Pursue Mindfulness

By Yavonda Chase

Purushottam Thapa, M.D.

Purushottam Thapa, M.D.

Purushottam Thapa, M.D., a professor in the UAMS Department of Psychiatry and the medical director of the UAMS Student Wellness Program, has a few tips for anyone interested in a mindfulness program.

“Mindfulness is awareness, cultivated by paying attention in a sustained and particular way: on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgmentally.” — Jon Kabat-Zinn

We cultivate mindfulness through formal meditation practices, where time is set aside to practice. Practices include sitting (breath) meditation, body scan, mindfulness yoga and walking meditation. However, it is important to remember that mindfulness is about “truly experiencing your life moment to moment as it unfolds.” This is where we incorporate mindfulness in daily activities, such as cooking, eating, walking and washing dishes.

“Take a deep BREATH”

If you are feeling restless and having difficulty falling asleep, try Deep Belly (Diaphragmatic) Breathing. As you lie down, place your hands on your belly and slowly inhale deeply (like you are blowing up a balloon) so you can feel your hands rise with the belly. Slowly exhale the breath and feel your hands come down with the belly. Repeat this process for a few minutes. If you notice that your mind wanders, simply redirect your awareness to your belly kindly and without judgment.

“One small BITE at a time”

Mindful eating – When is the last time you ate a meal one bite at a time and were fully present with your food without watching TV, reading text messages or looking at Facebook?

Give yourself a treat and try mindful eating. With no other distractions (no TV, text messages, social media), simply take one bite of your food, slowly chew and savor it, and only after you have completely swallowed it, take another bite. Repeat. Note that there have been studies suggesting that mindful eating results in better weight control.

“No TIME to spare?”

Even 10 minutes a day of mindfulness may be helpful! There are 1,440 minutes in a day. If you could spare 10 minutes to focus on your breathing or do a walking meditation where you observe sights, sounds, colors, smells and sensations, etc., that is time well spent!

“Mindfulness Is NOT a Cure All”

There is a common misconception that the practice of mindfulness makes us stress free and happy. That just isn’t true. What mindfulness does is help us change how we relate to our stress and pains. This is what helps us say “it’s ok” and feel better, even when we are stressed.