Wednesday, February 15, 2012

What can mindfulness do for you?

Obviously, we've talked  a lot about mindfulness here -- paying attention to the action of what you are putting into your mouth, making choices about whether you actually want to eat whatever's on it's way in, becoming more fluent in recognizing the difference between reacting to a stimulus in your environment and acting on a bodily signal of physical hunger.

I've mentioned how for most of my clients, mindful eating bleeds over into other aspects of their lives -- buying that new shirt because it is truly beautiful and not just reflexively because it's on sale, starting to pay closer attention to how exercise makes you feel as a way to increase your positive associations with that habit, etc.
I just came across this brief write up on how mindfulness, as taught through the practice of yoga, can reduce the pain associated with fibromyalgia.  For those of you who don't know, fibromyalgia is a health condition that isn't well understood but shows itself as pain, muscle soreness, stiffness, fatigue and depression.  According to researchers, those in the study who participated in yoga 75 minutes two times per week for 8 weeks experienced a significant reduction in their stress hormone cortisol.
Neat!  But why's that important here??  Because increased cortisol levels cause the body to gain weight!

And, according to the researchers:
“We saw their levels of mindfulness increase – they were better able to detach from their psychological experience of pain,” Curtis says. Mindfulness is a form of active mental awareness rooted in Buddhist traditions; it is achieved by paying total attention to the present moment with a non-judgmental awareness of inner and outer experiences.

“Yoga promotes this concept – that we are not our bodies, our experiences, or our pain. This is extremely useful in the management of pain,” she says. “Moreover, our findings strongly suggest that psychological changes in turn affect our experience of physical pain.”

This study underscores the body/mind connection.  For centuries, Western medicine has treated one or the other but failed to fully appreciate the integrated nature of both.

The same experiences written about by the researchers are experienced by those trying to lose weight -- the pain may be less physical and more emotional but it shows itself in many of the same ways: fatigue, depression, tension.....

Just another reminder that the mindfulness you are practicing when you eat is an important skill for the more than just weight management.  It's a tool to live better -- and isn't that a worthwhile investment of your time?

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