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Posts Tagged ‘Mindfulness’

One of my goals for this year is to explore mindfulness. In this blog, I want to share a few things that I’ve learned about this life changing topic.

According to Jon Kabat-Zinn, a pioneer in American mindfulness,
“Mindfulness means paying attention in a particular way, on purpose, in the present moment, and nonjudgmentally.”

Path in forest I enjoy being outside in nature. I have often wondered why this is relaxing for me. Why is it that I breathe deeper and feel a sense of calmness come over me while enjoying the beauty of nature?

I have learned that it has to do with the focus on my surroundings and mental relaxation that I experience from being in nature. Moving mindfully provides us with several benefits and can help increase the awareness of our bodies and the surroundings around us. According to the American Heart Association, some benefits of mindful movement may include:

  • Manage stress, depression and insomnia
  • Lower blood pressure
  • Improve balance and stability
  • Relieve chronic pain
  • Improve quality of life and mood in people with heart disease, cancer and other chronic illnesses
  • Motivate you to exercise more and eat healthier

One reason that I enjoy exploring mindfulness in nature is that I am paying attention to my surroundings and experiencing several senses: sight, smell, touch, and hearing. Watching the way that a blade of grass blows in the wind, feeling wind in your face, hearing the rustle of leaves, watching clouds drift across the sky are all examples of ways that we can pay attention to the details in nature. You can also enjoy these visual cues while looking out your window.picture of woods with trees, wildflowers

Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, Integrative and Complementary Medicine website offers several Mindfulness practices for you to explore. Click on the link and check out their resources.

Take time during your busy life to check out nature as I did this past weekend. I visited one of my favorite spots in the town where I live. A 90-year-old man has 4 acres of paths and trails through his back yard. You can walk and explore the Hosta plants and wildflowers he has planted over the years. One year he shared with me he planted 3,000 daffodil bulbs!  Imagine all those beautiful flowers!

Share in the comments how you enjoy mindfulness in nature.

Sources:

Dreskin, M., Smith, S. & Kane, D., Kaiser Permanente Clinical Ambassadors. Retrieved from: https://m.kp.org/health-wellness/mental-health/tools-resources/mind-body-wellness/movement-benefits

Powers-Barker, P., 2106. Introduction to Mindfulness. Ohioline Factsheet number HYG-5243. Ohio State University. Retrieved from: https://ohioline.osu.edu/factsheet/hyg-5243

Suttie, J., 2018. Five Ways Mindfulness Meditation is Good for your Health. Retrieved from: https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/five_ways_mindfulness_meditation_is_good_for_your_health

Hostas courtesy of Cory’s Wildflower Gardens, Chillicothe, Ohio.

Written by: Michelle Treber, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, Ohio State University Extension, Pickaway County, treber.1@osu.edu

Reviewed by: Beth Stefura, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, Ohio State University Extension, Mahoning County, Stefura.2@osu.edu

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causeway

Every day on my drive to work I cross over the Mosquito Creek causeway.  Driving over the lake is always beautiful with the scenery of birds, and ice anglers in the winter and an array of boats and skiers in the summer.

Driving over the causeway twice a day,  enjoying nature has provided me a moment to reflect both before and after work.  Over the years, this time is important to me, preparing me for the day and reminding me to slow down and take a moment to pause.

We all live busy lives. Our workdays are busier.  Digital technology has extended work into late hours.  Our work/life balance suffers.  Recently, at our Extension Annual Conference, keynote speaker Theresa Glomb gave an inspiring talk on how we can improve our work and home lives.  She shared a relatable message with the following action steps:

 

Work Hard

Have Fun

Choose Kind

Be Present

 

Work Hard–

Create a routine to accomplish goals or make significant progress on a project.

Plan for 60-90 minutes of uninterrupted work.

Have Fun–

Create a positive work environment.

Reflect on one good thing that happened during the weekday.

Share positive events with team members.

Choose Kind–

Ask a co-worker how their evening was last night.

Give a compliment for a job well done.

Be respectful.

Be Present–

Pay attention. Focus on the task.

Engage in mindful practices daily.

Pause before answering a question, text, or mail.

This advice is easy to remember and a simple tenet of how we can choose to spend our days in a more meaningful way.  Take a moment today to pause…. What strategies will you incorporate into your daily life?

