Mindfulness to Reduce Stress Program Recap

Thank you to Chelsea Hoagland from Capital Health Behavioral Health Specialists to sharing her knowledge of mindfulness and techniques to help us reduce stress.   While mindfulness is not designed to be a quick fix to reduce stress, with practice and conscious effort, you can transform your lifestyle to become more mindful of our senses, surroundings, and the present moment.

Mindfulness was first espoused by Dr. Jon Kabatt-Zinn and is composed of elements from yoga and Buddhism.  According to Zinn, “Mindfulness is awareness, cultivated by paying attention in a sustained and particular way; on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgementally.”  One of the major tenants of mindfulness is to love yourself regardless of what is happening in our life – past, present, and future.  By removing any judgement of yourself, especially while you are trying to practice mindfulness, you can release your mind and body from the trials and tribulations of past and future, focusing solely on the present moment.

Mindfulness is designed to redirect your focus from outward issues and influences to your inner self, connecting you with the present moment.  The 5 senses play an important role and serve as focal points as you calm your mind and shift your focus away from that meeting you missed or that upcoming deadline at work.  True mindfulness is learning how to let go of everything in your life and just be, which means being “OK”with what is and feeling better about how to handle it.

Mindfulness in action is often divided into Formal and Informal practice.  Formal practice focuses on guided meditation, which can be done in a group session or the use of videos or audio tapes.  The following videos are 2 examples of guided meditation for mindfulness:

Informal practices tend to be quick things you can do throughout the day that focus on senses.  A common practice is take a moment to look at your natural surroundings and just appreciate the current moment, such as a sunrise or a bird perched on a branch.  Washing your hands can be another great informal practice since we do it multiple times a day, allowing us to just focus on the smell of the soap, the sound of the water, and feel of the lather, forgetting what we just did or we have to go next.  There are 2 other practices that are more a little more involved, but are still great ways to practice mindfulness throughout our day when we have a brief moment of downtime or when we start to feel overwhelmed:

  • 2 Feet, 1 Breath
    • Stop what you are doing and feel one foot, then the other, and then take 1 conscious breath.
    • Repeat this often during the day as a small reminder that you are actually living in a physical body.
  • The 3 Ps
    • Every time you do something repetitive throughout day (answer an email or touch a door handle), take 1 second of the length of 1 breath to:
      • Pause.  Take just a moment for yourself, just that single breath.  Let go of the planning mind and the task orientation of the day and simply notice the moment.
      • Be Present.  Be aware of what is happening in this moment by experiencing the sensation of the body, noticing the thoughts and feeling the emotions just as they are, without trying to change anything.
      • Proceed.  Using mindful speech and skillful means, respond compassionately to whatever needs your attention in this moment.