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4 Basic Elements of the Mindfulness Practice

An excerpt from 4 Basic Elements of the Mindfulness Practice by Aware Meditation App​​

Breathing

Breathing is an essential aspect of one’s being. Yet, we take this activity for granted without realizing its effects on our body. Breathing is very important for us to efficiently conduct our day to day activities without giving up on the sense of well-being. It can help relieve stress and calm our minds. Though breathing seems to be an indispensable and a natural form of exercise, you need to understand and master the techniques to make the most of it towards not just being alive but feeling one

Body-Scanning

Body scanning is a special and unique opportunity for us to become mindful of our body. It allows the mind to become aware of hidden pain or discomfort in the body. It helps us to stay attuned to our physical needs and sensations. This is really helpful in taking better care of our bodies and make healthier decisions with sleep, food and exercise.

Mindscape

This means to become aware of your thoughts. Studies show that the brain uses 60% of energy to do simple activities, and this percentage increases when we try to focus really hard. 80 to 90% energy is consumed as we work each day. When we are so consumed by thinking on a daily basis, it becomes really hard to not let thoughts overpower us.

Thinking is the source of a problem. Negativity is the outcome of this source.

Wind Down

Living in the moment means to be present, in the now, feeling a deep connection with your mind and your body. This has to come with no distractions or negative emotions. That’s why we must wind down by asking your mind to be free. When we add breathing, body scanning and mindscaping, the mind has adapted( even if it’s only for 5 minutes) to let go of thoughts.

Full Article:


4 Basic Elements of the Mindfulness Practice


 BY MEDITATION BY AWARE


Kiran, Ravi. “4 Basic Elements Of The Mindfulness Practice.” Aware, 12 May 2017, awaremeditationapp.com/4-basic-elements-of-the-mindfulness-practice-mindfulness-facts/.

Marketing and Design Coordinator

Rachel Wixey & Associates

[emily]

I chose this article becuase sometimes in my practices I get lost, unaware of what to focus on or do, but this gives me 4 simple steps on how to better refine my practice keep myself on track. 

How Stress Affects Your Body

An article from Sutter Health with featured expert Ronesh Sinha, M.D.

Why do people experience stress? What does it do to the body? Ronesh Sinha, M.D., an internal medicine specialist at Palo Alto Medical Foundation, provides some answers.

Q: What happens physically during times of stress?

Dr. Sinha: The stress response system was originally designed to keep people safe from environmental threats like hungry predators. Your body’s modern-day stress response is identical to that of your ancestors, preparing the body for a battle or a quick getaway, the classic “fight or flight” response.

The body experiences a cascade of physical reactions, including:

  • An accelerated heartbeat.
  • Opening of lung airways to improve oxygen delivery.
  • Release of adrenaline to speed you up.
  • Release of glucose to power muscles.
  • Widened pupils to improve vision.
  • Lowered gastrointestinal activity so you can run, not digest.

For your ancestors, stress response activation was key to survival:

  • Tight blood vessels prevented excessive bleeding.
  • Elevated blood sugar gave energy to flee or fight.
  • Stored belly fat provided extra calories needed during times of scarcity.
  • Increased pulse and breathing maintained alertness during a crisis.
  • Tensed muscles served as a shield to protect vital organs.

Today, you rarely face a situation where you truly need to fight or flee. But your body still initiates the stress response in situations where there are no options for fighting or escaping: a traffic jam, a disagreeable boss or coworker, a looming deadline.

In the modern, sedentary person, the same physiological stress responses your ancestors needed lead instead to high blood pressure, diabetes, central body obesity, palpitations and anxiety, and muscle tension and pain.

Q: How does stress affect the heart?

Dr. Sinha: In the movies, people who are under intense stress often seem to dramatically keel over from a heart attack, but that’s extremely rare. The real danger is the accumulated impact of chronic stress, which contributes to each of the top five risk factors for developing heart disease: abnormal cholesterol levels, diabetes, high blood pressure, obesity and smoking.

Q: How does stress affect the brain?

Dr. Sinha: Chronic stress can make your brain behave in an Alzheimer’s-like manner. Stress adversely affects a key structure in the brain, the hippocampus, leading to impaired memory and problems with orientation and sense of direction.

These brain changes may have evolved to protect against the memory of traumatic and stressful events, like being attacked by a predator; but losing short-term memory hinders today’s brain-intensive lifestyle. We all recognize the frustration of forgetting where we put our keys, names of people we just met or other recent events.

