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If you cannot see the graphic border on this message, click here.Living in the Present: The Benefits of Mindfulness
Take one day at a time.
Smell the roses.
Seize the day.
These common platitudes urge us to live in and enjoy the moment. Yet doing so can be difficult when you are living with a brain tumor diagnosis. Fortunately, a meditative practice called "mindfulness" can help you to better savor each day's gifts despite your health condition and concerns.
Mindfulness can help relieve stress and is a growing movement in the mental health/wellness field. It is also a form of complementary medicine currently being integrated into healthcare settings throughout the country.
Mindfulness is a simple technique that allows you to increase your awareness of the present moment by moving away from the past or future. Instead, you are focused on thoughts, feelings and sensations as they unfold in the present moment.
Mindfulness and Living with a Brain Tumor
Mindfulness can be an invaluable strategy for living and coping with a brain tumor. First, as a formal meditative practice for relaxation (inward focus) or as a coping strategy to help manage the quality of life stressors common to living with a brain tumor (outward focus). The goal of inward mindfulness techniques is to learn how to pay attention to your mind and body with compassionate curiosity and without getting too caught up with every emotion, thought or sensation.
On the other hand, exploring outwardly focused mindful activities can also help relieve stress and improve quality of life. For example, when you feel worried or stressed, try paying attention to any sensory source such as observing nature or a sunset. By focusing on something occurring in the present moment, you will be reminded to slow down and refocus yourself. In turn, this process can naturally provide stress relief.
Inward Focus Mindfulness
Formal mindful meditation generally involves a variation of the following steps:
- Setting aside time to meditate or focus (the beginning of a treatment session, for example);
- Relaxing and paying attention to body sensations, sounds, thoughts or feelings (paying attention to the breath is a common strategy);
- Noticing sensations without judgment and returning attention to breathing as a focal point (the goal is to quiet the mind so that one can observe with objectivity how emotions and sensations manifest in body and mind).
Outward Focus Mindfulness
It is critical to discover mindful moments in the course of each day, when you can take a break. It can be emotionally expanding to find mindful rituals or time slots where you can re-focus on other parts of the day that bring stress relief.
The following are a sample of the mindful moments which can provide stress relief.
1. Read through the following mindful moments. If the statement evokes an image, sensation, feeling or memory of a pleasurable event, check it off and make a note of it. Throughout the course of your day, you may be able to identify additional mindful moments that can provide a sense of rest, comfort or calm; looking out a window on a snowy day, completing an assignment on time, getting home safely.
2. Explore other natural mood lifters in the blank spaces below. Generate other mindful options with friends, or members of a support group.
- Making a baby smile
- Ice cold drink when I’m really thirsty
- Walking into a cool air-conditioned room from the scorching heat
- Hitting a Home run or making a game winning play in softball
- A bright sunny day with not a cloud in the sky
- Finding money in a pants pocket that I didn't realize was there
- Finding something I thought was lost
- Knowing that I have really helped someone
- Having one of my favorite foods when I'm starving
- Fast Internet connection
- Fixing something that's been broken or malfunctioning
- Going to sleep at night knowing I can sleep late the next morning
Mindfulness is not a “don’t worry, be happy” technique. At its core, mindfulness can be utilized as a coping technique, mindset, or way of life that can guide you to take a step back, assess your experiences in a balanced way and move toward compassionate self care. You owe it to yourself to discover your own pockets of rest, relief and comfort along the journey of coping and living with a brain tumor.
May you discover many the gifts of living in the present.
We would like to thank this month’s author, Dr. Reji Mathew. Dr. Mathew is a psychotherapist/clinical instructor at New York University. She is a disability advocate and freelance writer. The main focus of her work is to promote coping skills education for persons with chronic illness and disability. Her clinical expertise is in integrative psychotherapy, particularly cognitive behavioral skills training. Reach her via e-mail at her web-site rejimathewwriter.com
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