We all have that one thing. The thing that makes us curl our lip and stomp our foot…but we do it anyway. Whether paying bills, eating broccoli, or getting a flu shot, we know it’s good for us but we just don’t like it. Erase the grump-factor to do your body good. Physical, mental, and emotional health can all benefit from a year-round attitude of mindfulness and gratitude. Combining a few deep, calming breaths with an internal inventory of things to be thankful for is endlessly beneficial.
Dr. Chani Henderson at Vancouver’s Family & Sports Chiropractic has long advocated for a spirit of thanksgiving. And rightfully so. We’ve known for many years that mindset has long-lasting repercussions on body, mind, and spirit. Authors at Psychology Today explain that “To find clues for healthy living today, we must look to our past. The history of human evolution shows a definitive link between our physical health and psychological well-being. The Greeks understood the importance of a Sound Mind in a Sound Body. That credo became the foundation of their civilization.”
To do this they recommend daily physicality, intellectual curiosity, fostering creativity, human unity, spiritual connectedness, energy balance, and voluntary simplicity. All of these are great, but sometimes just the act of paying attention is enough. And medical researchers say mindfulness is vastly easier than you may think.
“Being mindful means paying close attention to what’s happening in the moment. Put simply, mindfulness is about being present. It means noticing what’s happening inside your mind and in your body. (Your stomach hurts when you think about doing your taxes.) And it means being aware of what’s happening around you. (Flowers are blooming on your route to work.) When you’re being mindful, the key is not to label or judge what’s happening. Your feelings aren’t good or bad. They just are. In that way, mindfulness is about observing. You notice your life with a little distance, instead of reacting emotionally.”
This distance gives much-needed breathing room but it can even be a weight-loss tool and help create an exercise routine you’ll stick to (longer than most New Year’s resolutions!). “When you focus on your body, it can motivate you to move more throughout the day. You might also be more appreciative of your body and be kinder to yourself.”
The National Institutes of Health offers studies which “suggest that mindfulness practices may help people manage stress, cope better with serious illness and reduce anxiety and depression. Many people who practice mindfulness report an increased ability to relax, a greater enthusiasm for life, and improved self-esteem.”
The Mayo Clinic recommends using mindfulness through meditation to take stock. “Spending too much time planning, problem-solving, daydreaming, or thinking negative or random thoughts can be draining. It can also make you more likely to experience stress, anxiety, and symptoms of depression. Practicing mindfulness exercises can help you direct your attention away from this kind of thinking and engage with the world around you.”
Pausing for a few minutes does more than slow your racing mind and heart, say doctors. “The overall evidence supports the effectiveness of meditation for various conditions, including: stress, anxiety, pain, depression, insomnia, high blood pressure (hypertension). Preliminary research indicates that meditation can also help people with asthma and fibromyalgia. Meditation can help you experience thoughts and emotions with greater balance and acceptance. Meditation also has been shown to: improve attention, decrease job burnout, improve sleep, [and] improve diabetes control.”
Whatever the source, doctor’s suggestions are often similar. If you’re feeling the weight of the world this holiday season, take a minute, step back, and pause.
There are four easy steps that can soothe frazzled mind, muscles, and motivation: pay attention, live in the moment, accept yourself, and focus on your breathing. Do this over a peaceful cup of tea, while stuck in traffic, during an office coffee break, or before your family is awake and rushing around in the morning. Where- and whenever you’ve got a few free minutes, listen to what your body is desperately trying to tell you.
Mindfulness and preventive care won’t cure 100% of life’s aches and pains. But like stretching before a workout, they can keep you limber inside and out, ready to face the next challenge. Consider keeping a journal of things to be thankful for or sending unsolicited ‘thank you’ notes to friends and loved ones. We can all benefit from human kindness that asks for nothing in return this holiday season or any time of year.