Chill Out This Holiday: Be Happy, Be Mindful
We’ve all been reminded that it’s important to “stop and smell the roses.” But that can be hard to do when life is hectic and demanding, especially now as the holidays near and we’re stressing over lengthy to-do lists.
However, now might actually be the best time to really stop, pause and take in the present moment. The practice is called “Mindfulness” and it offers positive health benefits, according to Madhav Goyal, M.D., internist with NorthBay Health Primary Care in Vacaville.
“There are tons of health benefits from mindfulness, including reductions in symptoms of anxiety, depression and pain,” Dr. Goyal noted.
There’s also evidence that mindfulness can lower blood pressure and improve sleep. It may even help people cope with pain. You can bring mindfulness to your eating habits, too. Studies suggest that it can help reduce binge eating and emotional eating. Paying closer attention to your body can help you notice signals that you’re full and help you better enjoy your food.
Mindfulness has its roots in Buddhist meditation. Meditation is a practice that aims to increase awareness of the mind and concentration. It’s usually practiced in a quiet space, where you focus on your breathing or sensations in your body. If your mind wanders—like thoughts popping in about things you need to do— try to return your mind to the present moment.
But, paying attention to what’s going on right this second can be hard, because many people spend more time thinking about what’s coming up in the future, or dwelling on things in the past we can’t change. And that’s when we miss out on experiencing the present, Dr. Goyal noted.
“Learning how to observe our thoughts and feelings without reacting to them, but just acknowledging them, is an incredibly important skill to develop,” said Dr. Goyal.
Developing this skill will not only help our physical health, but also our mental and emotional health, Dr. Goyal said. “And this in turn does affect our physical health. Meditation of any sort is a great skill to manage stress.”
So, consider starting on a path of mindfulness this holiday season. Find a moment or two to pause in your busy day, to take in the sights and sounds, and to just breathe.
If you want to learn more, Dr. Goyal suggests checking into Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) clinics, courses or literature, or go to www.tm.org. “It’s a great site for those interested in transcendental meditation.”
To reach NorthBay Health Primary Care, call (707) 646-5500.