MINDFULNESS AND INNER BEAUTY

A mindfulness student recently experienced her body as beautiful during a body scan in class.  You may already have a positive self-image and feel good about your body. You may consider your body to be “the temple of the Holy Spirit.” Or you may have a negative body image, even hating your body. Whether you love your body or hate it, you can benefit from the body scan, a foundational practice from mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR).

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MINDFUL SELF-COMPASSION

Your compassionate human desire to take good care of others is critical to the well-being of your family, friends, co-workers and community – and taking good care of yourself is the foundation for your care of everyone else.  However, it is sadly true that we often take better care of others than we do of ourselves. It’s as if we need a new Golden Rule: Do unto yourself as you do unto others. We would never say or do to someone else some of the things we say and do to ourselves.

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MINDFULNESS FOR SENIORS

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-oriented ability to get things done. We depend heavily on the doing mode to take care of all our daily affairs at home and work,….

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MINDFULNESS, KINDFULNESS AND KIDS

Be kinder than necessary because everyone you meet is fighting some kind of battle.”  –  J.M. Barrie, author of Peter Pan


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-related physical symptoms. These symptoms can worsen chronic conditions affecting every organ system. While stress may not be the cause of chronic disease, it is a significant contributor to headaches, back and neck pain, sleep loss, digestive disorders, high blood pressure, palpitations, fatigue, infections, memory loss, poor concentration, pessimism, anxiety, depression and relationship problems.


A promising remedy for the epidemic of classroom stress is the growing acceptance of social- emotional learning (SEL). The Collaborative for Academic, Social and Emotional Learning (CASEL) helps children and adults learn to understand and manage emotions, set goals, show empathy for others, establish positive relationships, and make responsible decisions … “educating hearts, inspiring minds and helping students navigate the world more effectively.” CASEL focuses on five core competencies for achieving success in the classroom and subsequent success in life:

Self-Awareness:

Knowing one’s own strengths and limitations and nurturing optimism and realistic confidence; seeing your cup as half full rather than half empty.


Self-Management:

Managing stress, impulse control, motivation and practicing realistic goal-setting.


Social Awareness:

Understanding other peoples’ points of view, respecting and empathizing even with those we disagree with or can’t relate to due to barriers of culture and language.


Relationship Skills:

Communicating clearly, listening actively, cooperating and sharing, resisting inappropriate social pressure, negotiating conflict, being willing to ask for help and to help others.

Responsible Decision-Making:

Making constructive decisions regarding personal behavior, social interactions, choosing friends based on ethical standards, safety and legal and social norms.


Research shows integrating SEL into the classroom improves academic performance and decreases rates of dropout, substance abuse, misconduct, teen pregnancy, mental health conditions and criminal behavior.


The transformation of the emotional environments of our public and private school classrooms is beginning at the preschool level, based on the latest educational and neuroscience research. The Kindness Curriculum, created by the Center for Healthy Minds, teaches kindness and compassion alongside traditional preschool subjects. Students (and teachers) are taught how to pay attention to their lessons and to their emotions. The Kindness Curriculum emphasizes the development of the following skills:


Attention:

Students learn they can choose where to focus their attention. They train in focusing attention on both external experiences (a book, the colors on the wall, the sounds in the room) and internal experiences (physical sensations, thoughts and emotions). Over time, they learn to intentionally choose to maintain their attention where they want or need to.


Parents and teachers also learn to truly pay attention, modeling this skill for children while protecting themselves from harmful effects of stress.


Breath and Body:

Students learn to cultivate their personal inner resource of calmness and peacefulness as their natural birthright. Paying attention to the physical sensations of the breath and the body helps students (and their adults) be present here and now – an antidote to the tendency of the mind to wander to some other place and some other time. An example includes counting five full in-breaths and out-breaths in response to the bell beginning a class.


Caring:

Children learn to transfer their awareness of their own physical, mental and emotional experience to thinking about how others are feeling, thus cultivating empathy and kindness.


Depending on Others:

Children learn we all need each other and life is a two-way street. They begin seeing themselves as helpers and cultivate gratitude for the kind deeds of others.


Emotions:

Children learn emotions are normal. They learn to notice them without being controlled by them. This is often easier after a powerful emotion has subsided. The child reflects with an adult on how and where they felt the emotion in the body, normalizing the human experience of emotion and practicing kindness for themselves rather than judgment.


Forgiveness:

Children are reminded they are only human. They will make mistakes like other children and adults. Instead of judging themselves and others, they cultivate kindness, empathy and forgiveness.


Gratitude:

Children learn gratitude for what others do for them by role-playing as doctors, nurses, police, bus drivers, teachers, parents, siblings and classmates. This can transform their daily experience with everyone.


In research on the Kindness Curriculum, teachers report increased student empathy and kindness and an ability to self-calm after an emotional upset. Children scored higher academically and on measures of social and emotional learning.  


A simple mindfulness/kindfulness practice for children and their adults is the silent, internal repetition of the phrases “May I be safe, may I be happy, may I be healthy, may I be peaceful.”


May you and the children in your life be kinder than necessary.


Resources


DR. JOHN PATTERSON

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

more articles by dr john patterson