Why Naturopathy May Be the Best Medicine for You!
There’s no doubt that conventional medicine has its place. But more and more people are turning to naturopathy for their healthcare needs. Why? Because naturopathy is a form of medicine that focuses on treating the whole person, not just the symptoms.
Naturopathic doctors work to find the root cause of your health problems and then treat you accordingly. This means that you’re not just popping pills to cover up your symptoms. Instead, you’re getting to the root of the problem and addressing it head-on.
Not only does this approach tend to be more effective in the long run, but it can also help you avoid dangerous side effects that can come with taking too many medications.
If you’re looking for a more holistic approach to your health, naturopathy may be the best medicine for you!
What is naturopathy?
Naturopathy is a system of primary health care that combines modern scientific knowledge with traditional and natural forms of medicine. Naturopathic medicine is based on the belief that the body has an innate ability to heal itself. Naturopathic treatments aim to support and stimulate the body’s own healing process and can be used to treat a wide range of conditions.
A naturopath is a healthcare professional who focuses on the natural treatment of illness and disease. Naturopathic medicine emphasizes the use of dietary and lifestyle changes, herbal medicines, and other natural therapies to promote wellness and heal the body. Naturopaths work to treat the underlying cause of illness, rather than simply managing symptoms. A functional medicine-trained naturopath uses a variety of modalities, including nutrition, lifestyle changes, and supplements to help their patients achieve optimal health. Naturopath Melbourne has some great information about functional medicine and the additional insights functional testing can provide.
The history of naturopathy
The term naturopathy was coined in the late 19th century by John Scheel, and was popularized in the United States by Benedict Lust. Naturopathic medicine is considered a form of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM), which focuses on natural remedies and the body’s innate ability to heal itself.
Naturopathy has been practiced for centuries, and its roots can be traced back to ancient Greece. The father of medicine, Hippocrates, advocated the use of diet, exercise, and fresh air to treat illness.
In the early 20th century, naturopathic medicine fell out of favor in the United States as conventional Western medicine became more prevalent. However, it experienced a resurgence in popularity in the 1970s, and today there are naturopathic medical schools and clinics across the country.
The benefits of naturopathy
There are many benefits of naturopathy, including:
- Naturopathy can help to treat the underlying cause of disease, rather than just the symptoms.
- Naturopathic therapies can be used to prevent disease and promote wellness.
- Naturopathic medicine is based on the principle that the body has an innate ability to heal itself.
- Naturopathic therapies can be used to treat a wide range of conditions, including chronic diseases.
- Naturopathy can be used in conjunction with conventional medicine.
- Naturopathic physicians are trained to provide individualized care.
- Naturopathic therapies are often less expensive than conventional treatments.
- Naturopathic medicine is based on the principle of first do no harm.
- Naturopathic therapies are often gentle and non-invasive.
- Naturopathic medicine focuses on whole-person health, including mind, body, and spirit.
Is naturopathy right for me?
If you are looking for a healthcare approach that focuses on the underlying cause of disease and promotes wellness, naturopathy may be right for you. Naturopathic therapies can be used to treat a wide range of conditions, and naturopathic physicians are trained to provide individualized care. Naturopathic medicine is based on the principle of first do no harm, and naturopathic therapies are often gentle and non-invasive. If you are interested in naturopathy, make sure to consult with a naturopathic physician to see if it is the right fit for you.
How to choose the right naturopath
There are a few things to keep in mind when choosing a naturopath:
- Make sure the naturopath is licensed and insured.
- Ask about the naturopath’s training and experience.
- Find out what conditions the naturopath treats.
- Inquire about the naturopath’s treatment philosophy.
- Ask about the naturopath’s fee schedule.
- Schedule a consultation to meet with the naturopath and ask any additional questions you may have.
If you are looking for a healthcare approach that focuses on the underlying cause of disease and promotes wellness, naturopathy may be the ‘medicine’ for you.
Mindfulness for Personal Development
Can we develop skills that enable us to enrich our lives by thinking in the moment? By taking a look at how mindfulness can be immersed within personal development we can identify how the strategies can collectively help us to accept that life is the way it is but with an outlook that can remain positive and appreciative. Can mindfulness take us to a place of humble gratitude?
