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Mindful of Your Health

By Jody Record, Campus Journal Editor
November 10, 2010

There are ways to work at being healthy while you’re at work that don’t involve a lunchtime exercise regime. Being healthy can have as much to do with how we with think as what we do.

Mindfulness can decrease stress and anxiety, improve concentration, and increase our ability to cope with stress. With practice, mindfulness can aid in changing the way we think, particularly reducing negative thoughts that can influence physical well-being. It also has been used to make dealing with chronic pain easier.

Here’s a list of questions from Harvard Pilgrim Health Care’s wellness connection program that might help you decide if mindfulness is something from which you would benefit.

  1. I eat meals while watching TV or doing something else, and sometimes find my plate emptied even though I don't remember eating.
  2. I find myself listening to someone with one ear, doing something else at the same time.
  3. I drive places without remembering how I got there.
  4. I misplace important items like my phone, keys or eyeglasses.
  5. I re-live past events wishing I had done something different.
  6. I have left hazardous things unattended, such as a candle or stove.
  7. I have gone to the store for a specific item and returned home without it because I forgot.
  8. I forget a person's name almost as soon as I hear it.
  9. During a meeting or discussion, I mentally wander off to my "to do" list or other project and end up missing something important?
  10. I have read things (a book or article) without remembering what I just read.

If you answered yes to more than one question, practicing mindfulness could help. And just how do you practice? Start with increasing your awareness of what’s going on around you. It’s not about trying not to think; it’s about being aware of what you’re thinking, and hearing and seeing.

Tips from the wellness program on how to achieve mindfulness include:

  1. Drive to one or two days a week in silence—no music; no radio.
  2. Before answering the telephone, or entering a meeting, take a second to become aware of your breathing.
  3. When walking, notice your body moving and become aware of any sensations—the wind, the sun or rain, for example.
  4. Eat at least one meal without talking or reading or watching television. Just focus on the food.

Mediation is another means of increase mindfulness. Here’s how to do it at work:

Sitting Meditation

  1. Assume a comfortable posture either on the floor or sitting in a chair. Establish a sense of presence in your body.
  2. Now, bring awareness to various bodily sensations — pulsing, vibration, points of contact between body and surface, temperature — holding the whole body in your field of awareness.
  3. Next, directing attention in a more focused way, notice the sensations present when you breathe in and when you breathe out.
  4. Finally, rest awareness in the area of your body where the sensation of breathing is easiest to attend to. This may be the rise and fall of your abdomen, the movement of your chest or the sensation of air entering and leaving your nostrils.
  5. Each time the mind wanders, gently and without judgment escort awareness back to your breath.

Healthy UNH can provide other ideas to help you achieve and maintain a healthy lifestyle.

Visit http://www.unh.edu/healthyunh/ for details.

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