Pillars of Health: Mindfulness

When thinking about what makes someone healthy, many people stop at the blood-brain barrier. Our health gets separated from our mental health somehow in western culture. Mental health has a negative stigma that people tend to avoid or label as woo-woo. Still, it is becoming apparent that we can no longer deny the link between mental health and physical health. Stress is becoming an epidemic, distractedness is rampant, and connection we feel with others is diminishing at an alarming rate.

What is going on in our heads has a direct effect on our physical health. Let’s get clear on that right away. We have all at least heard stories about people who lose a spouse and die themselves a short time later. Or the person who receives the grave diagnosis that they have 6 months to live and they die within that time frame. This is the nocebo effect. There is also the placebo effect in which people who are given a fake remedy recover on their own a large percentage of the time.

Stress is an excellent example of how what you practice mentally can affect your physical body. Chronic stress can lead to things like high blood pressure, stomach ulcers, and weight gain, among other things. Digestive problems can develop over time due to altered conditions produced by stress. Conditions such as diverticulitis, IBS, Candida overgrowth, and small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO) can all stem from a stressful lifestyle.

If that wasn’t bad enough, we are insanely distracted in our day to day life, which leads to more stress. Technology allows us to work 24/7. We no longer take long weekends in which we aren’t wired up and turned on to something work-related. We carry our phones in our pockets wherever we go. People can get ahold of us at any time. Gone are the days when we leave and the phone stays anchored to the wall. This little device allows us to check email, order products, scroll through social media, and watch cat videos just in case we weren’t distracted enough. We don’t have to simply wait without entertainment anymore. Long line? No worries, I’ve got this tiny computer to distract me.

All of this distraction causes disconnection with the people in our lives. When was the last time you put your kid off because you were texting someone or watching a silly video on your phone? What do you think you will appreciate more, or regret the most, later in life: Spending time with loved ones or having a clean inbox? And what kind of example are we setting for our kids? We are living in a world jam-packed with information and seriously lacking in wisdom.

A common complaint I hear from my clients is that they have too many tabs open. They run from one thing to another and never seem to get caught up. There are always so many things going on that no one knows if they’re going or coming. Other Pillars of Health start suffering as a result. When you’re burning the candle at both ends it’s hard to sleep, remember to drink water, eat well, or find time to exercise.

What is the secret to gaining more time while decreasing stress, distractedness, and disconnection?

Mindfulness

When there is not enough time in a day, take time out to connect with what is important. You. It sounds contradictory, but taking a bit of time out to center and connect with yourself actually increases productivity.

Mindfulness doesn’t have to be a formal thing that takes large amounts of time every day. It might mean closing your eyes and taking a few deep breaths at your desk, practicing gratitude in the car, or taking a few minutes out for a sit and think. Mindfulness can simply mean unplugging and paying attention to what is around you. This works especially well when out in nature or spending time with your kids. Or, it could mean eating slowly with attention to each sensation while you do it. In this way, you can eat less while enjoying it more. Without the constant distraction, we become present right now in the current moment. This increases our appreciation and enjoyment of the moment.

Here’s how you do it

  1. Stop multitasking. Really, there is no such thing as multitasking. We are actually not able to focus on more than one thing at a time, but boy do we try. This majorly increases our stress. Try doing one thing at a time, doing it well, and then moving on. Your stress will decrease and the quality of your work will increase.
  2. Stop judging. What is just…is. It is not good or bad. Since some people will think it is good and others think it is bad, so these labels are just that…labels. Making judgments increases stress by demanding that everything be a certain way all the time. How much time do we spend every day making sure things are just right? In the end, does it really matter? This goes for judging yourself as well as others.
  3. Have a beginner’s mind. This is my intention for the year. When you have a beginner’s mind, everything is a learning experience. To an expert, there is nothing left to learn. If you have an expert’s mindset and you come across something that contradicts your knowledge, you become defensive and stressed. If you have a beginner’s mind, there is lots of room for improvement.
  4. Let go. Just let it go. It’s okay if you don’t get through your whole to-do list in a pre-determined amount of time. Especially if your kid needs a little extra attention today. Maybe your big project didn’t turn out how you had planned or you didn’t get the promotion. These things that seem like failures at first glance may be blessings in disguise. Let go of expectations, judgments, and comparisons for greater enjoyment of life.
  5. Be grateful. Gratitude is, according to me, the biggest and best way to practice mindfulness. When you are actively grateful, you are focusing on all the good in your life. This reduces your stress by tearing your mind away from all of the negativity and pointing it towards the positive.

Meditation

Meditation is an excellent way to practice mindfulness. You can reap the benefits of meditation with only a few minutes a day of quiet introspection. In the past, the western world has looked down on meditation as a hippie-dippy practice for yogis and new-age wierdos. These days, however, meditation has been discovered by world-class leaders. Many top business professionals have found that it helps with focus, tunes them into what their gut is saying, and gives them tools to avoid distraction. It may help to think of meditation as a sit and think, prayer, or quiet time.

Start with just a few minutes. Sit comfortably, you don’t have to sit cross-legged on the floor, it can be in your desk chair. Breathe normally and focus your mind on your breath. It’s okay if your mind wanders. If thoughts start to interrupt your quiet, let them pass like clouds. Notice them, but don’t judge them or focus your attention on them. At first, you might have many thoughts (cloud, cloud, cloud), but after practicing for a time these distractions will decrease (cloud….cloud…..). Your goal isn’t to become the yogi on the mountain, it is to practice being less distracted and more in tune with your gut feelings. It can be helpful to use an app or guided meditation at first. Or you may like to simply sit in peace for a few minutes. Remember that whatever feels right to you is “doing it right”. Your practice doesn’t have to look like anyone else’s.

Finding mindfulness in your everyday life increases your health by reducing stress, distraction, and detachment. Bring mindfulness into every corner of your life for greater enjoyment of life and more engagement with those around you. Everyone in your life will appreciate this, most of all You!

If you find this useful, there’s a good chance your friends will, too. Share this with your friends right away while you are thinking of it. Thanks for reading!

Additional Resources

Jon Kabat-Zinn’s 9 Attitudes of Mindfulness. https://themindfulnesssummit.com/sessions/9-powerful-meditation-tips-jon-kabat-zinn/

The Benefits of Meditation In Business.  https://www.forbes.com/sites/stephaniedenning/2018/02/02/the-benefits-of-meditation-in-business/

Here is my recommendation for a guided meditation:

Mind-Gourmet-_Gratitude-Meditation_Cover_Big_2018

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