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The Benefits of Practicing Mindfulness

December 19, 2017

This blog is written in conjunction with Wyndham Bonett and Lee Weber, FSU medical students.   

Maintaining a healthy lifestyle is a difficult, but ultimately rewarding thing to do.

We often stress about trying to maintain a physically healthy lifestyle by exercising, eating well, and by following up with our physicians. While all of these things are important, a healthy mind is just as important to a healthy lifestyle.

Mental health can affect every part of your life, including work, family, diet, exercise and mood. We often make efforts to physically improve our lives, but fail to do the same for our mental wellbeing. Anxiety and stress can affect your mental wellbeing and potentially affect other aspects of your health, including your weight, blood pressure and sleep. It’s important to take care of your body on the inside as well as the outside. Practicing mindfulness is one approach you can use to deal with stress and improve your mood.

What is Mindfulness?

Mindfulness is a form of meditation that allows your attention to focus on the present. Research has shown mindfulness meditative practices can decrease stress, anxiety and other mood disorders, which all can affect your physical wellbeing. According to the American Psychological Association, mindfulness also can lead to better focus, working memory, cognitive flexibility and less emotional reactivity. One thing is clear from the research: practicing mindfulness can have several health benefits.

How to Practice Mindfulness

Practicing mindfulness meditation is simple and can be done anywhere you feel comfortable. The point of it is to be able to feel your body’s responses, to relax and reconnect with yourself.  Many people choose a quiet spot in their home or at work to practice mindfulness.

To get started, the first thing to do is set aside a time when you are free of distractions and can fully immerse yourself. Once you find a special place to relax, whether it’s a chair, cushion or park bench, make yourself comfortable but supported and stable. Sit with good posture, with your feet flat on the ground or crossed, if you’re sitting on the ground. Relax your arms by your side and let your hands fall naturally. Relax your head, letting your chin drift downwards along with your field of view. Once you’re comfortable and relaxed, you can move on to the next phase.

Breathe in, and breathe out

Next, you should relax and follow your breath. Notice the air flow as you breathe in, pause, and then breathe out. Repeat this breathing process continuously throughout your meditation. The goal is to use your breath to focus inward on yourself and to ignore external stimulation. If you get distracted or have to move or adjust, just pause and slowly move with intention, then resume your breathing focus.

Let your mind wander

Once you’re relaxed, comfortable and focused on our breathing, your mind can, and will, wander. Wandering is fine — ruminating is not. When you come upon a thought or intrusion, just observe it, continue breathing without reacting and relax. The goal is to be an observer, not an effector. As you move through this, each breath you take in and out will relax you even more. The goal is to be aware of your own body’s feedback mechanism and to better coexist with it. When you feel ready, or your time is up, slowly return back to normalcy. Look around your meditation spot, slowly stand up and take a minute to see how you feel. Many people will have a lifted feeling or a feeling of lightness. You may not feel it the first time, and it may come with extra practice, but the results of mindfulness will still be there.

Why mindfulness matters

Every day, we must work to overcome some sort of obstacle or stressor. No amount of physical strength can accomplish this task. However, mental strength and focus can help you better cope with stress. By practicing mindfulness meditation, you can better prepare yourself to handle whatever stressors come your way.

Recipe of the Day

Brain Boosting Salmon Asparagus Spring Rolls

This simple and healthy recipe is packed full of Omega-3 fats and is a great dish to serve to guests at any party or occasion.

24 thick asparagus spears

2 4-oz packages of smoked wild salmon, cut into 5-inch strips

12 8-in rice paper wrappers (sold in Asian groceries)

1 ripe avocado, cut into 24 slices

1 cup shredded carrot

½ cup chopped basil

½ cup chopped fresh mint

To prepare:

  • Trim asparagus to 5-inch spears then cut in half lengthwise. Boil until tender-crisp then drain.
  • Soak rice wrapper in warm water until softened. Let drip dry and center on a cutting board.
  • Center a strip of salmon in the bottom of the wrapper, then arrange 4 asparagus spears overlapping the salmon.
  • Top the asparagus with 2 avocado slices, 1 tbsp shredded carrot and 2 tsp each of basil and mint.
  • Fold the wrapper over and roll into a tight cylinder. Cut each cylinder in half.
  • For the dipping sauce: Whisk together: 1/3 cup soy sauce, ¼ tsp crushed red pepper, and 2 tbsp each of orange juice, lemon juice and Mirin. Dip finished rolls in sauce.

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