Bringing About Change With Mindfulness
Mindfulness allows us time to gain self awarenes, building upon self esteem and confidence. To be able to believe in ourselves without self judgement and feel secure enough to invest in ourselves is an ability to achieve a state of mind that lends itself to feeling contentment, gratitude and appreciation. Mindfulness. Being present without judgement in every moment.
Please allow me to take you on a snap shot of mindfulness discovery to show how mindfulness can be part of personal development, for life.
Imagine living a life thinking of worst case scenarios while enduring real physical reactions because of those fictional thoughts. The feeling of being crippled by such pointlessness is matched by the feeling of endured negativity. Being mindful focuses on the present moment, negating the ability to look for the untruths of the future and when meditation alone can’t focus the mind and body, yoga can assist in combining physical poses and controlled breathing with relaxation. Childs pose is especially helpful, releasing tension in the neck, back and shoulders while encouraging steady conscious breathing.
As meditation slows down our busy thoughts, it is thought that focusing on the present in a meditative state enables a reduction in cortisol levels, lowering stress on a neurochemical level. Thoughts that are mindful enable us to become aware of what is going on within ourselves. As we tune into our thoughts, feelings and bodily sensations we can learn to accept our experiences as they are, responding with a skillful awareness instead of acting, and reacting, out of habit and conditioning.
Being mindful when eating helps to slow the process down while giving the opportunity to savour. Purposefully thinking in this way helps you to feel more in control as you consume when you are hungry and appreciate what you consume. When positives are applied to food consumption we can begin to apply positives to how we perceive ourselves in terms of our body image. The act of slow purposeful eating facilitates good digestion therefore negating the need to eat more to gain the feeling of satisfaction.
Every day stresses take their toll on our ability to sleep. Research by Hulshegar et al suggests that even a small amount of mindfulness can calm our mind to improve our sleep. Their research found that those who meditated experienced improvements in sleep quality and sleep duration.
How do you help yourself to better sleep?
• Don’t look at the clock when you do struggle to get to sleep or remain asleep. Watching time pass adds to the stress and frustration of not sleeping.
• Keep to a sleep routine. Get up and go to bed the same time every day, even at weekends. This will help your body clock get in to sync.
• Try to unwind with meditation to focus the brain and relax the body. Exercises that engage breathing will help to quieten your mind and body, bringing a sense of calm that enables you to drift off to sleep.
Instead of focusing on how badly we want our pain to stop, being mindful allows us to think of the pain in a way that is not natural for the brain. The pain sensation ensures our minset surrounds negativity, annoyance and upset possibly feeding anxiety and sadness. Little do our hurting negative selves know but that approach makes the pain appear much worse. A change in our thinking will enable us to relate to the pain differently. We should focus on what is noticable about the pain and it’s attributes (for want of a better word!) bringing forth an awareness to the severity patterns, peaks, troughs and differing sensations. In other words, in times of chronic pain try to focus on learning about what you’re experiencing rather than enter a frantic search for answers and endings.
Lowering Blood Pressure
Taking a few minutes to relax each day could help you lower your risk of cardiovascular disease. Being mindful and in control of stress, anxiety, sleep and having good eating practices can all have a positive effect on blood pressure. It is recognised that mindfulness alone isn’t enough to lower blood pressure but being mindful and adopting positive lifestyle changes can be a complementary treatment for blood pressure in the prehypertensive range.
To be able to successfully pay attention the mind needs to be aware of how we’re paying attention. Our minds will naturally wander but an empathetic person will experience compassionate thoughts about the ‘interuption’, embracing an attitude of ‘I’m interested and care that this is in my present’. To be able to show compassion for others we should endevour to show compassion for ourselves. If we’re able to be patient wth all of our unresolved issus, we can learn to love the questions too.
As we sit down to consider what we’re actually grateful for, we take a moment to picture each item in our mind. The feeling of gratitude enables neurons to light up areas of the brain that facilitates happiness. In term of mindfulness, we can’t feel grateful for things that we don’t notice. The two go hand-in-hand helping us to appreciate lovely moments in life whilst enabling us to make lovely moments for others.
The humble amongst us are able to see and accept their own strengths and weaknesses without being defensive or judging themselves. In possessing self acceptance we can expect to show little value in showing others that we can accomplish to feel accepted in the society in which we live. It mens we don’t place our seelf worth on those extermal things, keeping ou self esteem in tact when we can’t live up to expectations. The trick, it seems, is self compassion.
