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BE: MINDFULNESS FOR MENTAL STRESS

Multitasking has become a way of life. We all talk on our cell phone, read the news, eat breakfast, and return emails—all at the same time. Unfortunately, in our rush to get everything done, we can lose our connection with the present moment, our feelings, and ourselves

One way to reconnect is to learn mindfulness. It won’t magically decrease the demands on your time, but it can help you cope with them in a calmer, less stressful way that is good for your overall health and well-being.

What is mindfulness?

Mindfulness is the practice of purposely focusing your attention on the present without drifting into concerns about the past or future or getting caught up in making judgments about what’s happening.

Although it has its roots in Buddhism and a place in many religions, science is now giving it a good look. Evidence tells us that mindfulness can increase life satisfaction and improve mental and physical health. In countless studies, mindfulness techniques have been shown to relieve stress and improve conditions such as high blood pressure, chronic pain, sleep problems, and gastrointestinal difficulties.

Mindfulness techniques are being used to help people with heart failure and chronic pain, as well as those with psychological health poblems ranging from depression and anxiety to substance abuse and relationship problems.

Becoming more mindful

If you’d like to be more mindful, there are plenty of resources to help. The Naval Medical Center San Diego Mind Body Medicine Department has several resources that can help you learn mindfulness. They also suggest that you slow down as you go about everyday activities, do one thing at a time, and bring your full awareness to both the activity and your experience of it. Here are some tips for being more mindful:

  • Set cues. Cues can remind you to focus on what you’re doing. For example, make something that happens several times during the day, such as buckling your seat belt or pouring your coffee, a reminder to return to the present. Pay attention to your breathing or your environment when you stop at red lights.
  • Breathe mindfully. Before you go to sleep and when you awaken, take some “mindful” breaths. Instead of allowing your mind to wander over the day’s concerns, focus on your breathing. Feel its effects on your nostrils, lungs, and abdomen. Try to think of nothing else.
  • Practice being present. If the present moment involves stress (public speaking, a surgery, or a date) mindfully observe your thoughts and emotions and how they affect your body. Or, find a task you usually do without much thought (standing in line or brushing your teeth) and do it mindfully.

Mindfulness isn’t complicated. But, it can be hard to do in a busy and stressful world. Start by making small changes and build up to the bigger ones. Instead of taking things one day at a time, aim for one moment at a time!​