Seasons inevitably turn and a new school year often heralds a feeling of renewal and opportunity – not just for kids. A busy routine of full-time work, errands, household chores and getting ready for the forthcoming holiday rush accompany school schedules, homework, and activity. Rushing around in an effort to accomplish to-do lists and tasks becomes a mindless job all on it’s own. Those who aren’t careful may become disconnected from their thoughts, feelings, and environment.
The practice of mindfulness – both in mentally and physically – works to combat this state of mind by bringing a present awareness to thoughts and activities. A healthy routine can be a method of putting what’s most important into focus and letting go of stress. Making mindfulness a daily practice brings both balance and more happiness, while also improving emotional and physical wellbeing.
According to a recent Harvard study, the benefits of mindfulness are not limited to stress relief, alleviating depression and anxiety but also , the practice has been shown to have physical benefits such as lowering blood pressure, reducing chronic pain, and improving sleep. A mindfulness routine may even help with certain conditions such as heart disease.
There are a number of different ways to add mindfulness techniques to a daily routine and more than one way to practice mindfulness. Whatever a patient chooses, the goal is to achieve a state of present and focused relaxation by disposing of negative thoughts and sensations – particularly those of judgment.
Mentally, mindfulness routines incorporate meditation – Sitting quietly and focusing on breath – body sensations, sensory practice – noticing sights, sounds, smells, tastes, and touches – emotions that are present without judgment, and a focus on coping with unhealthy cravings.
A standard routine might involve:
- Sit with oneself in the morning, focusing on breath.
- Writing in a mindfulness journal that focuses on reducing stress or enhancing self-awareness.
- Mindful eating – eating without the TV, phone, or computer. It’s the practice of truly appreciating food, eating slowly, healthfully and with gratitude.
- Practice gratitude. This shift in thinking can be transformative. Reflecting on things to be thankful for in life instead of focusing on the negatives, help patients feel more positive and optimistic.
- Understand the Purpose in Your Daily Tasks – Long morning commutes and traffic can be stressful. Instead, use the time to de-stress by practicing mindfulness.
- Meditate for at least 10 minutes every day.
- Work with focus – start by concentrating on just a single-tasking. By choosing one important task everything else that follows will come easy.
- Put down the phone. Limiting screen time helps to improve connections with family and peers as well as really putting into focus what is going on inside.
- Stay active – exercise is the physical form of mindfulness. The practice of yoga, pilates, stretching, and tai chi all work to connect the body with the breath and the mind. In addition to its mindfulness benefits, exercises such as stretching will naturally reduce stress, improve health, and boost mood. Mindful exercises such as Tai Chi, Qigong, and Yoga, are the most widely practiced and studies have even shown that they can have promising effects for patients with health conditions such as chronic low back pain (CLBP).
Maintaining a quick practice throughout the day can refresh energy and focus. Moving from the spine gets the blood flowing and creates a conscious connection to breath.
Sample movements include:
Dynamic mountain pose, Downhill skier stretch, Side sways, Standing twists, and full body stretches. These types of movement are beneficial to patients of all ages and can be done lying down, standing or sitting depending on mobility.
Being under the care of a physician who supports the practice of mindfulness can take the benefits even further. Dr. Maria Alejandra De La Peña at Spine and Wellness Centers of America (SWCA) can help her patients achieve their back to school pre-holiday health goals with an array of services and cutting-edge treatments.
Whether it’s supplementing a mindfulness routine with effective pain management and regenerative medicine, Dr. De La Peña’s patients will be able to adhere to any fitness resolution or regime. Dr. De La Peña brings a multidisciplinary interventional pain medicine approach built around a highly-trained team of neurologists, physical therapists, spine surgeons and physiatrists. Each patient receives customized, comprehensive treatment plans that have been designed and personalized for their individual needs.
Making the powerful decision to take control of fitness and mental health can result in real, measurable change leading up to the combined stress and joy of the holidays. Optimum health and fitness are both goals that are easier to maintain when they become part of one’s lifestyle and routine as well as when there is a support system – such as a supportive physician – in place.
Dr. Maria Alejandra De La Peña, MD is a board-certified Anesthesiologist with a subspecialty certification in Pain Medicine.. Her specialized portfolio of safe, effective procedures make her sought after – along with her individualized treatment plans devised according to each patient’s need and condition.