We can let ourselves become laden with worries that take their toll on our body and our mind. The need to rejuvenate our physical and emotional self becomes apparent at some stage as we have an innate ability to know that when the mind and body are struggling we should slow down. By learning to live in the moment we can use awareness and positivity to reconnect to our inner self, breathing slowly to calm the body.
Mindfulness offers us the chance to change the conditioning that has occured through experiences and our perceptions of them. It enables us to take back control of ourselves and the way we think, feel and act while helping us to live with greater joy, contentment, and kindness. We can learn to embrace difficult feelings and emotions both in mind and in body. Mindfulness is no quick fix but it can be a desirable strategy for coping with what life throws at us. Mindfulness isn’t a life changer but could well be seen as a life enrichment tool.
Mindfulness pioneer Sylvia Boorstein suggests ”Mindfulness doesn’t change life. Life remains as fragile and unpredictable as ever. What changes is the heart’s capacity to accept life as it is. It teaches the heart to be more accommodating; not by beating it in into submission’ but by making it clear that accommodation is a gratifying choice”.
Mindfulness Meditation: Why You Need to Incorporate this into Your Life
As the current culture continues to grow and evolve, certain words and phrases are becoming more common as people continue to embrace them. One of the many words that has been thrown around is “mindfulness.”
Undoubtedly, most people have heard this word before and think that it is important, yet few people actually know what it is. Today, many people find themselves multitasking on a regular basis. Perhaps people do the laundry while helping the kids with their homework. Maybe someone is on the phone with their boss while continuing to type away at their current assignment.
Kids seem to always balance multiple text message conversations while doing their homework (perhaps poorly) at the same time.
Mindfulness is the practice of taking the time to focus on the present moment instead of on the distractions that can overwhelm someone’s life and soak up every ounce of their attention.
Mindfulness meditation is the practice of focusing on the present moment in an active manner. Think about everything that people miss out on when they don’t take the time to focus on themselves and the moment at hand. Mindfulness meditation helps prevent this from happening. In fact, the benefits of mindfulness and meditation have been studied scientifically.
Mindfulness Meditation can Improve Someone’s Mental Health
As people’s lives continue to get busier, it is easy for people to lose their mental and emotional health in the shuffle. People may start to feel like they’re simply being stretched too thin and may turn to unhealthy coping mechanisms as a way of dealing with the stress. In fact, substance abuse disorders involving drugs and alcohol remain one of the major health problems that society has to deal with. Furthermore, people develop mood disorders, including anxiety and depression, from trying to balance everything that is taking time out of their day. In the past few years, many scientists and researchers have studied the practice of mindfulness meditation and the benefits that it can bring to someone’s state of mental health. It can even help with:
- Substance abuse disorders involving drugs and alcohol
- Depression, including suicidality
- Eating disorders ranging from anorexia, bulimia, and other binging and purging behaviors
- Conflicts between couples
- OCD, anxiety, and numerous other mood disorders
When people take the time to be mindful of their emotional state, it can help them accept the emotions that they’re feeling in their life, whether they are good or bad. By accepting what has happened, they are able to process what they’re feeling instead of turning to avoidance of these emotions through unearthly means. Mindfulness has even been incorporated into cognitive behavioral therapy, one of the backbones of treatment employed by psychiatric providers. This meditative state helps people find a new, healthy perspective that improves their mental health.
Mindfulness has Numerous Benefits on Physical Health
In addition to the many benefits that mindfulness can have on someone’s mental state, it can even improve various facets of someone’s physical health as well. When someone takes the time to meditate and think about their current state of mind, it provides a calming influence on both their mind and their body, which is reflected in the numerous physical health benefits that mindfulness meditation can bring. Among the many health benefits are:
- A general feeling of stress relief
- Improvement in various facets of heart health and heart disease
- A decrease in blood pressure, providing benefits to the blood vessels, heart, and lungs
- A decrease in chronic pain levels
- An easier time sleeping due to a calm mind
- Relief from many digestive difficulties due to relief from stress and anxiety
It is important for people to realize that many of their chronic health problems stem from a cluttered mind, anxious emotional state, and a lack of sleep created by many of the problems above. When all of these areas of life are improved, their emotional health translates to an improved state of physical well-being and is reflected as an improvement in many of the health parameters discussed above.
