meditation

The Body Scan

 
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This body scan exercise is designed to help you feel and bring awareness to all of the sensations that occur throughout your body. We are typically not even aware of what our body is telling us. Do we have an area that has too much pressure on it? Do we have an area that's painful? By practicing this mindfulness exercise, you can improve your body awareness and also better understand and cope with pain and difficult emotions in the body. Additionally, most people report feeling more relaxed and recharged after this practice.

STEP 1: Please sit down. Once you're sitting in your chair in a comfortable position with your eyes open or gently closed, take a moment to check in with yourself, observing how you're feeling in your body and your mind.

STEP 2: Begin to focus on your breath - wherever the sensations are strongest for you.

STEP 3: As you scan your body for sensations, try to bring an attitude of curiosity to the practice, as if you're investigating your body for the first time. Notice and feel any and all sensations that are present, such as tingling, tightness, heat, cold, pressure, dullness, or something else. If you do not feel any sensations in a particular region, simply note that and move on.

STEP 4: See if you are aware of any thoughts or emotions that arise as you move through the regions of your body. Note these thoughts and emotions and then return to focusing on the physical sensations that you're experiencing.

STEP 5: Whenever you come across an area that is tense, see if you can allow it to soften. If the area does not soften, simply notice how it feels and allow it to be as it is. Feel as deeply and precisely as you can into each region of the body, noting if the sensations change in any way.

SUGGESTED SEQUENCE OF BODY PARTS:

1. Begin with your left foot and toes and move your awareness up the left leg until you reach the left hip.

2.  Then go to the right foot and toes and up the right leg until you reach the right hip.

3. Next, move your awareness to the pelvic region and stomach, lower back to the upper back, then your chest, heart, and lungs.

4. Then your hands both at the same time moving up the arms until you get to your shoulders.

5. Then the following in this order:

·       Neck

·       Throat

·       Jaw

·       Mouth

·       Teeth

·       Tongue

·       Lips

·       Nose

·       Eyes

·       Forehead

·       Ears

·       Skull

·       Scalp

6.     Finally, become aware of the whole body and rest for a few minutes.

The body scan is a variation of Burmese Vipassana Meditation that involves scanning the body for physical sensations. This meditation is also done in various yoga practices. The body scan is used in mindfulness-based stress reduction.


TAKEAWAYS

·       The Body Scan helps you connect with different sensations in your body that you may not have been aware of.

·       It helps you mindfully experience thoughts, emotions, and physical sensations around different areas of the body.

·       It leaves you feeling relaxed and recharged.

Human Potential and Health

 
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Over the past 30 years, the medical community's definition of what “Health” is has grown from one of physical health to a much more expansive and holistic concept. As such, the approach to healthcare has expanded as well, from a characterization focused exclusively on diagnosing and treating medical conditions, to one with a much broader scope. This scope includes preventative care and wellness, whereby, wellness can include multiple dimensions including: physical, mental, spiritual, emotional, social, and financial.

At InHouse Physicians, we recognize this definition of wellness, however, we believe wellness can be more accurately summed up in one sentence – the conscious, self-directed and evolving process of achieving one’s full potential in life. Reaching your full potential can be measured, not only by achieving peak performance, but also through obtaining personal fulfillment.

To achieve this new definition of “wellness,” it is important to understand the neuroscience of human performance, because, reaching your full potential starts in the brain.

Over the past decade, the neuroscience of optimal human performance has been widely researched with state of the art tools leading to multiple discoveries. Scientists have found that all humans are innately designed to do their best. However, optimal performance is dependent on your state of mind. The state of mind most closely correlated with optimal performance is called the “Flow State” or “Flow” for short.

Flow can be thought of as "being in the zone."

It is when your brain is supercharged, your productivity is off the charts with seemingly little effort, and you are experiencing a heightened sense of well being. The good news is that this state of being has a specific neurobiological footprint in the brain that can be measured and even more importantly, this footprint can be reproduced on demand with certain specific interventions.

When in Flow, you not only have a heightened sense of well being and improved productivity, but you also have a greater capacity for learning, stronger ability for interconnectivity and collaboration with others, and a significant boost in creativity - all the things that are not only important for personal fulfillment, but also important to corporations.

