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ROCHESTER, Minn. — Mindfulness — sometimes called a form of meditation or therapy — can enrich lives, calm minds and even improve health. The October issue of Mayo Clinic Health Letterdescribes mindfulness in-depth in an eight-page Special Report.
Rooted in ancient traditions, mindfulness has many descriptions. In general, it's a conscious effort to be completely present, setting aside worries, expectations and other thoughts to be fully aware of the current moment.
The report covers suggestions to improve mindfulness as well as its many benefits. Highlights include:
Getting started: While many classes are available, mindfulness doesn't require formal training. A key aspect is paying attention to current surroundings, focusing on one sense at a time. This present-moment focus helps eliminate dwelling on the past, worries about the future, or random, chaotic thoughts. Mindfulness can be practiced at a dedicated time each day or throughout the day — during dinner with a spouse, playing with a grandchild or even doing dishes. Accepting and appreciating each moment for what it is can increase calmness and bring more peace and joy.
Breathing: A reliable way to focus on the present moment is to focus on the breath. By observing the breath, without forcing or regulating, one can forget everything else for the moment. By just thinking about one thing, the breath, powers of concentration increase. This can bring deep calm and awareness.
Pain management: Several studies have shown that mindfulness training improves chronic pain. In one study, half of the participants experienced a reduction in pain by 50 percent or more with mindfulness practice. Researchers speculate that patients were able to separate their physical feeling of pain from their perception of it. By detaching themselves from the pain and simply observing but not reacting to it, they were able to reduce the level of pain they experienced.
Coping with cancer: People with cancer experience a high degree of emotional stress as well as decreased physical health and well-being. Mindfulness is one complement to conventional cancer treatment that addresses these problems and helps people feel better.
Quality of life: Evidence indicates that mindfulness has a positive effect on quality of life, both in people living with chronic conditions and healthy people who wish to reduce stress and live more simply.
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