Give yourself some time to relax and just focus on the positive things around youPeople want to take a break from stress and tension. Hoping they could find a place where they can breathe, have a quiet moment alone where they could enjoy their own company, and appreciate only the positive things in their lives. What they often fail to realize is that they can achieve those things by practicing mindfulness.
What is Mindfulness?
Rachele DeCrescenzo explained that it is a practice that helps you with many things such as 1) calming down both your mind and body, 2) letting go of negative thoughts, 3) being fully present and aware of what’s happening at the very moment, and 4) being able to acknowledge your thoughts, feelings, and sensations without any judgment.
“It's the basic human ability to be fully aware of where we are and what we're doing and not overly reactive or overwhelmed by what's going on or not. To just kind of be where you are in the moment being present.”, Rachelle added.
An act of mindfulness is just simply focusing on the present moment where you’re fully aware of what’s happening in the world around you. It can also be about you enjoying your cup of coffee – appreciating its aroma, bitterness, and its warmth on your hands. It may be simple as it sounds but this has an unbelievable ability to help with common health issues like anxiety and depression, gastrointestinal difficulties, PTSD, stress, migraines, high blood pressure, heart disease, and insomnia.
Now you might wonder, how does being mindful help with any of those things?
She said it's generally changing the brain's response to stress. And in order to do that change is that you have to use your set of nervous systems which are the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems.
1. Sympathetic nervous system (The fight or flight)
This system is meant to be a survival mechanism. It’s a primitive response, therefore, it will be triggered once our body feels threatened.
2. Parasympathetic nervous system (The rest and digest)
This helps get our mind and body back into a more calm and relaxed pace.
To make it more comprehensible, she made an example of how both work in our lives. She said that our mind and body are always sympathetic to the nervous system because of the stress that we feel every day. We are always tense and exhausted but there is one way to deactivate this feeling and it is by practicing mindfulness. This can help in reactivating our parasympathetic muscles to get our bodies to relax and be in the moment.
Benefits of Mindfulness
Being mindful does not only help with common health issues but it can also give you and your body great benefits such as
- Reduced stress
- Enhanced performance
- Ability to gain insight and awareness
- Increase your attention to others' well-being
- Increase your emotional regulation
- Improve your memory
She even shared her experience with her patients who are practicing mindfulness. They usually do deep breathing exercises in order to calm themselves down and connect to their bodies. This is also said to help them gain the insight and awareness that they need and desire.
Types of Mindfulness Practices
She gave an example of the different practices that you can do to de-stress, achieve calmness all over your body, and work on your parasympathetic nervous system:
1. Breathing activities
4. Mindful movements
6. Sensory activities
Ex. Mindful eating
- You can do this by enjoying your meal really well. One example is when you allow yourself to enjoy some chocolate every once in a while. You can be mindful by putting it in your mouth, letting it sit there, enjoying its sweetness, and being present in the moment.
7. Mindful movements
Ex. Walking mindfulness
- This is something you can do every day. You can go out for a walk in nature, take a hike and just observe what's around you.
Practicing Mindfulness with Body Scan
The steps below are guided meditation done by Rachele. This is to give the members a quick body scan so that they can get a feeling of what mindfulness is.
1. Be comfortable
First is to close your eyes and get comfortable in your chair. If you are in a place where you can lay down, you can also do so.
2. Observe your breath
You have to remain focused and continue observing your breathing. Then, give yourself some time to reflect on these questions: “Are you breathing slow? Are you breathing fast? Are you breathing mostly with your chest? Are you breathing mostly with your belly?”
3. Observe different parts of your body
The next step you have to do is to bring your awareness and attention to each part of your body. Starting from your feet going up to the upper part of your body giving it complete observation and awareness. And if your mind wanders, you just have to come back to the body part and come back to your breath.
- “Bring your awareness starting from your feet. Feel your feet, feel how they are resting on the ground. Then bring your awareness to your toes, going up slowly to your lower legs.”
- “Now, bring your awareness up to your knees then kind of swirl around your knees.”
- “Bring your awareness and observation up to your upper legs. Your thighs, the front, and the back, inside and the outside, feel into your thighs.”
- “Now come up to your pelvis and into your hips. If you’re sitting down, try to feel how your pelvis is making contact with your seat.”
- “Bring your awareness up to your lower belly and your lower back. Try to feel it and observe. Then, go up to your mid-belly and your mid-back. And bring your awareness up to your upper belly, upper back, your chest, and your rib cage.”
- “Now try to feel inside that rib cage. Can you sense that it is a cage that is like a barrel that holds multiple things such as your heart, your lungs, and vital organs?”
- “Come up into your shoulders and scan down your arms all the way to your fingertips. Just feel into your arms, come back up and feel into your neck. Bring your awareness there into your neck, your throat, your voice box. Just sense that area.”
- “And then bring your awareness up into your head, to your jaw, your mouth, your cheeks, your nose, your ears, your eyes, and your scalp.”
This is such a wonderful technique to make yourself more composed, calm, and relaxed. After this meditation, you will feel your body's senses. You will feel a little bit calmer than you did before. And that is just being mindful and being able to sense your body and what you're feeling.
If this is also something that you would like to do alone at your home, there are mindfulness and meditation applications that are available online. Rachele mentioned some free apps which she uses on a daily basis: Calm, Headspace, and most especially the Insight Timer.
George: “I got to tell you, it changed my world. It changed my life. My experience with Rachele's therapy, myofascial therapy, is that I am in the moment. My mind is not thinking about yesterday. I'm not thinking about what I'm going to do this afternoon. It is purely in the moment. And when that therapy's over, I feel like I just had the most relaxing sleep. I highly recommend the practice and seeing your practice.”
Drew: "I think that your calming voice is what my mind wanted. Like I did monitor but I came back to your voice. And it was really interesting when I really focused. I felt tingling in that part of the body that I was actually asked for the kind of focus on and very relaxed. It's amazing how your mind can totally be tuned with certain parts of your body if you allow your mind to do so.
Lisa: This is what just happened to me. I just feel so much calmer after every three minutes. And I found that I was uncrossing my legs and relaxing the parts of the body, but I have a hard time just with the whole idea of sitting, putting it aside 10 minutes or 20 minutes to just do nothing. Is that a good way to start and transition into that? Or is that kind of enough?
Rachele: Yes. Anything is enough. I know the insight timer app the best, so I'll just speak to that. You can filter it by time. If you really have a very hard time, just start with a five-minute meditation and visualization. Maybe do that a couple of times a day, if you can. But don't force yourself to do more than you can because that just defeats the whole purpose. So start with little bits and then just increase your time.
ABOUT RACHELE DECRESCEZNO
Rachele DeCrescezno is a physical therapist who practices myofascial release and physical therapy. She is very committed to helping her clients achieve a more calm and composed self. She also uses professional techniques such as mindfulness meditation, which helps reduce stress, enhance performance, and gain self-awareness.
Get to know Rachele more!
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