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Mindfulness: A Declaration Of Health Independence

Mindfulness is more than a great way to get healthy and stay healthy. It's a process of discovery -- full of solace and revelation. And your relationships, your work and your play will all benefit.
07/15/2015 02:09pm ET | Updated December 6, 2017
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You are the boss of your own health.

Not your doctor, not your health insurance company, not even your mother.

See this place?

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You want to stay out of there if you can.

In fact, not going to hospital is a measure of wellness. Not just for your body, but your bank account, too.

Of course, doctors and other health professionals will offer valuable care, advice and sometimes wisdom.

But you're still the boss. Not just a patient, but the managing partner in your health care. You get to choose how you stay healthy and how you heal.

So what's your first move as health commander-in-chief?

Why not start by recognizing this truth:

You can't give good care to someone you don't know well.

And that means your health strategy depends on this other truth:

You need to get to know yourself.

That's where mindfulness comes in.

"People discover ... the real magic is in them, and in every one of us. When we intentionally cultivate moment-to-moment non-judgmental awareness, that magic comes out. It is an invitation to listen to and get to know and trust our own biology, our own DNA, our own heart, our own mind." -- Jon Kabat-Zinn

In other words, the path to health and healing starts inside you -- in your body and mind and spirit and heart. Not surprising. All the best things start there -- like love and friendship and loyalty and effort. Turns out dozens of research studies show that better health starts there, too.

In 2014, a study, funded by Kaiser Permanente, showed chronic pain sufferers who completed an 8-week course in Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) not only reported significant symptomatic relief, but visits to the emergency room were cut in half, visits to specialist care dropped by more than a third and hospital admissions dropped by 80 percent.

Check out this list. Anything sound familiar?

  • Stress
  • Anxiety
  • Pain
  • Depression
  • Addiction
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Heart disease
  • High blood pressure
  • Obesity
  • Irritable bowel syndrome
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Insomnia
  • Memory
  • Attention problems

Did you know that all these health problems can be addressed effectively by empowering the person who suffers from the problem?

Did you know mindfulness -- a straightforward technique of focusing awareness on the present moment -- is a key to empowering people so they can help heal themselves?

Truth is, if you want to declare health independence and go for quality of life -- as well as quantity -- you need to work from the inside out.

Getting started with mindfulness is as simple as taking a breath and paying attention as you do it. Try it. Breathe in through your nose. Breathe out through your mouth. Listen to the sound. Feel the air go in, pass through your body and go out again. It's easy. Now do it again. In. Out. Listening. Feeling. Aware. We breathe all the time anyway, but by using our breath to focus our attention we can harness a remarkable power.

"MBSR (Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction) started decades before we knew about neuroplasticity. Now, the biological evidence shows that the entire organism is plastic, the brain, the DNA, the chromosomes and the cellular structures. Everything is continually renewing itself on the basis of how you conduct your life; what you eat, what you think about, how angry you are, whether you spend time in silence, inhabiting the domain of being rather than running around multitasking everything." -- Jon Kabat-Zinn

Here's another truth:

If you can breathe, you can set your own course to better health.

That simple. So get ready for some adventure. Mindfulness is more than a great way to get healthy and stay healthy. It's a process of discovery -- full of solace and revelation. And your relationships, your work and your play will all benefit.

There are lots of ways to be mindful -- from mindful yoga to meditation to prayer to being in nature. I won't try to make a complete list here. But check out these resources and start exploring now:

  • The Center for Mindfulness (U Mass) launched CFMHome this year as an online mindfulness community.
  • Mindful Magazine offers current, accessible information together with compassion and encouragement to those of us who are at the steep part of our awareness learning curve
  • My guess is that once you get started being mindful, you won't ever want to stop.

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