Mindfulness Meditation can Improve Someone’s Well-Being for the Future
When people start to incorporate mindfulness meditation into their daily routine, they start to see many of the overall benefits as they move into the future. When the mental and physical health benefits of mindfulness are rolled into one, it creates a general sense of improved well-being in many ways, including:
Enjoying the Moment: When people take the time to be mindful and remain in the present moment, they are able to enjoy the simple pleasures in life. This means that people are more engaged in the present activities and are less likely to miss the important moments that occur from day to day.
Less Likely to Have Regrets: People who are able to practice mindfulness regularly are less likely to have regrets over the past because they know that they have lived in the present moment. They will not be concerned with their own success and self-esteem which allows them to take chances that they otherwise would not have taken. It also helps people to open themselves up to the ability to form deeper connections with loved ones and others around them.
Overall, mindfulness meditation will help people develop the attitudes that are necessary for not just success but fulfillment as well.
Ultimately, this is only a brief overview of the practice of mindfulness, meditation, and the numerous benefits that it can bring to someone’s life. Remember that mindfulness is an important part of maintaining a healthy mind, spirit, and body while meditation can help focus the mind on the moment at hand without having to miss out on what’s happening around a person. By incorporating mindfulness and meditation into the daily routine, it can help someone gain a new perspective on their life that can bring about a healthy change in someone’s emotional, physical, and mental state.
Reducing Stress with Mindfulness
Reducing stress with mindfulness is probably the easiest way to work with yourself in your quest to be more focused and of sound mind. I find it to be the easiest way for me to decrease the stress of the day, mostly due to the fact that virtually any activity of daily life can be approached in a more mindful way. Mindfulness is a healing and helpful way to walk through life, and it can easily become habitual. Some of my ideas follow.
Observe Your Thoughts
If you’re someone that has a noisy, busy mind like my own, I find I can calm it down some by the simple observance of the thoughts that pass through it. You can easily watch while racing thoughts come and go within your head for a calming effect that for me at least, seems to place me in a kind of separated way from my actual body. It’s a unique feeling in itself that creates a calmness for me.
Become more aware of the present moment for an effective stress reducer that leads you from moment to moment. Whatever it is that you’re engaged in, become completely attentive to the activity. Feel all of the feelings that come with that particular activity from head to toe. This mindful activity is by far one of my favorites for getting my head in the right place. Feel the wind on your face as completely as you can, smell the flower you’re smelling…feel it’s scent permeate every cell in your nose.
Listen To Music
Listening to music in a mindful way is a very stress-reducing way to enjoy your favorite music. Especially because if you are listening to music that is particularly pleasant to you, naturally engaging in it is easy. Engaging completely in music is also used as a therapeutic method for helping those with anxiety and stress management. Hearing my favorite music tunes in one way I have that is sure-fire in helping me relieve stress by being mindful in a way that is natural to me.
How Does Eating Organic Effect Your Weight?
If you are looking to lose or maintain your weight, is eating organic going to help? I have eaten organic food for a long time. I am sure that eating organic does affect your weight, although lightly. However, what are some of the factors that may contribute to weight loss when eating organic. However, before that what are some of the things that make organic foods organic?
For organic food to be organic it, first, it must be grown without the use of artificial fertilizers or pesticides of any kind. Natural fertilizer is acceptable, things such as eggshells, fruit skins, and dead plants. If the food comes from livestock, the animal has to be free of antibiotics or growth hormones. Finally, organic food cannot be genetically modified or treated with radiation. Now let us move on to some ways eating organic foods can help you lose/ maintain weight.
1. Organic Food Isn’t Processed
Today almost all the food we find in the grocery store has been processed, packaged, and stripped of its nutritional value. Why? To make the food last longer, stay cheaper, and taste better. When your body is robbed of the nutrition it needs, it starts storing the energy you consume in the form of fat. Organic food, however, is more wholesome and full of nutrition. When you eat wholesome foods you feel satisfied, allowing you to get the nutrition you need, without eating too much. It is a win-win situation!
2. Organic Food Does Not Have Food Additives
Food additives are substances added to food to preserve its flavour and appearance. Things such as starch in chicken to make it crispier, and fats in pastries to make them tastier are just some of the common examples. They also add salt, sugar, and thickeners. All these are definitely not good for your body in large amounts. Organic food does not contain any food additives, making it less sugary, fattening, and unhealthy.