Written by: Beth Stefura, Extension Educator, Family & Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension, Mahoning County, stefura.2@osu.edu

Reviewed by:  Donna Green, Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension, Erie County, green.308@osu.edu

Sources:

https://www.bravenewworkshop.com/creativeoutreach/wp-content/uploads/2018/03/Work-Hard-Have-Fun-Choose-Kind-Be-Present-Lecture-BNW-MNovation-2018.pdf

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Christmas candlePause. Breathe. Breathe again. Many of us are exhausted and stressed by this point at year’s end. Sometimes, we are so exhausted that we can’t enjoy the holidays. Instead of  having yourself a “merry little Christmas,” maybe we could work toward a mindful Christmas. Here are a few ideas to give yourself a mindful moment this season, whichever holiday(s) you celebrate.

10 Finger Thanks

Think of ten things you’re thankful for as you count on your fingers. This may take some extra thought, but the benefits of a grateful heart are worth it! You can do this by yourself or with family and friends.

3 Senses

Pause and use three senses to observe your surroundings. Spend a minute on each sense. What are three things you can see? What are three things you can hear? What are three things you can feel? For more information, see the 3 Senses Mindfulness Activity. What would we see if we truly looked?

“Mindfulness is a love affair with life. You see the beauty in everybody and in everything.” ~Jon Kabat-Zinn

Do “You” this Holiday

Sometimes we try to please others and be who they think we should be. That can make a person miserable, and tired. Truth is, the best we can be is our best self. Honor your own desires and wishes. Maybe you just need a little time for yourself to gain perspective. Maybe you need a ‘long winter’s nap!’ This meditation from the Center for Mindfulness can help a person observe their own thoughts and emotions.

Breathe in Your Reality

When we stop comparing our life to the ideal we wish it was, and start accepting our own reality, we develop contentment and serenity. And we could all use a little more of that this holiday. When we start to accept our own reality, we may find treasures in our own situation we didn’t realize before.

 

Sources

American Psychological Association. (2018). “Managing Expectations.” https://www.apa.org/helpcenter/holiday-stress-managing-expectations.aspx
Wong, J. & Brown, J. (June 2017). “How Gratitude Changes You and Your Brain New research is starting to explore how gratitude works to improve our mental health.” Published by the Greater Good Science Center at UC Berkeley. https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/how_gratitude_changes_you_and_your_brain

 

Written by: Shannon Carter, Extension Educator, Ohio State University Extension, Fairfield County.

Reviewed by: Jenny Lobb, Extension Educator, Ohio State University Extension, Franklin County.

 

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I enjoy walking during my lunchtime. When I do, this break away from my desk refreshes me. It helps me re-focus as I breathe in the fresh air and take a few minutes to get out of the “work mode”.

A few weeks ago, while crossing the railroad tracks behind my office, I noticed that someone ran through the railroad crossing bar in their haste to “beat the train”.  I see this happen every few weeks – someone hears the signal that a train is approaching; they speed up and try to get through the tracks before the cross bar comes down. It always surprises me that we are in such a hurry that we would risk our lives to save a few minutes.

Rail Road crossing bar hit by a vehicleAs my picture shows, the person made it through without being hit by a train but they damaged the safety bar at this railroad crossing – I’m sure their car was also damaged. We called the number of the RR company and the sheriff to report this violation.

I saw another example of stress, haste and anxiety during my morning commute this week. While at a red light, I glanced over at the driver beside me. She covered her face/eyes with her hands as she realized something that she remembered she needed to do. She pulled into a place of business to text, turn around or get re-focused. I was happy she decided to pull over and handle the situation she faced. This was a safe solution to her dilemma.

Why is this important? In the frantic pace of our lives, we make quick and impulsive decisions that may affect many lives in a negative way. Check out these stats from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) at U.S. Department of Transportation:

Three out of four crashes occur within 25 miles of a motorist’s home.  Fifty percent of all crashes occur within five miles of home.

A calculation of NHTSA statistics on the rate of deaths per collision in vehicle/vehicle crashes versus the Federal Railroad Administration statistics of deaths per collision in vehicle/train crashes reveals:

A motorist is almost 20 times more likely to die in a crash involving a train than in a collision involving another motor vehicle. 

What can you do to pause the hectic pace of your life? 

  • Practice a savoring walk where you avoid distractions and focus on your surroundings.
  • Explore mindfulness practices to help you tame your mind, relax, or re-focus.
  • Slow your pace and practice walking meditation. This relaxed pace can help you focus on your surroundings and the sensations you experience.
  • Try a relaxing activity. Tai Chi, meditation, yoga or focused breathing can help you cope with stress.

How can you pause and savor your life? Share your comments below.

