With all the uncertainties and stress that the population as a whole is experiencing, your mental health can take a large toll. That’s why it’s important to try to live in the present moment to help you better connect to yourself and others. Developing a simple daily routine can also benefit your physical health and overall wellbeing.
Mindfulness and meditation are distinct practices with similar goals. “We want to feel well in body, mind and spirit,” explains Suzanne Cushwa Rusnak, Coordinator of Mindfulness Programming for the Connor Integrative Health Network at University Hospitals. “When we aren't lost in thought or carried away by it, we can be more present with life as it unfolds.”
Rusnak suggests that the increasing popularity of mindfulness and meditation shows that people are looking to gain control over their health and to manage the pace of their lives. Mindfulness brings deep awareness of your outer life. It’s a way to pay attention, on purpose and without judgment, to what’s happening in the moment. Meditation is an intentional practice that focuses on your inner life. Emphasis is placed on the breath and sometimes on a specific purpose, such as forgiveness or cultivating joy.
The inner peace and general sense of wellbeing developed through mindfulness and meditation routines can help reduce stress, depression and anxiety. Research shows that these practices can also boost your immune system, improve sleep quality, decrease cognitive decline and help lower blood pressure. The positive impact on pain management and the recovery process can provide relief for you as well as for your caregivers.
How to Practice
Because meditation and mindfulness are practices, there’s no right or wrong way to engage. Mindfulness can be practiced anywhere and at any time, for one minute or longer. While washing your hands, notice the temperature of the water, the scent of the soap, the bubbles in the sink. Follow your dog’s lead on a daily walk and tune in to what it sees. If your mind wanders, gently bring it back to what you’re doing right now.
Meditation is generally a more formal practice than mindfulness, but it also can be done in various settings. Sit in a comfortable position in a quiet room or wander through a garden or park. You may choose to focus on a peaceful image or a soothing mantra. Instead of trying to clear your mind of all thoughts, acknowledge any worries or distractions and release them with each exhalation.
Many yoga studios, community centers and hospitals offer mindfulness and meditation classes for those seeking in-person guidance. Rusnak suggests Jon Kabat-Zinn’s “Wherever You Go, There You Are” or mindful.org if you’d like to start a daily practice on your own.
For more information, please talk to your doctor. If you are a COSE MEWA member through Medical Mutual, use our provider search tool to get started. To learn more about the wellness benefits offered through a COSE MEWA health plan, please contact your broker or your Medical Mutual Sales representative.
Sources: Cleveland Clinic, TenPercent.com, Yoga International