3. Organic Food is Non-Toxic
Non-organic foods can contain toxins, which can affect your body’s state of being, making you sick, sleepy, or mood. All these can have effects on your weight and that means weight gain. Sometimes these toxins may target your weight directly, especially with fried foods and foods full of preservatives and other substances.
4. Organic Food is Associated With an Active Lifestyle
People who eat organic are thought of as active and outgoing people. Other people choosing to switch to organic might step in their shoes as well and follow suit. While this is not a direct link, when people change their diet to organic, they might start exercising just because they are starting to eat healthy.
5. Organic Foods are Often Grown Locally
If foods are grown locally, chances are if you are like me, you will walk to get your fresh produce. When food is grown locally and it is just half a kilometer from your house, you might feel a little bit guilty driving that car. When you walk you burn calories and that is one step to weight loss.
Whether or not organic food is going to be in the next wave of weight loss techniques is still yet to be answered. However, through my experiences, I have to say it definitely helped me lose and then maintain my weight!
The Benefits of Getting Healthy with Yoga
If you searching for a new way to get healthier then try doing yoga! This is a unique practice that can improve your health in a very holistic way; meaning your mind, body and soul. Yoga is a very traditional and ancient practice that has been used by many to detox and energize the body and the mind. When practiced regularly it can bring an inner peace within a person and an increased wellbeing. Below are just some of the many benefits yoga can have on your health.
• Relax those nerves
When practicing yoga continuously, you will see a change in how your body’s nervous system functions. The techniques and positions used in yoga can calm your nervous system and reduce stress. By using different stretching poses and breathing practices of yoga, the result will be a huge relaxation of nervous system. As a result, this will also provide relief in other parts of your wellbeing such as foggy thought processes, negative emotions and sluggish behavior. In addition to this, since your nervous system is more relaxed, there is a stronger connection with your mind and body.
• Better Digestion
When it comes to digestion, several people can suffer from chronic constipation and in general a sluggish system. With the help of yoga, constipation can be greatly relieved, because yoga improves the health of the body from the inside out. With certain yoga poses, you can actually massage the inside of your digestive system thus improving flow and blood circulation. When the circulation of your digestive system has been improved, your digestive system with soon follow and improve as well. With a proper functioning digestive system your body will start to function at its optimal level, and therefore you will have more energy and fewer toxins in your system.
• Detox Detox Detox
Detoxing the body is very important and a healthy process to undertake in general. It is the best way to eliminate toxins that are festering within the body’s system. When practicing yoga on a daily basis, you will be able to enable the body to clear out toxins that are causing havoc within your body. With fewer toxins in your body, the more energy you will have to tackle on the day. The detox that yoga provides not only pertains to physical toxins in the body, but also emotional toxins and psychological toxins, perhaps it could be cleansing yourself from the bad emotions of a previous relationship, a bad friendship and negative thoughts and emotions that you yourself might be hanging on to. Yoga can help you let go of this and have peace of mind. With a clear mind you can make better decisions in life, adopt a healthier lifestyle and form more positive connections, relationships and friendships that benefit your life.
• Inside out improvement!
Get your glow on! With continuous practice of yoga, you will see a definite improvement of your body from the inside out. So besides the improvement of your digestive system, relaxation of your nervous system, and the detox benefits, you can also expect your skin to glow! Due to the increase blood circulation in your system, your metabolic rate will increase, which can lead to glowing skin and lighter body weight.
When practicing yoga, most students also adopt healthier eating habits. So instead of consuming deep fried foods, you might make a smarter choice and opt for a nice kale salad instead.
At the end of the day yoga ultimately leads to healthier lifestyle, more positive outlook and glowing skin. So what are you waiting for? Give yoga a try!
Meditation: Improve Your Luck
To take advantage of meditation and its benefits it is important to make meditation your new daily habit, like brushing teeth. It will present challenges similar to those you experienced when embarking on a new physical exercise program. At first you notice your body is weak and can hardly cope with what is asked of it, but with time you’ll see it gets stronger, healthier. When you first start on meditation exercise you will notice disturbing restlessness in your body as you try to sit still. Restlessness in a body is a sign of neglected, untrained mind. With time you will learn to control your body better, you will be able to sit without moving a muscle for hours if you chose to. Your body will listen to you faithfully, you will learn to create and remove pain at will, make yourself happy, improve your luck, there is no limit to positive things you can do from there.
