Pause for a moment. Sit up straight, put down your smartphone, close your eyes and take a few deep, cleansing breaths. Take an inventory of your muscles – is there tightness in your calves, tension in your neck, or pain in your feet? Do you sense a lot of mental chatter? Perhaps you are, like us, overrun with reminders, messages, judgments, or commentary.
Observing the flow of thoughts that pop up and go down, sometimes slowly and other times rapidly, can be eye-opening. It’s all part of the very normal activity of the brain doing what it’s designed to do – think.
But getting caught in a pattern of worry, future-thinking, regret, or rumination can trigger a physical response that is linked to our fight-or-flight system. This neurological system is perfect in an emergency but often gets activated in non-emergency situations – we call that the stress response. Chronic stress can impact us in a variety of ways such as poor sleep, increased blood pressure, difficulty concentrating, tension, headaches and anxiety.
The good news is that each of us already has the capacity to work with that mental chatter so it doesn’t end up causing mischief. This ability is mindfulness, and it can be cultivated, strengthened and developed as a reliable antidote to stress.
Talk of mindfulness seems to be everywhere: in the news, the workplace, in schools, and increasingly in medicine. Over the past 30 years the interest and research into mindfulness has blossomed, and for good reason. Learning to be more present, focused and less reactive is one of the most powerful ways of improving health and well-being.
The research is clear: Practicing mindfulness changes the brain in beneficial and measurable ways, strengthening the neural connections that help regulate difficult emotions, decrease stress, and appreciate the positives in life more fully.
Mindfulness isn’t about emptying the mind, meditating on a cushion, or achieving a state of constant bliss. Rather, it’s a practical method to develop resilience and to meet life’s challenges with more calm, balance and equanimity.
Stay tuned for more about mindfulness and our conversation with Baskin Clinic’s Dr. Rebecca Neborsky as she talks with us about her experiences with mindfulness.
Guest contributors Michelle Bobowick Psy.D and Jillayne Sorenson Psy.D are clinical psychologists and mindfulness educators with a passion for sharing the healing benefits of mindfulness. Michelle is co-owner of Clearwater Associates LLC which shares office space with Baskin Clinic. Jillayne is the owner Centerpoint Network LLC where she teaches Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) and other mindfulness-based programs in community, education and research settings.