Writer: Michelle Treber, Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension, Pickaway County, treber.1@osu.edu

Reviewer: Shannon Carter, Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension, Fairfield County, carter.413@osu.edu

Sources:

https://ggia.berkeley.edu/practice/walking_meditation

https://ggia.berkeley.edu/practice/savoring_walk#

https://hms.harvard.edu/sites/default/files/assets/Harvard%20Now%20and%20Zen%20Reading%20Materials.pdf

https://livehealthyosu.com/2016/04/11/taming-stress-using-stress-busters/

https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/stress/index.shtml#pub4

https://oli.org/about-us/news/collisions-casulties

https://oli.org/education-resources/driving-safety-tips

https://wexnermedical.osu.edu/integrative-complementary-medicine/mindfulness-practices

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One of my friends underwent a cancer biopsy this week. She is waiting the results of a pathology lab for diagnosis. Will it be cancer with a treatment plan of some sort, or will her results be benign?

Waiting on results from an important medical test or pathology report is enough to make anyone’s anxiety soar. It seems the waiting is sometimes worse than the diagnosis. The unknown. The period of limbo. Holding your breath… afraid to exhale.

doctor-1228629_960_720

When the stakes are high, waiting on a diagnosis can escalate stress and take a toll on you. A study from the National Institute of Health found that awaiting diagnosis of cancer after a biopsy was associated with higher anxiety than waiting for invasive and potentially risky treatment. This stress can weaken one’s immune system and slow healing. The longer the wait time, the more anxiety tends to increase. Thanks to online medical portals and new technology in diagnosis, sometimes the wait time is shortened. Part of the struggle in the waiting is the feeling of vulnerability and helplessness. Once you receive a diagnosis, you can at least work with your doctor to implement a treatment plan. But what can you do while you’re waiting?

journal

You can do some pre-diagnostic coping to help yourself reduce anxiety.

  • Do whatever has helped you reduce stress in the past.
  • Eat healthy during times of stress.
  • Distract yourself with a good book, a hobby, work, or a good movie.
  • Try meditation and journaling.
  • Keep the situation in perspective, don’t awful-ize it!
  • Mindful breathing can be a life-saver.
  • Find support in family, friends, support groups, mental health counselor and faith-based organizations.

As I write this blog article, my friend is still awaiting her results. She seems to be handling it well and when I asked her how, she responded… “I woke up the morning of my biopsy with this phrase in my head: ‘God’s got this, I’m just along for the ride.’” Her faith is a source of support for her, along with family, friends and co-workers. These same sources of support will continue to be there for her even after diagnosis, whatever it may be.

If you are awaiting medical results (or any other big potentially stressful news) surround yourself with support and don’t hesitate to ask for help. And keep breathing… deeply.

Written by: Shannon Carter, Extension Educator, Ohio State University Extension, Fairfield County.

Reviewed by:  Michelle Treber, Extension Educator, Ohio State University Extension, Pickaway County.

Sources:

Barlage, L. Have you tried “Journaling” your Stressors?? Live Healthy Live Well. 2015, May 15.

Brinkman, P. Eating Better During Stressful Times. Live Healthy Live Well. 2015, May 7.

Carter, S. Don’t Awful-ize It! Live Smart Ohio. 2015, Sep 11.

Carter, S. Breathing… Live Smart Ohio. 2015, July 31.

Flory N & Lang E. Distress in the radiology waiting room. Radiology. 2011 Jul;260(1):166-73. doi: 10.1148/radiol.11102211. Epub 2011 Apr 7.

Lang E, Berbaum K & Lutgendorf S. Large-core breast biopsy: abnormal salivary cortisol profiles associated with uncertainty of diagnosis. Radiology. 2009 Mar;250(3):631-7. doi: 10.1148/radiol.2503081087.

 

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When was the last time you paid attention to something you ate?

That might seem like a silly question, but all too often, we rush through our meals and snacks without stopping to think about what we’re doing: how our food looks, smells and tastes. I have to admit, even as a dietitian and food educator, I am just as guilty as the next person! I often eat lunch at my desk while working, since my office does not have a formal break room or lunch hour. Consequently, because my mind is focused on tasks other than eating, I consume my lunch without noticing its taste, appearance or texture.

pasta-salad-1967501_1920One day while eating lunch at my desk, though, I was struck by the saltiness of an olive in a bite that I took of Mediterranean pasta salad. The taste caused me to pause, eat my lunch one bite at a time, and pay more attention to the dish. In this instance, I was practicing mindful eating.