In the beginning sit straight and still on a chair with your eyes closed in a quiet place for 10 minutes twice a day, increase the time gradually. In the beginning you may have to use suggestions to quiet your body, keep repeating in your mind: I am relaxed and comfortable, I can sit without moving a muscle for hours, with time you will train your body to listen to your suggestions after the first time. As you notice your body slowly begin to relax and stop bothering you concentrate on an imaginary object, it could be anything you want, for example a book. Observe it closely in your mind, stare at it, keep it alive in your mind, this exercise will push all other thoughts and worries out of your head, but you will notice slowly they begin to creep right back, observe the thoughts like they were no longer yours without judgment and let them go as you continue to hold the book in your mind. When the thoughts relinquish you in stillness of mind you can put you attention and intention on anything you want, it will flourish and be anything you want it to be as long as it is good and positive.
Meditations with Sound: Relax and Enjoy Hearing with Three Simple Exercises
Too much in modern life can be stressful. This article, the fourth in a series on meditating with the senses, explores ways to relax with sound. The following simple meditations use water, nature, music, and one’s own voice so that hearing becomes a joy.
Flowing Water Meditation
Running water can soothe a tired mind. The following meditation using flowing water offers the person meditating the opportunity to release his or her burdens and let the water carry them away.
- Sit beside a running stream outdoors, or turn on an indoor fountain situated beside a relaxing chair with ten to fifteen minutes to spare.
- Breathe deeply three times slowly and carefully.
- Now focus on the sound of the water. Is it loud or soft? How does it make you feel?
- Relax the body. Notice all the tension in the body. Breathe out, and visualize all the tension flowing out of the body and into the water.
- Breathe in deeply, and imagine the clean, coolness from the water entering your body.
- Repeat the process of breathing in clean water and breathing out tension for as long as desired, or until feel relaxed.
- When ready to finish, focus again on the sound of the water. Open the eyes, and continue with the day.
Relaxing Music Meditation
Music has the power to inspire, entertain, and relax. The following meditation offers an opportunity to rest with one’s favorite song or another relaxing piece of music.
- Select a favorite song or piece of relaxing music, such as a classical sonata or a slow ballad. If desired, choose nature sounds or other specifically relaxing music.
- Turn on the music and adjust the volume to be comfortable but not too loud. Darken the room, if desired, and wear a pair of headphones if in a loud area.
- Sit or lay in a comfortable position.
- Find the breath. Breathe in and out deeply.
- Try to coordinate the breath with the beat of the music if desired. For example, if a song is in three/four time, breathe in for three counts and then out for three counts.
- Imagine the self a part of the music. What is happening? Where has the music taken you?
- Repeat breathing with the music until the track has ended. When ready, open the eyes and get up slowly.
The human voice has the power to connect people and the individual to himself or herself. The following meditation invites a person to talk to himself/herself using a meaningful phrase that promotes relaxation.
- Select a special word or phrase, known as a mantra, that brings the self comfort and hope.
- Sit comfortably, with eyes closed, and five to ten minutes to spare.
- Focus on the mantra in the mind. Sound out each syllable or word carefully, as though each is precious. Do not think about the mantra’s literal meaning. Instead, feel the mantra on the tongue, and let it become a part of the self.
- Open the mouth, and speak the mantra softly aloud. Sound out each syllable and word carefully, so that it all comes out clearly. Take a deep breath, repeat the mantra again.
- Vary in tone, speed, and volume until find the way to say the mantra that is most pleasing. Repeat the mantra and breathing for several minutes.
- When ready to end, swallow the mantra back into the mouth. Let the mantra sit on the tongue. Repeat it again slowly and carefully in the mind, and then let it go. Open the eyes, and sit up carefully.
Noise doesn’t have keep being stressful with some simple exercises to relax the body and make hearing a pleasure again.
Researchers Find Meditation Can Change the Brain
Researchers have found evidence that mindfulness meditation can cause brain changes. Here is a description of their findings and a guide to getting started.
Advocates have long claimed that mindfulness meditation can improve the regular practitioner’s mental state. Now there is evidence that it may change the brain.
A study included in the January 30 issue of Psychiatry Research: Neuroimaging found changes in grey matter concentration in brain regions associated with learning and memory, regulating emotions, self-referential processing and perspective taking as a result of a mindfulness-based stress reduction program (MBSR). Researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital based their findings on brain images of 16 healthy adults. The images were taken before and after the group underwent an eight-week meditation program.
