After the rush of the holiday season, the first few weeks of the New Year can feel like the slate has been wiped clean. As winter deepens, life in the natural world slows down, too.
Take this opportunity to enjoy the stillness and consider what’s important to you, said Mary Beth Lardizabal, DO, psychiatrist, Allina Health Mental Health – United Clinic, and a group leader of Resilience Training at the Penny George Institute.
Better yet, find a way to bring that calming stillness into your everyday life.
LIVING IN THE PRESENT
One way to do that is to practice mindfulness. “Mindfulness is simply paying attention and being present. It’s not thinking about the past or what might happen in the future. It’s living in the here and now,” Lardizabal explained.
For many of us, living in the present is surprisingly difficult. “Increasingly, we are overscheduled and don’t have time to relax and reflect,” she said.
Technology may be partly to blame. “Endlessly checking your email or social media newsfeed becomes a conditioned habit. You end up missing out on everything else going on around you.” Patterns like this become automatic. “Until you become aware, you can’t interrupt the pattern,” said Lardizabal.
“It’s like unconsciously eating. We keep walking to the refrigerator without thinking about it. Once we catch ourselves, we can make decisions about the behavior.”
HOW MINDFULNESS HELPS
But practicing mindfulness can have an even deeper impact on our lives.
“Self-acceptance and self-compassion is an important part of mindfulness and being self-aware. In this culture, we always want to be more than what we are without really accepting who we are right now,” said Lardizabal. “It’s good to strive for improvement, but if the motivation is because you dislike yourself, it’s a set-up for failure.”
Research confirms the value of mindfulness, said Jeff Dusek, PhD, director of Research at the Penny George Institute. “People who practice mindfulness see normal life events such as illness as a challenge to overcome rather than a roadblock to good health. They also experience a greater sense of self-control in their lives, have increased commitment to daily life, and believe the world is comprehensible, manageable and meaningful.”
HOW TO BUILD MINDFULNESS INTO YOUR LIFE
The Penny George Institute offers a variety of programs to help you explore mindfulness and put it to use in your daily life. To learn more, call 612-863-3333.
|Program||Best suited for:|
|Resilience Training – Eight-week intensive program that teaches mindfulness-based coping skills in combination with an individualized program of exercise and nutrition.||Individuals who have experienced depression, anxiety or other stress-related mental health conditions and are currently in recovery or wish to prevent relapse.|
|Mindfulness Training – Four-week experiential program offering tools to help manage stress and achieve a higher state of well-being.||Individuals who wish to explore new ways to manage stress and optimize their health and well-being.|
|Guided imagery MP3 albums – Three guided imagery albums focusing on pregnancy, stress management and pain management.||Individuals who would like to learn how to benefit from the mind-body connection using electronic tools to improve health and well-being.|