JULY HEALTH CHALLENGE – USING MINDFULNESS FOR HEALTH
Summer is officially here and this month we are going put a new spin on what it takes to be healthy. Up to this point the Healthy Lifestyle Challenge has been dedicated to improving nutrition, exercise, and even sleep. This month we take on our first mental challenge:
Become MINDFUL of our healthy lifestyle
Instead of trying to exercise more or eat even healthier, we are simply going to pay attention… REALLY pay attention to what our healthy lifestyle actually is. Essentially, we want you to become more mindful. To start we must define what it is to be “mindful”: Mindfulness is a conscious decision to pay attention to all of what is happening in the present moment, considering what is going on in and around us; without giving negative tags to these experiences. We can always learn from our past but focusing on the present can lead to healthy choices we can make now! Think about how many mindless activities we do each day without even thinking. From this point, how we can improve those tasks? There are so many different areas of our lives that can be enhanced by becoming more mindful.
Eating for most of us has become a nearly automatic function. You no doubt have heard the cliché “food is fuel”; this is only a half truth. Quickly chowing down without even chewing properly will give us energy for the daily tasks we perform but will also lead to less nutrient absorption and more likely than not to overeating. Without nutrients our bodies cannot function optimally. If we don’t pay attention to hunger cues when eating we don’t know when we are full. Allow yourself time to enjoy and chew and taste your food; this will greatly increase the positive effects of good nutrition. Being mindful of what groceries you are buying or how you cook a meal can also lead to healthier choices. When’s the last time you compared similar products at the grocery store and chose the healthier one? Even being aware of why we are eating or what we choose to eat when experiencing different emotions can help develop healthier eating habits.
Stress is present in all of our lives, but can it be healthy? Stress helps to shape who we are and it is how we choose to view and deal with our stressors that determine just what shape we end up becoming. Practicing mindfulness when stressed can positively affect your health. Do you address the problem as it happens? Or do you run from it, only to have to deal with larger consequences later? Being mindful of stress will help you find a healthy way to deal with it. For example exercising often reduces the negative feelings of stress and as a bonus makes us healthier. Being conscious of your present emotions allows you to make a healthy action like exercising or going for a walk to calm down and avoid bad decisions.
Our jobs take up the majority of our time and mindfulness is about being aware and awake, rather than operating unconsciously. By the end of the work day if you can’t remember what you did, you weren’t working mindfully. Mindful and purposeful work will improve your quality of work and efficiency.Begin the day by making a clear decision of what you want to achieve and as you work and try to remind yourself of this decision to keep on track throughout the day. Try responding, instead of reacting to problems that arise. Reactions are quick decisions that are automatic; a response takes consideration and a balanced choice (aka being mindful). Even giving attention to mundane tasks like dialing phone numbers, opening doors, or waiting for a meeting can help you to become more mindful and happier.
We can take mindfulness to the next level by incorporating deliberate practices into daily life. Yoga or stretching or Tai chi or any other gentle form of exercise; where you can concentrate on how your body moves and feels can have an uplifting and rejuvenating effect. Meditation is the process of “thinking deeply or focusing one’s mind for a period of time”… basically an obligatory period of being mindful. Sitting quietly and focusing on your breath for a even few minutes is one of the most common forms of meditation and this simple act, done once a day or more, can have many positive influences on the body and the mind. Becoming more mindful can help to reduce stress, to help you sleep, even decrease anxiety and depression.
When you notice that your mind is wandering, gently bring your attention back to the sensations of the moment. Practicing mindfulness leads to health and happiness!
About Paul Bradshaw:
Paul Bradshaw is a Kinesiologist at Sparkling Hill Resort. He graduated from the University of British Columbia Vancouver in 2010 with a Bachelor of Human Kinetics. He is the lead Whole Body Cryotherapy practitioner and also specializes in injury rehabilitation and prevention, and healthy weight loss. Paul is also a certified Kinesio Tape practitioner.