Between rushing to Doctor appointments, family, and work, it can be difficult to find time to maintain happiness and mental well being. With injury and chronic illness often come anxiety and depression, which can impede recovery, and quality of life of the individual and those dearest to them. As we know, physical activity has proven to be beneficial in improving mood and quality of life with individuals with Stroke, Multiple Sclerosis, and Parkinson’s disease. In general, however, the mental well-being of individuals with chronic medical conditions is often overlooked. Mindfulness is the basic human ability to be fully present, aware of where we are and what we’re doing, and not overly reactive or overwhelmed by what’s going on around us. The American Psychological Association reports mindfulness can reduce fixation on negative emotions, improve focus, memory, and improve relationship satisfaction. Mindfulness may be a great strategy for individuals with chronic medical conditions to take control of some aspects of their mental and emotional well-being. It’s free, easy to implement, and goes along way! Here’s how you can become more mindful:

Meditate:

A practice that’s been around for thousands of years, meditation involves consciously focusing your attention onto a specific object or activity, most commonly, breath.

Wim Hof a Dutch athlete also known as the Iceman, holds 21 Guiness World Records withstanding outstanding temperatures simply by focusing on his breath. Founder of the Wim Hof method, he has developed a meditation technique that has been proven to decrease inflammatory markers in the body after being exposed to harmful bacteria. This is just one example of how powerful a mindful breathing practice can be for your health and well-being.

Next time you’re waiting for an appointment or laying down in bed try focusing on breath for two minutes. In… out. In…out. Welcome whatever thoughts that come to mind openly. Your thoughts don’t define you, but letting them wander creates a sense of peace and relaxation. Make sure you’re in a safe place when you do this without too many distractions. Take notice of your mood and stress level before and after the meditation session and try to implement it regularly throughout your week or during any time you feel you need to relax.

Take a yoga class:

Yoga is a great way get your body moving, decrease stress, and improve your functional mobility. Holding different stretches for prolonged periods of time not only induces muscle strength but also tissue extensibility, allowing you to feel more limber and ready to take on the everyday stresses of life. Often times you can include your breathing exercises into your yoga poses, focusing on your breath while holding a stretch. Check with your Physical Therapist or Primary Care Physician regarding any contraindications to taking a yoga class!

Disclaimer: Meditation and yoga is not a cure for anxiety or depression but simply a holistic approach to potentially reduce symptoms anxiety and depression. Ask your Medical Doctor if these are appropriate for you.

Affirmations

Many times you can be your own worst enemy. Affirmations are positive statements that can help you to challenge and overcome self-sabotaging and negative thoughts. Positive self-talk has shown to display significant improvement in mood, mental health, and confidence. A popular way to get started is turning your negative thoughts into positives. Instead of “I can’t” tell yourself “I can”. Your negative thoughts may refute your positive affirmation with more negative thoughts. Think and reflect on those thoughts and self-sabotaging criticism and refute with “I can because…”. You may not believe yourself at first but with repetition, you can maintain a more positive perception of yourself, attracting more positivity into your life! Affirmations can be used all throughout your day to lift your mood.

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