Corporations continue to invest in the “well-being” and development of their employees. Neuroscience interventions designed to achieve optimal performance have become the key to satisfying an ever-evolving workforce. This new workforce expects their employers to provide a culture focused on a growth mindset, a holistic set of wellness offerings, and tools to achieve greater performance in the workplace. And those organizations that deliver will benefit from higher employee engagement, stronger employee retention, and an improved bottom line.

A Mindfulness Eating Exercise: Simple Instructions

 
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Have you ever eaten a whole bag of popcorn while watching a movie, taking one large handful at a time - without much awareness - only to find the bag empty well before the end of the movie? Well, that is the opposite of mindfulness!

You may have heard of mindful eating. Here are some instructions for a brief mindfulness eating exercise.

The following exercise is simple and will only take a few minutes.

Find a small piece of food, such as one kernel of popcorn, a raisin, a nut, or a small cookie. You can use any food that you like. Eating with mindfulness is not about deprivation or rules. It is about appreciating and enjoying your food.

Begin by exploring this little piece of food, using as many of your senses as possible.

First, look at the food. Notice its texture. Notice its color.

Now, close your eyes, and explore the food with your sense of touch. What does this food feel like? 

Notice that you’re full attention is on the here and now as you experience this piece of food like never before. This is what it means to eat mindfully.

Before you eat, explore this food with your sense of smell. What do you notice?

Now, begin eating. No matter how small the bite of food you have is, take at least two bites to finish it.

Take your first bite. Please chew very slowly, noticing the actual sensory experience of chewing and tasting. You might want to close your eyes for a moment to focus on the sensations of chewing and tasting.

Notice the texture of the food; the way it feels in your mouth.

Notice if the intensity of its flavor changes, moment to moment.

Take a little bit more time to very slowly finish this first bite of food, being aware of the simple sensations of chewing and tasting.

It isn’t always necessary to eat slowly in order to eat with mindfulness, however it’s helpful at first to slow down, in order to be as mindful as you can.

Now, please take your second and final bite.

As before, chew very slowly, while paying close attention to the actual sensory experience of eating: the sensations and movements of chewing, the flavor of the food as it changes, and the sensations of swallowing.

Just pay attention, moment by moment. You may find that you not only enjoy eating that little piece of food more than ever before, but you also may feel calmer and more focused. 

Using a mindfulness eating exercise on a regular basis is only one part of a mindfulness approach to your diet. The new way of experiencing food through mindfulness takes a deeper effect when you begin to pay mindful attention to your thoughts, emotions, and bodily sensations, all of which lead us to eat. Mindfulness is the foundation that many have been missing for overcoming food cravings, addictive eating, binge eating, emotional eating, and stress eating.

 

Feeling Tense? A 3-Step Plan to Reduce Your Everyday Triggers

 
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What does pressure feel like? Is it tension in your body? A headache that won’t go away no matter what you do? Is it a queasy feeling in your stomach or a looming fear of what may happen if you don’t perform up to standard? 

However you define pressure, if it’s become a constant in your life, chances are it’s wreaking havoc. 

What can you do?

Plenty!

While escaping all of life’s responsibilities may not be realistic, there are things you can do to make these responsibilities FEEL less burdensome and evoke less of a stress-response.

First thing’s first: Below are a few simple tips you can use immediately to reduce your level of physical and mental tension:

• Go for a walk outdoors and feel yourself invigorated by the fresh air and sunlight- choose a natural setting, somewhere picturesque, away from loud city traffic, if possible.

• Take 10 deep, cleansing breaths; imagine breathing in fresh energy on the inhalation and picture tension leaving your body with every exhalation.

• Give yourself a head massage with your fingertips for immediate relief from cranial tension. Use the pads of your fingers and work the entire surface area of the head. Use the index and middle fingers side-by-side to make slow circular strokes at the temples for extra relaxation. 

• Take a time-out to engage in a short open-awareness meditation. This meditation style calls for you to simply relax, close your eyes, and allow yourself to breath easily while maintaining a gentle awareness of the thoughts that enter your mind without holding onto them. As thoughts arise, you are to notice them, without judgement or attachment, and then let them pass out of your awareness. In this way, you are neither trying hard to prevent thoughts nor to hold thoughts. You are just noticing them coming and going. 

