“The greatest revolution in our generation is the discovery that human beings, by changing the inner attitudes of their minds, can change the outer aspects of their lives.”
Behavioral Medicine, along with recent published studies, strongly suggests thought patterns and emotions may play a powerful role in wellness as well as in disease. What we believe about our bodies may be more than important for healing. How we live our lives, what we think and what we do all influence our health in dramatic ways.
Each one of us plays an important role in our personal well-being. If we recognize the impact of this critical role and act accordingly, we take an active stance in our health and healing. In doing so, we become aware of how we can improve ways in which we live that affect our health and wellness, including:
Each of these dimensions of being alive influences our health in different ways; all are related to stress and how we cope; and all are directly influenced by the practice of mindfulness. Having a mindfulness practice allows us to question the activity of the mind as well as beliefs, emotions, attitudes and behaviors. Without being able to observe the mind, we are at the mercy of opinions, judgments and the many needs of the ego. With mindfulness we have a choice of how to respond. With calm and aware responding, we become healthier individuals.
Resilience ~ the mindful process of coping in an effective way with stress and adversity ~is strengthened by certain patterns of thinking, feeling, and relating. People who have an optimistic perspective, who have the ability to let go of unpleasant events and who can embrace impermanence, tend to be healthier than pessimistic individuals. Optimists know they have choices and are able to laugh at themselves. They have a strong sense of coherence ~ the conviction that life can be comprehensible, manageable and meaningful. They accept obstacles as opportunities and challenges. They have confidence in their ability to make wise changes and choices.
Healthy social traits include valuing and honoring relationships, and feeling a sense of goodness and basic trust in people. Connection and community help to balance life, preventing isolation and lowering the possibility of depression. Being in service in some way, everyday is another path to health as we live and act within a larger whole.
Mindfulness is the practice of being here now, non-judgmentally. Mindfulness is being aware on purpose ~ discovering and transforming the habits of mind that block our full potential. With mindfulness practice, we actively cultivate and bring more fully alive our potential for wisdom, creative intelligence, calm, loving-kindness, and compassion. In freeing ourselves from limitations and awakening to our own true nature and potential, we become more effective in helping others realize their own worth and possibility as well.
Mindfulness teaches us that neither internal or nor external events are the cause of stress. Rather, it is our reaction to an event that determines how we experience the situation. Discomfort, worry and anxiety are a result of our thoughts and emotions, our perspectives and behavior.
The most useful way to understand stress is to view it as a transaction between a person and his or her environment. Stress can be defined as a particular relationship between the person and the environment that is appraised by the person as taxing or exceeding his or her resources and endangering his or her well-being. An event can be more stressful for one person than another. Also, the meaning of the event to the person will determine how stressful the situation is at that time.
While there will always be a number of potential stressors in life, by changing the way we see ourselves in relationship to them, we can actually change our experience of the relationship and therefore modify the extent to which it taxes or exceeds our resources or endangers our well-being. The first step, of course, is to recognize when we are under stress in the very first place.
Stress-hardy individuals have effective coping resources because they view life as a challenge and assume an active role in handling what emerges. They also realize it is not so much the stressors in our lives but how we see them and what we do with them that determine the extent to which the stressors control us. If we adopt an attitude of openness, shift perspective to one of curiosity and compassion toward ourselves and others, and practice mindfulness as a way of life, we are able to embrace life in a healthy way and experience balance, strength, tranquility and well-being.