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Saturday, March 31, 2007

stress relief through mindful awareness

while going through my pile of snail mail last night, i came across an article in the spring 2007 edition of UCLA healthcare's VitalSigns newsletter. while the majority of the articles talked about how UCLA physicians treat diseases such as cancer, diabetes, childhood obesity, and urinary incontinence, this particular article dealt with an issue that affects many of us: stress.

titled "mindfulness" can help calm stress, it starts out with this introduction:

Today's pressure-cooker society takes a toll on everyone, but practicing "mindfulness" can help people cope with the stresses of daily life. At UCLA, the Mindful Awareness Research Center (MARC) helps individuals learn how to better deal with stress, improve their attention span and gain an overall sense of well-being.

i checked out the MARC website, where they talk more about "mindful awareness":

Mindful Awareness is the moment-by-moment process of actively and openly observing one’s physical, mental and emotional experiences.

Mindful Awareness has scientific support as a means to reduce stress, improve attention, boost the immune system, reduce emotional reactivity, and promote a general sense of health and well-being.

MARC offers Mindful Awareness Practices (MAPs): tools and exercises (such as meditation, yoga, t'ai chi) that develop greater mind-body awareness and cultivate mindfulness in our daily lives.

if you've ever taken a yoga class that has started and/or ended with meditation, you probably know that mindfulness is all about being able to breathe, focus, and be present.

according to MARC, there is scientific evidence that being mindful can actually improve your health:

In the midst of today’s frantically-paced world, developing the mind and learning to focus attention are our most precious gifts we can offer ourselves and to the next generation. Being afforded the opportunity to pay attention to the present moment is necessary for the cultivation of balanced, thoughtful, respectful citizens.

How we pay attention directly influences how our brain’s neural circuitry will become activated. Brain activation in turn shapes the connections among neurons. By learning to regulate the flow of energy and information in our brains – by learning to pay attention in a mindful way – it is likely that we can change the regulatory structures of our brains.

Initial research reveals that the practice of self-regulated attention – the learning of mindful awareness – enables individuals to achieve improvements in physiological health, mental well-being, and interpersonal relationships. By learning to become mindfully aware of the moment-to-moment experiences of life, individuals can greatly improve their physical, emotional, and social health. MARC embraces these important findings and aims to discover the basic mechanisms by which these improvements occur.

so if you find yourself stressed out because your yoga studio has closed or is about to close, or if you find that things just aren't going the way you want them to, you might want to check out some of the guided meditations led by diana winston on the MARC website. while meditating may not solve your problems, it could relieve enough of your anxiety to help you relax... and that would be most welcome at a time like this, wouldn't it?


Blogger Drew said...

hi Joni,

Wow! Great blog. I'm in Colorado. I'm thinking about coming out your way sometime for some yoga action. My blog is http://yogadrewandyou.blogspot.com/ . I'm just getting started. Looks like you've been at it a while. Om, Drew

2:08 PM  
Blogger joni said...

thanks, drew! let me know if you need any more info for your trip here...

3:33 PM  

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