What is mindfulness meditation?
According to the New York Insight Meditation Center, mindful awareness, also known as Insight or Vipassana Meditation, is the practice of living in the present moment without judgment, which over time can help the meditator cultivate a more peaceful mind and change relationships with stresses. It is developed through walking and sitting mindfulness practices where the meditator focuses on breathing, sounds from outside or inside the body or sensations. The Center said the practice dates back 2,500 years to the time of the Buddha and is mainly practised in Southeast Asia. Americans brought it to the United States in the late 1960s and early 1970s.
How to do it yourself
While the evidence is building up about the benefits of a daily mindfulness meditation practice, incorporating it into your daily life may seem daunting. But plenty of resources are available on the web to help the beginner get started, including guided meditation podcasts, books, CDs and written directions.
Jon Kabat-Zinn, PhD, founding director of the Stress Reduction Clinic and the Center for Mindfulness in Medicine, Healthcare and Society at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, is known for pioneering the clinical application of mindfulness practice in medicine. He has authored several books on the subject, including “Wherever You Go, There You Are,” available for $9.05 on Amazon.com. His guided meditations can be viewed on YouTube.
Also known in the mindfulness community are Sharon Salsberg and Joseph Goldstein, co-founders of the Insight Meditation Society in Barre, Mass. Both spiritual teachers have authored audio and written books on the practice. Salzberg has podcasts available through her website.
Jack Kornfield, an American Buddist teacher whose website describes him as one of the founding directors of vipassana meditation in the west, also has audio, video and meditation instructions available. Find them on his site or zencast.org.
So explore these spiritual teachers, set up a calm environment, choose the best time of day for practice and get started living in the present moment, and maybe even changing the landscape of your brain.
Mindfulness for Children
One of the most powerful antidotes to children’s everyday stressors is for them to develop the Buddhist notion of mindfulness, which entails paying full attention and being fully engaged in the present moment. Mindfulness often sounds like having a conversation with yourself. Here is an example of a teen mindfully preparing to take an exam. “I am getting ready to take a test; I feel butterflies in my stomach; I can feel my fingers getting tense; I hear the teacher passing out papers; I hear the students rummaging for their pencils; I am having thoughts about failing the test; I am so stupid; I will focus on my breathing; I am breathing in through my nose; I am breathing out through my mouth; ” The teen is observing everything in his environment including all his senses as well as his thought processes and bodily feelings. When he starts to perseverate and have worries about failing that are based in the future, he uses his breath to bring him back to the present moment. Mindfulness involves bringing non-judgment to his situation as well as loving kindness. While the teen may have automatic negative thoughts about himself, he is encouraged to notice them but not to identify with them or avoid them, but view them objectively, which ultimately allows for more clarity. To engage with such thoughts would often involve an escalating stream of increasingly negative judgments which would take him out of the present moment. To be kind to himself, he might say something compassionate such as “I am observing myself get stressed out about this test and saying mean things. I have studied a lot for this test and I will put my best effort forth. I am a hard-worker”
Children who are able to “live in the now” versus stressing about the future or ruminating about what has occurred in the past experience significant benefits. As a result, they are better able to regulate their emotions and avoid the extremes of being bored or depressed, or on the other hand, overwhelmed and anxious as their coping style. Children who practice mindfulness are better able to relax, show decreased levels of impulsivity, and handle conflict more readily.
All children have experienced “mindlessness.” For example, getting driven to a familiar place and not remembering passing any landmarks or exits on the way there. Similarly, many children go about their lives performing a series of very automatic routines that they barely notice. (i.e. getting up, getting dressed, eating breakfast, waiting for the school bus, being seated before the bell rings, etc.) where they go through the motions mindlessly. Interestingly, mindfulness is actually inherent in very young children. All experiences are new to them and so they attend to each new sensation and feeling. A 2 year old who stares at a dog’s shiny coat, runs her fingers through the dog’s fur, laughs when the dog licks her, and imitates the dog’s bark is engaged in the present moment. Hence, while mindfulness is present in the very young, it must often be cultivated and practiced with most school-age children and adolescents.