Mindful eating is a form of mindfulness, which is the practice of paying attention in the present moment without judgement. Mindful eating is the practice of being more aware of your eating habits, the sensations you experience as you eat (tastes, smells, textures, etc.) and the thoughts and emotions you have about your food. When you eat mindfully, you:

  • Use all your senses
  • Acknowledge your responses to food (i.e. like, dislike or neutral) without judgement
  • Become aware of hunger and satiety (fullness) cues

When you practice mindful eating, you allow yourself to choose to eat food that is both satisfying and nourishing to your body. And, not only do mindful eaters tend to enjoy their food more than distracted eaters; research suggests that mindful eating can help with weight control and also steer people away from processed food and other less-healthful food choices. The underlying premise here is that it takes approximately 20 minutes for the brain to catch up with the stomach and register fullness after eating, so slowing down your eating may help you to realize when you’re full before you overeat.

If you tend to eat too quickly and need some strategies to slow down, try: cutlery-908480_1280

  • Eating with your non-dominant hand
  • Putting your fork down between bites
  • Taking a sip of water between each bite
  • Using chopsticks if you don’t normally use them
  • Putting away cell phones and other electronic devices
  • Practicing gratitude for your food as you think about where it came from and all the people who worked to bring it to you
  • Eating with others and having a conversation over your meal

 

Sources:

Carter, S. (2013). Mindful Eating. Live Healthy, Live Well blog. https://livehealthyosu.com/2013/10/21/mindful-eating/

Harvard Health Letter (2011). Mindful Eating. https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/mindful-eating

University of New Hampshire, Office of Health Education and Promotion. Mindful Eating. https://www.unh.edu/health/ohep/nutrition/mindful-eating

 

Written by: Jenny Lobb, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, Ohio State University Extension, Franklin County, lobb.3@osu.edu

Reviewed by: Shannon Carter, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, Ohio State University Extension, Fairfield County

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bar-local-cong-ireland-63633.jpegOn a recent trip to New York City I visited an Irish pub. As I sat and enjoyed the surroundings, I began to realize that when patrons left the pub, they would ring a bell that hung from the ceiling and recite poetry. At first I thought the activity was quirky and fun, but as time passed, I began to realize that every single patron cited poetry before they exited.

I heard Frost, Dickinson, Shakespeare and Whitman; just to name a few.  Each poem was beautiful and given by memory!  As the bell rang, everyone inside the pub stopped what they were doing to listen intently to the poetry and cheer on the reciter.

I began to segue from enjoying the moment to full-blown panic mode. What poems did I know?  Could I remember any from my childhood?  Is Dr. Seuss considered a poet?  Why isn’t my Wi-Fi working on my phone? Why can’t I search the internet for help?

Thankfully, I got a grip on myself, remembered to take a deep breath, and relax. My training in mindfulness kicked in. We’re taught to take time to build a “mindful” activity each and every day. It may be any routine activity you complete daily, such as:

  • Being outside and enjoying the warmth of the sunshine
  • Washing your hands and feeling the warmth of the water on your skin
  • Listening to the birds sing outside your window

Slowing down and giving those tasks your full attention helps you appreciate small moments of stillness.

When we are mindful and pay attention to the details of our experiences, we show up for our lives. We do not miss out by being distracted or wishing things were different.

Find your inner calm by adding these strategies into your daily life:

  • Unplug – turn off the electronics and enjoy the still
  • Declutter – clear out the cupboards and organize your desk to give you a sense of order
  • Breathe – take a moment and just breathe
  • Exercise – find time to exercise and release endorphins
  • Read a poem aloud – your mental “to-do list” melts away and thoughts focus entirely on the lyrical sounds of the words

Incorporate one or more of these strategies into your daily habits and you will be well on your way to increasing your inner calm!

By the way, after allowing my mind to clear from it’s panic stricken state, I finally recalled the poem The Dust of Snow by Robert Frost:

The way a crow

Shook down on me

The dust of snow

From a hemlock tree

Has given my heart

A change of mood

And saved some part

Of a day I had rued

 

Thanks to my eighth grade English teacher for requiring us to memorize a poem!

What poem would you recite?

Written by: Beth Stefura, Ohio State University Extension, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, Mahoning County

Reviewed by:  Donna Green, Ohio State University Extension, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, Erie County

References:

psychologytoday.com/blog/lifetime-connections/201702/5-strategies-finding-calm-in-turbulent-life

 

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