Nor does stress help you function any better on brain-intensive tasks. In one study, scientists studied brain blood flow while subjects performed tasks that required sorting large amounts of data—essentially stressful multitasking. They found that the prefrontal cortex, the “executive” part of the brain used for planning, execution, reasoning and organization, was initially very active but then tired and shut down. That left the “reptilian” brain, the impulsive and emotional brain, in charge. Pay attention to how your emotions transform in the midst of multitasking, typically moving from initial clarity to confusion and frustration.

Q: How does stress disrupt sleep?

Dr. Sinha: When you’re continually stressed, your body constantly pulses out stress hormones, which make it harder to fall asleep and impair the deepest stages of sleep. That can lead to hyperarousal insomnia—a state where your mind and body are easily woken by sounds or by your own stressful thoughts. No longer can you sleep as soundly as a baby.  

Q: What about energy levels?

Dr. Sinha: Chronic stress can also make you tired. Your adrenal glands act like battery packs; they provide energy-producing substances such as adrenaline on demand, a key part of the stress response. Unfortunately, many people overuse these limited battery reserves with endless work and personal demands, leaving them depleted. The result: fatigue.

Q: Does stress make you age faster?

Dr. Sinha: As if heart disease, brain fog, lack of sleep and fatigue aren’t enough, chronic stress can also cause you to age more quickly than normal. 

One study compared a group of women caring for disabled children with a group of women whose children had no disabilities. In particular, the researchers compared their telomeres, protective sections of DNA that are known to be a genetic marker for aging. Telomeres routinely wither and get shorter with time, but external factors, including stress, can accelerate this process.

The study found more prominent premature aging in the high-stress mothers caring for disabled children. In fact, it translated into that group being 10 years older at a cellular level than the other group, who were the same chronological age. The 35-year-old stressed mothers looked closer to 45. 

Bottom line? Keep an eye on how stressed you are and what you can do about it. Your body will thank you.

Full Article:


How Stress Affects Your Body


 BY Ronesh Sinha, M.D.


Sinha, Ronesh. “How Stress Affects Your Body.” Sutter Health, 2019, www.sutterhealth.org/health/mental/stress-impact-on-the-body.

Marketing and Design Coordinator

Rachel Wixey & Associates

[emily]

I chose this article because it is important to see how stress affects the body before we can truly understand how to combat it. Stress is always a factor in our lives and should be used as a resource. 

A Teacher Appreciation Week for the Ages

When schools abruptly closed due to Covid-19, teachers figured out how to make remote learning work. This week, as the nation expresses its gratitude, we recap the emotional journey.

This video was created by Edutopia. Edutopia is dedicated to improving the PK-12 learning process through innovative, replicable, and evidence-based strategies that prepare students to thrive in their studies, careers, and adult lives.

Visit http://www.edutopia.org for more resources.

President

Rachel Wixey & Associates

[Rachel]

This piece demonstrates how much love and care educators have for their students. The vulnerability here is beautiful! 

10 Mindful Attitudes That Decrease Anxiety

An article from Mindful.org by Bob Stahl

Mindfulness is, in short, the practice of being aware of what’s happening or what you’re experiencing in the present moment. It’s being here and now without judgment. This is a capacity that all human beings possess. Whenever you bring awareness to what you’re directly experiencing via your senses, or to your state of mind via your thoughts and emotions, you’re being mindful.

Although more research is needed to illuminate the mechanisms at work, it’s clear that mindfulness allows us to interrupt automatic, reflexive fight, flight, or freeze reactions—reactions that can lead to anxiety, fear, foreboding, and worry. By bringing mindfulness to our actual experience in the moment, we can increase the likelihood of exerting more conscious control over our behaviors and attitudes. In so doing we learn to work with our intention, wise effort, will, discipline, and capacity to be kind to ourselves. These are all resources that can be harnessed and cultivated.

Mindfulness allows us to interrupt automatic, reflexive fight, flight, or freeze reactions—reactions that can lead to anxiety, fear, foreboding, and worry.

With that in mind, there are certain attitudes that play an important role when working with anxiety mindfully. These attitudes are central to mindfulness, and fostering them will help you develop and sustain your practice. It’s similar to adding nutrients to the soil to cultivate a vibrant and healthy garden. By attending to the attitudes of mindfulness, you can support your practice and help it flourish. And just as a well-tended garden bears seeds and fruit, so too will practicing mindfulness help foster all of the attitudes of mindfulness. Keep in mind that you may find slightly different lists of the attitudes of mindfulness in other places. Below are the qualities that we believe all play an important role in working with anxiety mindfully.

