By: Christine Karper, Ph.D., LMHC, Cancer Support Community, Integrative Medicine Department & Kirsten Klein, UCF Clinical Psychology Graduate Student Researcher
In the previous post, Mindfully Aware, we learned how to be more aware of our surroundings. Now we are focusing our attention to reducing stress. How do we do that? Relaxing.
Mindfulness allows us to be aware of our stress response. Through mindful practice, we can focus our attention on our body’s response to stress. This can be done informally and formally. Formal mindful practice happens through meditation. Meditation is when you set aside a time, assume a specific position and focus on a specific object or breath. This is important, as deliberate focus will teach you discipline and allow you to train your mind. By tuning in, we can tune out those stressful distractions.
The moment one gives close attention to anything, even a blade of grass, it becomes a mysterious, awesome, indescribably magnificent world in itself. – Henry Miller
We all live busy lives and sometimes, it can be hard to find the time. The good news is that informal mindfulness practice can be done during any moment of the day. Informal practice involves engaging in an activity with full awareness, an open heart, and acceptance. Mindfulness involves being in the moment and focusing on what’s happening around you and within you. One of the easiest, yet most effective exercises you can do is focusing on your breath. Here’s how you can do it.
Inhale for 4 seconds. Hold for 7 seconds. Exhale deeply for 8 seconds. Repeat this for 4 cycles. This will engage your relaxation response, allowing your nervous system to produce the hormones associated with relaxation. During this exercise, try to get out of your head and off the hamster wheel! Focus on your breath and the way it feels going in and out. Focus on the way your chest inflates and deflates. Focus on the way your heart is beating. Focus on how tense or relaxed your muscles feel.
If you’re struggling to focus, don’t worry! Sometimes the mind is too active to settle down. Be easy with yourself. Mindful practice isn’t about getting it right or wrong. It’s about letting your mind find its true nature.
For this week, enjoy the breathing exercise and see if you can feel your body relax as you breathe more deeply and focus on the 4-7-8 technique. In the upcoming blog, we explore mindful attitude and why mindset is important for your well-being.
About the Author
Christine Karper, Ph.D., LMHC is from the Integrative Medicine department at the Orlando Health UF Health Cancer Center where she serves as a Licensed Mental Health Counselor and teaches mindfulness-based stress reduction classes along with other integrative practices for well-being. She earned her master’s degree in mental health counseling in 2000 and her doctoral degree in counselor education and supervision in 2003. Along with being a clinician at the cancer hospital, she serves on the graduate faculty panel for 4 universities in the Central Florida community. She has been teaching and practicing mindfulness techniques and other mind, body, spirit approaches for more than two decades.
About the Co-Author
Kirsten Klein, UCF Clinical Psychology Graduate Student Researcher. Kirsten contributed to the research and writing of this blog series.
Chopra, D. (2013). 7 Myths of Meditation. Blog Post retrieved from: https://www.huffingtonpost.com/deepak-chopra/meditation-myths_b_2823629.html
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Linden, W., Lenz, J. W., & Con, A. H. (2001). Individualized stress management for primary hypertension: A controlled trial. Archives of Internal Medicine, 161, 1071–1080.
UMASS Medical School Website History of MBSR. Retrieved from: https://www.umassmed.edu/cfm/mindfulness-based-programs/mbsr-courses/about-mbsr/history-of-mbsr/