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.
In addition to cold weather, winter sometimes brings sadness and depression. Some people experience depression only during the winter. Others with year-
A mindfulness student recently experienced her body as beautiful during a body scan in class. You may already have a positive self-
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.
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.
Being disconnected from or being self-
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-
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.....
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-
I will never forget my patient who developed Type 1, insulin-
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The three primary domains of your overall fitness are physical activity, healthy eating and emotional well-
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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-
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A mindfulness student recently experienced her body as beautiful during a body scan in class.
You may already have a positive self-
The following script is a condensed version of the body scan. See below for a link to five-
If you have a medical condition, discuss your use of the body scan with your provider. If you feel restless or agitated during the body scan, you may want to open your eyes or even stop the practice session and resume it later. It is recommended to begin the practice with a trained teacher and a group of dedicated students.
Body Scan Instructions
It is recommended you allow quiet, protected time without distracting technology, except a recording to guide your practice. Close the door if you share your home with a dog, cat or family member. The room should be warm; you might need extra clothing or a blanket to prevent feeling cold, which can distract from the practice. The ideal posture for body scan is lying down flat on the floor or a firm mattress, though you may also use a seated position. While sleep is not the goal of the body scan, it can help those with sleep issues. Ideally, you will remain alert and awake during the body scan. For this reason, it may be best not to use a bed.
Begin with legs uncrossed and not touching each other. Arms are alongside the body without touching it. Feel each body part in turn rather than moving them, imagining them or thinking about them. Feel the entire back of the body touching the surface you are on, feeling gravity pulling you close to the earth. Close the eyes and feel the sensations of the breath coming in and out of the body. Then direct your attention to the left foot, feeling the toes, the top and bottom of the foot, the heel and the ankle. With curiosity and openness, welcome any
sensations that are present without worrying if there are few sensations; for some people, the feet are relatively insensitive.
Then direct your attention to the shin of the left leg, feeling the skin covering the shin bone, then feeling deeply into the calf muscles and the entire left knee. Feeling the tactile sensations in each body part, one after the other. Feeling into the thigh muscles and the hamstrings in the back – just feeling sensations that are present. Then feeling and sensing the left hip, inner groin and gluteal area. Repeat this process in the right foot, leg and hip.
Direct attention to the pelvic area, feeling sensations in the pubic area, the bones to the left and the right and the bones coming together in the back at the sacrum. Direct attention to the abdomen – feeling sensations of the belly rising and falling with each breath, allowing the belly to relax and soften.
Direct attention to the lower back, the lumbar area, and being especially kind and friendly as you sense and feel sensation in this area that does so much work and is so neglected. Feeling into the muscles, tissues, nerves, discs and spine and allowing those sensations to simply be as they are without judging. Then feeling sensations in the shoulder blades and sensing the ribs coming off the spine and wrapping around to come together in the front at the sternum. Feeling the ribs expanding and contracting with each breath.
Direct attention to the left arm and proceed in the same manner as you practiced in the legs, from fingers, palm, wrist, forearm, elbow, upper arm and shoulder. Do the same with the right arm.
Direct attention to the neck, feeling sensation in the front, the sides and the back of the neck, being especially kind and friendly in the way you pay attention to the back of the neck, another area of your body that is overworked and often neglected.
Direct attention to the face, feeling sensations in the chin, lips and inside the mouth. Sensing the tongue, teeth, gums, roof of the mouth, floor of the mouth and back of the throat. Direct attention to the ears, feeling both ears simultaneously. Feeling sensation in the nose as the air comes in and out of the nostrils. Feeling the air moving back and forth across the upper lip. Feeling the eyes resting in their sockets. Feeling the coolness of the air touching the face. Feeling the scalp and feeling the hair.
Feeling the entire body – quiet and peaceful. Feeling the breath – quiet and peaceful. Allow the mind to be quiet and peaceful for several minutes before opening the eyes and perhaps journaling about your experience. Writing about your physical, mental and emotional experience of body scan can help deepen your moment-
The regular practice of the body scan meditation can connect you to the wisdom of your body, deepen your gratitude for it and cultivate a kind and friendly relationship with it. You can practice for seconds or minutes, sitting at stop lights or standing in lines – anywhere and anytime you choose to pay attention. You may even experience your body as beautiful.
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