A mindfulness student recently experienced her body as beautiful during a body scan in class. You may already have a positive self-
Your compassionate human desire to take good care of others is critical to the well-
You and I have two primary modes of mental activity: the doing mode and the being mode. Although we are called human beings, we spend the majority of our time in the doing mode rather than the being mode. Your “doing” mode is highly prized in our culture for schooling, work and career. It demonstrates your mastery and command of detail, data, thinking, intellect and your goal-
Most people say the gift of sight is their most valuable sense perception – and almost everyone experiences decline in visual function with aging. B One of the most common symptoms of aging is the decline in accommodation, the process by which the eye changes (accommodates) focus to maintain a clear image of objects at different distances. This decline often begins before age 50 years. Accommodation acts like an automatic reflex, but it can also be consciously controlled.
The holiday season is filled with emotion for most people. While this emotion is often happy, positive and loving, for many people it can be very unhappy and even depressing. Holiday music can trigger emotional associations with the absence of a loved one or unhappy memories from the past. The gap between the smiling faces of holiday ads and one’s unhappy emotional experience can actually lead to a deepening of the emotional darkness that often accompanies this season of lights.
As you approach the new year, you may be making resolutions for positive health behavior changes. Birthdays and other anniversaries also prompt us to take stock and vow to adopt healthy lifestyle habits. Two of the most common promises we make to ourselves are to increase our physical activity level and our stress management skills. Research is now showing that combining mindfulness meditation and physical activity can dramatically improve physical and emotional health.
Anger can be a healthy emotional response or a serious health risk. Managing anger appropriately does not require that we deny it, repress it or get completely rid of it. Brief, mild-
The Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH) is the world’s premier nutrition education resource. Harvard Medical School and the Department of Nutrition at HSPH developed the Healthy Eating Plate to provide the general public with up-
Both my parents experienced the sudden change in life’s priorities associated with the diagnosis of inoperable cancer. Suddenly, things that have occupied our mind, time and energy are reappraised in light of a stark reminder of life’s uncertainty and our mortality. Hope is kept alive by modern medicine’s remarkable results with conventional treatments and the fact that some individuals do much better than expected, even with serious and advanced cancer.
Yoga can be fun and healthy for you and your kids – physically, mentally and emotionally.What is yoga? The word “yoga” means to yoke, unite, connect or join together. Yoga helps connect the body, mind, heart and emotions. It can also help connect you to other people, animals, trees and all of nature. We tend to think of physical movements and body postures when we think of yoga. Yoga looks like exercise, but its intent is very different. Physical hatha yoga is traditionally performed as a means of .....
Where is your attention when you eat? Do you love the pleasure of eating so much that you overeat from sheer enjoyment rather than from physiologic hunger cues? Do you overeat as a self-
Being disconnected from or being self-
For many people, there is a relationship between stress and oral health. The presence of oral disease and dental disorders can cause stress from low self-
The three primary domains of your overall fitness are physical activity, healthy eating and emotional well-
Surely one of the best things about modern science is the discovery that chocolate can actually be good medicine! Chocolate As Preventive Medicine? Cocoa contains phytonutrients (plant chemicals) called flavanols that may help protect you against coronary heart disease (heart attacks). Compared to milk chocolate, dark chocolate contains two to three times the amount of these beneficial plant chemicals. A possible mechanism by which flavanols protect the heart may be enhancing.....
A cancer survivor is anyone who has been diagnosed with cancer, from the time of diagnosis through the rest of his or her life. Modern medical, radiation and surgical treatments have led to a growing population of cancer survivors, who now number over 12 million, or one in 25 Americans. Lifestyle choices such as health-
Is it necessary, or even safe, to take an antibiotic for your next illness? This question is becoming a routine part of conversations between consumers and health providers. The way we answer this question has serious implications. Consumers and health care providers are both being urged to help achieve the goals of good medicine and public health: making a correct diagnosis, using antibiotics only if the diagnosis war-
I will never forget my patient who developed Type 1, insulin-
What to Eat? The world’s leading nutrition researchers are sending a very clear public health message based on the best scientific evidence available: To promote health, prevent disease and extend life, half your food servings should come from fruits and vegetables. For more than 70 years, the Department of Nutrition of the Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH) has conducted rigorous scientific research on the relationship between food and health.
In addition to cold weather, winter sometimes brings sadness and depression. Some people experience depression only during the winter. Others with year-
The fast pace of modern life is taking its toll on our mental and physical health. Multiple surveys in the past year have documented an alarming increase in perceived stress, anxiety, depression and suicide. Our health – our very lives – depend on our ability to manage stress in healthy ways at home, at work, in traffic, in relationships – and simply inside our own skin. We need simple tools to bring some calm to the chaos – some peace to the frenzy – some kindness to the aggression and competition.
