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Mind Mechanic: Practice being fully present with mindfulness

When practiced regularly, mindfulness can come with health benefits like lower blood pressure, decreased pain, improved brain function and mood.

It’s an ancient concept that does wonders for the mind and body, but it’s relatively unknown to western society. That, however, is about to change.

Mindfulness, put simply, is the practice of being fully present. It is one of the easiest ways to manage stress, pain and general well-being. It’s innate in all of us, and it’s free.

This type of meditation is gaining legs in the United States after being used for centuries elsewhere. When practiced regularly, it can come with health benefits like lower blood pressure, decreased pain, improved central nervous system and brain function and improved mood.

Christianacare.org, which now offers mindfulness resources through its Center for Women’s Emotional Wellness, states that mindfulness “allows a person to become more awake and more purposeful about their actions and how to respond, rather than react, to situations in life.”

Who else could use more of that? I know I can.

Local educational organizations have started to incorporate this method, as well. Delaware Technical Community College hosts an annual Mindfulness Summit; and Minds Over Matter, a non-profit organization, is dedicated offering mindfulness training to students, their families, and educators to improve behavior and academic performance in children.

So how do we practice mindfulness? First, understand that it takes a while.

I have been practicing being present in the moment for years and still struggle with it. Until recently, my fast-paced life was not structured around self-care, something we all need; however, my only other option is to allow the symptoms of my stress disorder to become regularly exacerbated.

While I’ve now made meditation a priority in my life, I resist when I try to structure my practice on a schedule. Instead, I look for brief moments throughout the day.

Mindfulness can come in many forms, yoga being one of the most well-known. But it’s the simple moments like savoring coffee in the morning, sitting in nature, playing with children or a pet, that create real change for the better.

Taking a break from a screen to focus, intently, on your surroundings counts quite a bit. My absolute favorite, as a woman of the woods, is listening to tree leaves blow in the breeze.

Meditation is sensory, which explains why it’s so hard to achieve in our world of constant stimuli. One of the best ways I have found to practice while out and about is the 5-4-3-2-1 grounding method, which also comes in handy during anxiety attacks. For this, name (audibly or to yourself) five things you see, four you can touch, three you hear, two you can smell and one you can taste. I recommend taking deep breaths while doing so.

If you want to practice mindfulness and don’t know where to start, check out YouTube or meditation apps like Meditopia and Insight Timer, both of which offer music, guided meditations for specific health and other issues.

Need mental health help and don’t know where to start? Contact the NAMI Helpline at (888) 427-2643 or go to namidelaware.org.

Are you a Delaware mental health professional interested in sharing your expertise for an upcoming Mind Mechanic column? Email me at mindmechanicoped@gmail.com.

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