Harvard Women’s Health Watch recently published an article about the benefits of mindfulness in meditation. They state that the daily practice of mindfulness enhances our quality of life.

Scientists say that the mind produces more than 600,000 thoughts a day, most of them repetitive. Being mindful means focusing your attention on what is going on in the present moment. In this day of multi-tasking this can present quite a challenge.

For more than 20 years, research on the effects of mindfulness in meditation has been used in stress reduction programs. Jon Kabat-Zinn, Ph.D. established the first program, at the University of Massachusetts Medical School. There he taught patients simple mindful meditation exercises to increase mindfulness through out the day. Now a new team of researchers at the University of Wisconsin is studying the long-term effect of mindful meditation on the brain and immune systems of people who work at demanding jobs. It is not surprising to find that mindfulness influenced, in a positive way, the immune systems of the meditators and after mindfulness training, brain activity in the left prefrontal cortex was greater than the right. Scientists believe that this is the area of the brain that is associated with happiness and optimism. Mindfulness can also help in other areas. Those cited were: binge eating, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) and depression relapse.

Though meditation is not a substitute for a proper medical care, it can compliment many medical conditions. The Harvard Women’s Health organization advocates learning from instructions in books or on tape.

The following exercises can help you bring mindfulness into every day life.

1. Do you find yourself unable to concentrate? Begin your day with mindful meditation. Set aside 10 to 20 minutes to sit and pay attention to your breath. Start by focusing on how the air flows into your nostrils and stay alert. As your mind starts to wander, simply name the thought, such as “planning,” and then let it go.

2. Do you ever wonder how you got to the place that you were driving to? For most of us, driving is automatic and we don’t think much about it. Next time you get in the car try this experiment. Turn off your car radio, tape player or CD and drive as if it were the first time you ever took the wheel. Pay attention to your thoughts while driving. Are you able to stay focused on what’s happening in the present?

3. Do you tend not to notice physical discomfort until it really grabs your attention? Learning to breathe correctly, from the diaphragm, can relieve stress and bring you back to the present moment of mindfulness. For a tactile sensation try placing your hand on your navel and breathe slowly. This simple exercise can help you feel centered and balanced.

4. Do you feel as if you are running on “automatic,” rushing through activities without paying much attention to them? Take some thing that you do every day, such as putting your car seat belt on, and use this action as a reminder to breathe and focus on the present moment. Instead of allowing your mind to wander, you are taking the time to train the mind by bringing the mind back to the present moment.

These simple exercises help to focus your mind, providing insight into understanding yourself. The practice of daily mindfulness, while on the go, helps to stabilize your behavior, bringing more patience, acceptance and compassion into your life.

Karen Vasil-Busch, BA, LMT since 1982, practices CORE Myofascial Therapy, Karuna REIKI and teaches yoga and meditation. She can be reached at 336-2065.

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