A recent American Psychiatric Association poll found anxiety in Americans has increased sharply over the past year, up five points since 2017. Also in the past year, a Blue Cross Blue Shield report found major depression has risen by 33 percent since 2013. This rate is rising even faster among millennials (up 47 percent) and adolescents (up 47 percent for boys and 65 percent for girls).
Are you a victim of the epidemic of stress we are experiencing as a nation? We have a serious public health epidemic. Public health officials are increasingly alarmed by the growing epidemic of stress, anxiety, depression, loneliness and suicide in America. The American Psychological Association recently found more than half of Americans said they consider this the lowest point in U.S. history they can remember.(1) An American Psychiatric Association poll found anxiety levels in…
Human beings are social creatures by our very nature. We depend on each other. We need each other. Even though we may feel self-
Hearing and listening are often confused. Hearing is one of the five major sense perceptions, along with seeing, tasting, smelling and touching. We use the sense of hearing when we are in conversation with another person and we may refer to that elemental sense of hearing as listening. But listening also has a much deeper meaning. In the corporate world and the medical and psychological sciences, the quality of active listening or deep listening is recognized as a critical element in interpersonal….
As our annual holiday of giving comes to an end, we often begin a new year full of hopes, intentions and resolutions to take better care of ourselves. Many of us also vow to take better care of others. We want to be more kind. But it’s hard to be more kind to others when we feel our own cup of kindness is running low or is completely empty. It is difficult or impossible to relieve the suffering of others without first wisely managing our own suffering. Self-
You may have recently made 2019 resolutions for positive health behavior changes. Each new birthday and each new year often prompts us to take stock and vow to adopt healthy lifestyle habits of mind and body. Two of the most common promises I hear are to increase exercise/physical activity and learn to manage stress in a healthy way.
Recent surveys describe an alarming level of stress in the United States. Anxiety, depression, loneliness and suicide are increasing – not just in adults, but also in children and youth. Public health officials and educators are looking for ways to limit the harm caused by the fast pace of modern life and the endless stream of disturbing news. Mindfulness practice has emerged as an important tool that can benefit children, teachers and parents.
Just relax! It sounds so simple, but it isn’t necessarily easy. There are many unskillful, unhealthy ways to relax. But you can achieve significant cardiovascular and other health benefits from the regular practice of skillful relaxation for stress management. One of the best ways to skillfully relax is by practicing the Relaxation Response. Harvard cardiologist Herbert Benson coined the phrase “relaxation response” after studying meditation’s affects on cardiovascular disease….
The National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH) is your best resource for evidence supporting the combination of mainstream medicine with safe, effective complementary approaches for health promotion, disease prevention and the treatment of acute and chronic conditions.
Children and teens are experiencing increasing levels of stress. Parents and teachers are struggling to understand the sources of this stress and find ways to help manage it. Those same parents and teachers have their own increasing levels of worry, fear, anxiety, depression and chronic stress-
By our very nature, human beings are craving creatures. Cravings can occur in response to natural physiologic needs such as hunger, thirst and social contact. Cravings can also become unhealthy habits in response to emotional cues such as anxiety, depression, anger, grief or loneliness. Mindfulness can help us take control of our wants, needs, urges and cravings so we can stop being controlled by them.
Cancer survivor” refers to anyone who has been diagnosed with cancer from the time of diagnosis through the rest of their life. Early cancer detection and improved treatments, including surgery, radiotherapy, chemotherapy, hormone therapy, biological therapies, bone marrow and stem cell transplants, have led to a growing population of cancer survivors, which now exceeds 12 million, or 1 in 25 Americans.
Mindfulness can help us promote resilience, the ability to bounce back from life’s stressors as they push and pull us off our center. Mindfulness can help up manage stress and even find its energy potentially motivating. Mindfulness can help us prevent the burnout and exhaustion so prevalent across society. Mindfulness can be practiced by anyone. It can help us avoid self-
Walking and mindfulness both have significant physical, mental and emotional health benefits. You can combine them by practicing mindful walking. Empirical evidence over centuries from many cultures and traditions supports the use of mindful, meditative walking as part of a conscious, contemplative lifestyle.
Our lives are filled with busyness, moving at high speed to achieve goals, solve problems and get somewhere else. We see obstacles, conflict and painful experiences as unwanted and undesirable impediments to happiness and getting things done. We are rewarded for our ability to do more and more, faster and faster. We are trained from childhood to use the doing mode of our brains to recall facts for passing exams and train for our adult work.
Surveys show increasing levels of anxiety, depression, loneliness, substance abuse and suicide. Optimism can help you fill your cup, promote resilience, prevent burnout and perhaps save your life – and you can cultivate it.
Even before the current pandemic, surveys over the past couple of years showed increasing levels of anxiety, depression, chronic pain, sleep disturbance, substance abuse, addiction, loneliness and suicide. Sadly, these trends have affected Americans of all ages, including teens and youth. New polls taken during this coronavirus pandemic show even more people are anxious about the possibility of themselves or their loved ones becoming seriously ill or dying.
