Sharon Ufberg, DC talks about practicing mindfulness as a means of coping with the everyday stresses of life.

by Sharon Ufberg, DC

So the latest news these days is all about how eating a Mediterranean-style diet — yes the one full of fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts, olive oil and fish, is the best way to reduce one’s risk for depression and elevate mental health. Wonderful- another good reason to espouse the attributes of eating healthy.

However, has diet ever been enough to combat depression or control high levels of stress? We talk to patients daily in our practices about the need to reduce the triggers that cause stress. We all have a long list of ideas for blowing off steam, including dietary advice, changing work and lifestyle habits to keep a better balance and suggesting ways to gain proper perspective on what is really important in life.

But for me, nothing has really come close to being as effective as practicing mindfulness. Learning to focus the mind can help your patients manage the stresses of everyday living. Mindfulness can increase life enjoyment, improve the ability to cope with illness, and improve physical and emotional health.

Mindfulness consists of paying attention to an experience from moment to moment — without drifting into memories of the past or concerns about the future, or getting caught up in thoughts or opinions about what’s going on. One way to practice mindfulness is by choosing a task that is often done impatiently or unconsciously such as making breakfast, brushing one’s teeth or waiting for the bus, and concentrating fully on just that experience.  One can also try to use an activity that is done daily such as buckling a seatbelt, or locking a door as a reminder to return to the present — that is, encourage your patient to think about what they are doing and observe how they are doing it.  Another more ideal way to practice mindfulness is through meditation, which involves sitting or lying down quietly for 20 or 30 minutes, once or twice a day. This defined time is also an opportunity in which one can introduce specific breathing techniques to relax the mind and the body.

I have found that once a person incorporates some mindfulness practice into their schedule, they are very receptive to recommendations of specific guided imagery or visualization methods into their wellness protocol. Both of these techniques may add to their repertoire for stress relief and healing. I often encourage patients to read about mindfulness meditation and find a technique or teacher that they can relate to and emulate. There are numerous resources available online. I recommend one specific guided imagery resource that I have found to be easy for patients to understand and follow. Martin Rossman, MD’s, Guided Imagery for Self Healing has consistently been a positive support for my own personal work and for my patients.

Follow your own good advice and practice mindfulness for your personal mental health and well being. Keep offering options to your patients about ways they can stay healthy and happy. They appreciate it and most certainly need to keep hearing it from you.

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