I had the opportunity to attend the Completely Kids Author Luncheon on March 2nd where Dr. Kenneth Ginsburg, professor of pediatrics in the Division of Adolescent Medicine at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, spoke about his book Raising Kids to Thrive: Balancing Love With Expectations and Protection With Trust. He spoke in depth about how mounting expectations and increasing pressures to be the best can lead our kids down the road toward anxiety and even depression.
He explained that, “Anxiety is worrying about the future and depression is worrying about the past. Mindfulness is the act of being focused only on the present moment.”
The idea of mindfulness is a Buddhist practice adapted for mental health purposes. The essence of mindfulness practice is focusing on being in the moment; focusing on each breath you take, each step you make, and the sights or sounds around you. When you are mindful you do just one thing at a time and you pay close attention to that one thing. It is essentially training your mind to focus on your thoughts and emotions in the present. In a world full of multi-taskers, this practice can be challenging, yet very rewarding. Mindfulness is a practice that can be utilized as a stress reliever for anyone who is willing to learn.
Mindful-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) is a program that helps you learn how to calm your mind and body to help you cope with illness, pain, anxiety, and stress. The idea of using mindfulness as stress reduction was first introduced by Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn in the 1970s and is now used in more than 720 hospitals, medical centers, and clinics across the world. The eight to nine week program teaches mindfulness through breathing, body awareness exercises, sitting and walking meditation, as well as yoga.
Mindfulness meditation has been shown to benefit many health conditions that are affected by stress, including anxiety and depression. One of the effects of living with prolonged stress is that we can become chronically vigilant. This hypervigilance can lead to getting caught in a cycle of negative emotions and distorted ways of viewing life’s daily situations. When we have a hard time regulating our emotions, we’re at an increased risk for depression and anxiety disorders.
However, you don’t have to commit to an entire nine week program to learn how to be mindful. You can practice mindfulness by following these nine practical tips:
- Take a few minutes to notice your breathing. Sense the flow of breath and the rise and fall of your belly.
- Pay attention to what you are doing, while you are doing it and tune into your senses. When you eat or drink, pay attention to taste, texture, and color of what you are consuming.
- When you are walking, pay less attention of where you are headed and focus on each step. Focus on how your weight shifts and the sensations in the bottom of your feet.
- Stop feeling like you need to fill up all your time with doing. Take some time to simply be.
- When your mind wanders, gently bring it back to your breath.
- Recognize that thoughts are simply thoughts and you don’t need to react to them.
- Practice listening without judgment.
- Notice when you tend to zone out (driving, surfing the web, walking the dog, doing dishes, brushing teeth, etc.). Practice bringing more awareness to that activity.
- Spend more time in nature. Notice the wind and the way grass feels under your feet.
According to Dr. Ginsburg, “Over time, your mind will be more able to stay focused on how you are feeling now rather than on past or future worries.”
For information on becoming more mindful, go to:
Jill Hamilton, Project Coordinator, The Kim Foundation
Jill Hamilton has been the Project Coordinator at The Kim Foundation since 2014. She graduated with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and public relations from The University of Nebraska at Omaha in 2009. Since working at the foundation, she has become an active member of the Nebraska State Suicide Prevention Coalition, Nebraska LOSS Advisory Committee, The Omaha Metro Hoarding Taskforce, The Early Childhood Mental Health Coalition, Nebraska State Conference Planning Committee; she is a volunteer mentor with Y.E.S., and serves as the Outreach Coordinator for the Metro Area LOSS Team.