Next, create a 3-Step Plan for avoiding tension buildup:

  1. Identify tension triggers, which can be defined as

    a certain task, person, time of day, thought, etc. that makes you tense

  2. Find a way to avoid/delegate/ or reduce the impact of the trigger

•AVOID: literally, AVOID this trigger

Example: “Taking Maple Avenue to work always stresses me out.”

Solution: AVOID taking Maple Avenue to work. 

•DELEGATE: identify someone who can take over this trigger for you

Example: “Always being the one to deliver the bad news to the boss on Fridays makes my stomach churn.”

Solution: Delegate others in the office to take turns giving the end-of-week report. 

•REDUCE THE IMPACT: reposition when this trigger occurs during the day, reposition other positive support measure around the trigger

Example: “My whole body feels tense after a long, focused day in front of my computer.” 

Solution: Build in mini breaks (you can set the timer on your phone) to get up from your desk to walk around, get a cup of water stretch and let your eyes take a break from the screen. On these days, commit to taking lunch away from your desk, or, at least away from your computer monitor. 

3. Rename and reframe the feeling

Tension is real, and it is the by-product of stress. Stress is also real but it is dependent upon our reaction to the world around us. 

We have a conscious choice in how we respond to our world. 

We can choose stress or we can choose to challenge stress

I am not suggesting that this change will occur overnight, it must be practiced repeatedly, just as with any new habit we wish to develop. 

The next time you notice yourself having a knee-jerk response to a situation that involves a negative, stress-based reaction, CHALLENGE it!

Ask yourself: 

Can I be intrigued by this instead? 

Can I be amused by this? 

Can I see this as a game or as part of a game or as a twist in a game? 

I encourage you to get creative! Don’t keep allowing yourself to run into the “stress ditch.” You’ve been there, you know what it feels like. It’s time to travel to other places. Remember, you have the power to chart the course from here on out!

 

If You Are Not Doing This Every Morning, You Should Start Today

 
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When you get out of bed in the morning and hit the ground running with barely a moment to spare, let alone a thought to yourself, you are NOT in charge of your day. You are operating on automatic, going through the motions to get you from point “A” to point “B.”

If you long to be a self-determined individual with goals and aspirations, in good physical and mental health, you need to stop operating on automatic and take the reins of your life. This begins by taking control of your day. Experts call this sense of control “agency,” and it ranks as a high predictor of good mental health. 

Setting the tone from the start of your day predicts how you move through the rest of it in terms of your attitude, focus, perspective and motivation. When you choose to be active and direct upon waking allows your time to engage in a routine that energizes, invigorates and inspires you. You send the message to your brain that 

your world is full of possibilities

 and YOU are a clear, strong, calm, and capable person able to seize them!

The best way to go about seizing these possibilities is to find one or two things that resonate with you and practice these consistently, just as you make time in the beginning of the day to shower, dress, and check your email.

Here are some ideas for daily self-care practices to fill your cup:

  1. Keep a journal or log to jot down passing thoughts, feelings, dreams, or ideas; it helps to unload if you tend to have a lot on your mind.

  2. Go for a walk in your neighborhood or at a close by park or garden so you are able to take in some fresh air and sunshine, especially if you are likely to spend the better part of your day indoors.

  3. Do some light stretching or yoga to feel back in your body, to warm up your muscles, and to relieve achiness and stiffness after a night’s sleep.

  4. Engage in a meditation or breath awareness practice. These can be one in the same as meditation, in its most basic form, is relaxation of the body and the mind with a gentle abiding awareness of the breath. There are several apps to assist you with meditation and guided breathing practices such as Headspace, Brightmind, Calm, and Meditation Time.

  5. Sit outdoors on a patio, deck or bench, enjoy the sun and fresh air and do absolutely nothing but watch the world go by and breath deeply, knowing you have things to tend to later, but for now you have absolutely nothing you need to do but be.

  6. Read from a book for pure pleasure or inspiration; sometimes just grabbing a line that inspires at the start of the day can serve as a focal point for the day and bring us back to center when things start to go haywire.

  7. Go to the kitchen and cook something slowly for yourself like warm cereal with added spices, nuts and chopped fruit, enjoying the ritual of doing something healthy for your body at a pace that supports your peace of mind.


Consider these practices a way of consolidating yourself. These simple routines help you pull your efforts inwards first towards self-care before continuing your day and putting your energy, effort, thoughts and ideas out into the world.