Mindfulness can also be developed through children’s unstructured play as kids unconsciously practice mindfulness when they are involved in imaginative play, which can occur either with peers or playing alone. However, as children’s lives become busier and filled with activities, mindfulness may dissipate. Children today spend much of their time in organized activities as opposed to the unstructured, creative play which dominated their free time in the past. Their lives are often filled with activities such as soccer games, music lessons, and after-school tutoring which leaves less time for creative, child-led play. Unstructured play has many well-documented cognitive, social, and emotional benefits. Parents can help their children to engage in mindful play by allowing them the time and space to do so while ensuring they are not overbooked with too many structured activities or schedule demands.
Even if you don’t teach your children any mindfulness skills, parenting with mindfulness can be very beneficial for yourself as well as your children. As parents, we are often overwhelmed with work, errands, and a never ending to-do list. Our culture values multi-tasking and efficiency, but unfortunately, we may inadvertently sacrifice being in the present moment with our children, as a result. We play with them while thinking about what to make for dinner, we talk to them while planning activities for the weekend, we drive them to school while worrying about upcoming bills that need to be paid, etc. Mindfulness may allow for a welcomed transformation in our own perspective, where we begin to experience the small parenting miracles that occur in our lives, as each moment unfolds
Exercise #1: Mindful Drawing Ask your child to select an item to draw from memory (a shoe, telephone, clock, etc.). Remind them that drawing ability is not important. Then have your child spend time looking at the actual object. Have them draw the object again. In most cases the second drawing will be more detailed then the first. Compare the drawings and have your child identify the details missing from the first drawing. Ask your child what it was like really looking at the object that they may have never noticed before.
Exercise #2: Mindful Eating: The Hershey Kiss Meditation
Place three Hershey kisses in front of your child (you can do this with any type of food such as grapes, apple slices, carrots, etc. as long as it is something that your child enjoys eating). Ask your child to pretend he or she has never seen a Hershey kiss before. You may do the exercise along with your child. Read this script in a calm voice:
Let’s look at the Hershey kiss and pretend that we’ve never in our whole lives seen a Hershey kiss.
Pick up the Hershey kiss. Think about how it feels between your fingers. Notice its color. Notice any thoughts you might be having about it. Slowly unwrap it and listen to the sounds that makes. Feel the texture of the foil paper and think about that sensation. Lift the Hershey kiss to your nose and smell it for awhile. Now slowly bring the Hershey kiss to your lips, trying to notice everything you are thinking, feeling or smelling. Notice your arm moving your hand to position the Hershey kiss correctly. Notice your mouth salivating as your mind and body anticipate eating it. Take the Hershey kiss into your mouth and chew it slowly, experiencing its taste. Hold it in your mouth. When you feel ready to swallow, notice if your body automatically wants to swallow it. When you are ready, pick up the second Hershey kiss and just eat it as you normally would if you weren’t practicing mindfulness. When you finish, practice mindfulness again with the third Hershey kiss, eating it as you did the first.
After you complete the exercise, discuss with your child:
- What it was like to eat something mindfully?
- Did the Hershey kiss taste any different than it normally does?
- What did you notice when you were doing this exercise?
- How does this compare to how you normally eat your food?
Exercise #3: Mindful Breathing
Breathing is one of the fastest ways to bring your attention back to the present moment. Stress and worries often take place in future moments while guilt or upsetting thoughts often transpire when we reflect on past moments. Therefore, when we are living in the present moment, our emotions are often more centered. The practice of becoming more aware of your breathing results in slower breathing and increased feelings of calm, as it triggers the relaxation response. Take 5 to 10 minutes to practice this exercise with your child. Have them practice mindful breathing in a comfortable environment where they can sit or recline in a relaxed position and without any distractions. Explain that you are going to do a relaxation exercise with them and that this may be helpful for them to use at a later point when they are feeling angry, upset, or stressed. It would be helpful if you do the exercise alongside with them. Together, take a deep breath in, for about 3 to 5 seconds and slowly let the air out, for about 3 to 5 seconds. With each inhale say, “In” and with each exhale say, “Out”. One breath cycle is made up of one inhale and one exhale. Instruct your child that their mind will often wander away from their breathing and that’s okay. When it happens, they should simply return their attention to their breathing.
In order for them to be able to use this exercise when they experiencing strong, negative emotions, they must become skilled at it during more relaxed times. Try and practice this exercise several times a week with your child
- Count how many breath cycles you each can do mindful breathing without getting distracted
- Compare who had the most distracting thoughts and what were