Got Mindfulness?

On Sept. 1, the National Alliance for Mentally Ill implemented a section on its Web site related to mindfulness, an increasingly popular practice that cultivates present moment awareness as way to cope with everything from stress and anxiety to chronic pain and depression.

Visitors to this section of the web site, known as Hearts and Minds, can find a 10-minute video of guided meditation, along with information about other holistic methods to complement medication and therapy and help a person to gain greater control over the recovery process. Practices covered include basic meditation, guided imagery, yoga, and Tai Chi, and creative outlets such as writing, art, music, and dance.

“Medication and therapy are crucial to recovery, but everyone’s experience is different,” NAMI Executive Director Michael Fitzpatrick said in a prepared statement. “Hearts and Minds offers a holistic dimension for managing mental illness. Some practices will work for some people, but not for everyone. In the end it comes down to what works for you.”

On Sept. 1, I completed an 8-week mindfulness-based stress reduction course at the UCSD Center for Mindfulness with about two dozen “classmates,” taught by Steven D. Hickman, a psychologist who directs the center. Together, we learned a variety of meditation and yoga techniques—some of which can be practiced in just a few minutes. Along the way, we shared our struggles and breakthroughs as we learned to apply the practice to our own lives, so that we could better deal with whatever stressors drew us to the class in the first place.

I’m a rookie to mindfulness, to be sure, but I do sense a “rewiring” for the better going on. People close to me do, too.

There are currently more than 250 mindfulness-based stress reduction programs in major medical centers in the United States. To locate one for yourself or for a patient, check out the regional and international directory at the Center for Mindfulness at University of Massachusetts Medical School’s Web site: http://www.umassmed.edu/cfm/mbsr/

— Doug Brunk (onTwitter@dougbrunk)

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Filed under Alternative and Complementary Medicine, Family Medicine, Geriatric Medicine, Hospice and Palliative Care, IMNG, Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, Primary care, Psychiatry

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