The current pandemic is a global stress we are all experiencing together. By managing our own stress, we contribute to the relief of stress throughout society. Research shows mindfulness can help you cope with stress and improve your health, allowing you to better serve others in need. Mindful breathing is a simple stress-
Modern research shows journal writing is an effective, simple, inexpensive and convenient form of self-
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Surely one of the best things about modern science is the discovery that chocolate can actually be good medicine!
Chocolate As Preventive Medicine?
Cocoa contains phytonutrients (plant chemicals) called flavanols that may help protect you against coronary heart disease (heart attacks). Compared to milk chocolate, dark chocolate contains two to three times the amount of these beneficial plant chemicals. A possible mechanism by which flavanols protect the heart may be enhancing the production of nitric oxide (NO) in the interior lining of your arteries, helping relax them and lowering your blood pressure. Flavanols may also reduce inflammation, which may play a role in the development of heart attacks and strokes.
The high calorie content from the sugar and fat in dark chocolate can lead to weight gain, which can adversely impact the heart. The saturated fat content can elevate blood fat levels, increasing cardiovascular risk. Be judicious and use moderation in your consumption of dark chocolate to achieve the great-
Mindfulness is the world’s leading behavioral, mind-
7 Types of Hunger
Based on her work as a pediatrician and mindfulness meditation teacher, Jan Bays, M.D., helps patients and families re-
1. Eye hunger. To avoid overeating and to satisfy eye hunger, intentionally appreciate the visual appearance of your food as you begin to eat.
2. Nose hunger. Much of your sense of taste comes from your sense of smell. Honor this aspect of your eating experience by focusing on the smell of the food you are about to eat.
3. Mouth hunger. How would your food taste with fewer sweet, salty or spicy condiments? Experiment by adding more or less of different spices and seasonings and examine old eating habits and preferences.
4. Stomach hunger. Abdominal rumbling and growling may suggest hunger when the body doesn’t truly need to eat. Listen to overall hunger cues before trusting stomach hunger.
5. Cellular hunger. Becoming more attuned to your body through mindfulness practices can put you back in touch with your physiological “true” hunger.
6. Mind hunger. Practice attending to mind hunger by noticing the social habits of eating with others. But also eat some meals alone while really tuning in to the full experience – physical, mental and emotional.
7. Heart hunger. Rather than feeding emotional needs by compulsive overconsumption of comfort foods such as chocolate, consider psychologically healthier options, such as taking a hot bath with candlelight, journaling, talking with a good friend or walking in nature.
Here are some simple instructions for eating chocolate mindfully.
• Select a piece of chocolate in a wrapper (you may also begin with an unwrapped chocolate). Without unwrapping it immediately, bring your complete attention to the various types of hunger listed above.
• Reading the label, notice if this is a familiar brand or one that is new to you. Note its country of origin, if it’s corporate or grower cooperative, organic or not.
• Feel the tactile sensation of the wrapping before unwrapping and then as you s-
• Once it’s unwrapped, see the shape, design and various colors of the chocolate. Bringing it to your nose, inhale its aroma deeply. Perhaps feel the sensations of this experience coursing through your entire body.
• Holding the chocolate in your hand, sense its weight and temperature. Looking deeply into the biography of the chocolate, imagine the grocer, the trucker, the farming families, the sunshine, the rain and the topsoil that are all required to get this chocolate to you now.
• Picking up the chocolate between thumb and index finger and placing it on the tongue, pay attention to your body’s remarkable musculoskeletal and proprioceptive ability and wisdom.
• Allowing the chocolate to s-
• If your mind wanders to other thoughts or images, just notice where it went and bring it back to your mindful chocolate meditation in this present moment.
• Once your chocolate is completely melted, swallow and feel the swallowing as far as you can into the body, appreciating the fact that the energy of the sunshine, rain, topsoil and farm labor are all being biochemically converted into your physical body.
Practical, ancient meditation practices and modern scientific research on chocolate can be combined to help you delightfully and tastefully achieve a healthy mind and healthy body through mindful eating and chocolate meditation.
Sources and Resources
• A detailed description of mindful eating instructions can be found on my Web site at www.mindbodystudio.org/
• Mindful Eating: A Guide to Rediscovering a Healthy and Joyful Relationship with Food by Jan Chozen Bays, M.D.
• Chocolate Meditation (5 minute audio) http://franticworld.com/free-
Dr. John Patterson is past president of the Kentucky Academy of Family Physicians and is board certified in family medicine and integrative holistic medicine. He is on the family practice faculty at the University of Kentucky College of Medicine and the University of Louisville School of Medicine, Saybrook University’s School of Mind Body Medicine (San Francisco) and the Center for Mind Body Medicine (Washington, D.C.). He operates the Mind Body Studio in Lexington, where he offers integrative medicine consultations