1.

Volition or intention is the foundation that supports all of the other attitudes. Your intention, will, or volition is what sets you on the mindful path to working within yourself to gradually transform your anxiety and find more ease, freedom, and peace. By bringing intention to working with anxiety, you’re developing persistence in seeing yourself as whole, capable, and resourceful.

2.

Beginner’s mind is an aspect of mind that’s open to seeing from a fresh perspective. Meeting anxiety in this way, with curiosity, can play an extremely important role in transforming your experience. When you’re willing to adopt another point of view, new possibilities arise, and this can help you challenge habitual anxious thoughts and feelings.

3.

Patience is a quality that supports perseverance and fortitude when feelings of anxiety are challenging. Patience offers a broader perspective, allowing you to see that moments of anxiousness will pass in time.

4.

Acknowledgment is the quality of meeting your experience as it is. For example, rather than trying to accept or be at peace with anxiety, you meet it and your experience of it as they are. You can acknowledge that anxiety is present and how much you don’t like it, even as you apply patience and see anxiety as your current weather system, knowing it will pass.

5.

Nonjudgment means experiencing the present moment without the filters of evaluation. In the midst of anxiety, it can be all too easy to experience a secondary layer of judgment on top of the already uncomfortable anxious feelings. Stepping out of a judgmental mind-set allows you to see more clearly. When you let go of evaluations, many sources of anxiety simply fade away. When you feel anxiety, adopting a nonjudgmental stance can reset your mind into a more balanced state.

6.

Nonstriving is the quality of being willing to meet any experience as it is, without trying to change it. With nonstriving, you understand the importance of being with things as they are—being with your experience without clinging to or rejecting what’s there. (Note that nonstriving relates to your present-moment experiences during meditation and doesn’t in any way negate the value of setting a wise intention to grow, learn, and change your relationship to anxiety.) In the midst of strong anxiety, the first response is often to flee or get out of the situation. If you can pause and really be with your experience without exerting any force against it, you gain the opportunity to know your experience more clearly and choose your response. You can also become less fearful of the physical sensations, thoughts, and emotions that accompany anxiety.

7.

Self-reliance is an important quality for developing inner confidence. With practice, you can learn to trust yourself and your ability to turn toward your anxiety or any other uncomfortable feeling. In turning toward these feelings, it’s important to bring other qualities of mindfulness to your experience, allowing the feelings, acknowledging them, and letting them be.

8.

Letting be or allowing is similar to nonstriving. It’s a quality that gives space to whatever you encounter in the moment. For example, if anxiety comes up as you meditate, you could choose to work with it by allowing the feeling to be there. In time, you can learn to ride a wave of anxiety until it dissipates, just as a storm runs its course in the sky.

9.

Self-compassion is a beautiful quality of meeting yourself with kindness. Yet, sadly, so many people are their own greatest adversaries. Most of us probably would never treat another person the way we sometimes treat ourselves. Self-compassion will naturally grow as you practice meditation. And bringing this quality into your experience of anxiety can be like being your own best friend in the midst of hardship, offering your hand in a moment when help is needed. As your self-compassion grows, you will come to know that you are there for yourself, and your anxiety will naturally decrease.

10.

Balance and equanimity are related qualities that foster wisdom and provide a broader perspective so that you can see things more clearly. From this perspective, you understand that all things change and that your experience is so much wider and richer than temporary experiences of anxiety and other difficulties.

Mindfulness Practice:


Take some time right now to slowly reread the descriptions of the attitudes of mindfulness. After reading each one, pause and reflect upon what it means to you, especially as you begin to work with anxiety. Take a moment to try on each attitude and see how it feels. As you do so, tune in to how you feel in your body, mind, and emotions. Finally, after trying on each attitude, briefly describe your experience, noting how it felt. For example, did it feel natural or easy to adopt a particular attitude, or was it difficult? If it was difficult, why might that be? Was the attitude unfamiliar, or did you feel yourself resisting it in some way?

Full Article:


10 Mindful Attitudes That Decrease Anxiety


 BY bob stahl


Stahl, Bob. “10 Mindful Attitudes That Decrease Anxiety.” Mindful, 16 Oct. 2018, www.mindful.org/10-mindful-attitudes-decrease-anxiety/.

President

Rachel Wixey & Associates

[Rachel]

This article gets to the heart of so much with brevity. While the topic it is written for is anxiety, the 10 mindful attitudes apply to so much in life. I love that it points out that interrupting automatic reactions is a skill, that anyone can learn.

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