Your dental health as well as your overall health may depend on how effectively you manage your stress.


Sources and Resources


•  Stressed out? Your Dentist Can Tell

•  How stress affects your oral health

•  Dr. James Gordon, founder of the Center for Mind Body Medicine guides a ‘soft belly meditation

•  Zen master Thich Nhat Hanh’s ‘single pointed meditation’ led by Peg Baim of the Benson-Henry Institute for Mind Body Medicine

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