Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Stresed? Meet Mindfulness.

May has gotten off to a bit of a crazy start in terms of studying and finals and AP tests and projects. Everything's kind of been a big whir of assignments and due dates and work obligations, and, while I'm grateful every day, I'm hoping June will bring a bit of calm. Somehow amidst everything I've managed to get some non-AP textbook reading in, and I'm working on getting through Testament of Youth, Les Miserables, and Mindfulness for Beginners.  Testament and Les Mis are both incredibly beautiful and poignant and amazing, and Mindfulness is something that, as I read more of it, I realize the world really, really needs. So that's what this post is about: mindfulness.


Written by John Kabat-Zinn, Mindfulness for Beginners is an introduction to the practice of awareness. I suppose it's a bit of a self-help book, but the part of it that I find the most interesting is its connection to the MBSR (Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction) programs that they're using at a lot of hospitals now.  Learning about how awareness can help the world in the big picture is way more intriguing than just learning about how I can use it to help myself, and, if you don't already know about it, MBSR is really inspiring.
Put simply, MBSR is an 8-week course for patients suffering from chronic pain and illnesses that blends meditation and yoga to boost self-esteem, improve wellness, and reduce pain.
The mind is known to be a factor in stress and stress-related disorders, and meditation has been shown to positively effect a range of autonomic physiological processes, such as lowering blood pressure and reducing overall arousal and emotional reactivity. In addition to mindfulness practices, MBSR uses yoga to help reverse the prevalence of disuse atrophy from our culture's largely sedentary lifestyle, especially for those with pain and chronic illnesses. The program brings meditation and yoga together so that the virtues of both can be experienced simultaneously .
We live in a very stressful world, and I've never been particularly good at getting calm/meditative/yogic, but, reading about MBSR, I'm realizing the importance of it, and it's helpful to be reminded that being calmer and more meditative isn't just a self-care practice. It's actually something that's very good for the planet.  Having a lot of stressed, overwhelmed, pained people walking around doesn't yield the peace and positivity that we need to make the world a better place. And MBSR isn't just for hospitals.  Looking around, it's clear that there are lots of other places in which it can (and should) be applied. People are suffering every day all over the world, and MBSR could really help them reconnect with themselves, with nature, and with each other to grapple with the obstacles that they face.

<3 Frances

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