There’s no question that our current high-tech, fast-paced world is a double-edged sword.
On the one hand, the internet has brought us instantaneous access to astounding amounts of data on a huge array of topics that can range from academic, to silly, to downright esoteric. Global communications allows us to consult with a colleague in South Africa, on behalf of another colleague in Ireland. We can even furnish an entire chiropractic office with just a few clicks of a mouse, without ever stepping foot into a showroom.
On the other hand, all this technology can leave us feeling overwhelmed at the sheer mass of data that can be dumped on our heads, physically isolated from our colleagues, and concerned about purchasing items sight unseen. It doesn’t take much of this for us to feel exhausted, wrung out, and anxious. This is the perfect time to either start a mindfulness practice of meditation or get back into the habit if you have let it slip.
As somebody who works in the helping profession, you know all too well the value of supporting your patients on their journey to wellness.
10 best mindfulness apps worth your time
You may find it difficult to take the advice you give your patients and incorporate these techniques into your own daily life. If you are like most DCs, your days seem as though they don’t have enough hours in them for you to keep up with everything that you want to do.
Between treating your patients; maintaining and growing your practice; building your professional development; and taking time for your family and friends, it can seem as if there is no time left for your own meditation practice.
Fortunately, current technology can help you find ways to fit a customized meditation practice into your busy schedule. They range from guided meditations for different areas of your life, to exercise programs such as yoga, to daily mindful affirmations.
Below are the 10 best mindfulness apps that can help you keep on track with daily meditation, so that you can rebuild your own energy stores and then have more to give to your patients. All of these apps are available for either the iPhone or Android.
The Calm app provides a wide variety of guided meditations from which to choose. These can range anywhere from three to 25 minutes, depending on how much time you have available. There are also meditations specifically geared to help you sleep better at night or focus when you get up in the morning.
If you are new to meditating, Headspace may be what you need to start off on t he right foot. There are meditation exercises specifically geared for beginners, a progress and reward tracker system and a buddy system where you and your friends can encourage each other to keep on track with your meditation practices.
If you are at the point of wanting to integrate your meditation with mindfulness-based exercise, such as yoga or Pilates, MINDBODY could be a great app to get both your mind and your body into better shape. It can help you find yoga and Pilates studios in your area, access discounts for classes, and track your progress.
This particular app can get your whole family involved in mindful meditation, including your kids. Meditation guides are divided by age, started with ones for kids as young as age 7. Smiling Mind could also serve as a great resource for parents of your pediatric patients or your adult patients who want to include their children in their meditation practice.
This app approaches mindfulness from the standpoint of different emotional states. It includes meditation exercises that focus on helping with depression, sleeplessness and anxiety. Other exercises can focus on building compassion, which is an integral part of any mindfulness practice.
The great thing about each of these apps is that each one can guide your meditation practice in a different way. This allows you to test out which one works best for you. Of course, an added bonus is that you can then recommend these apps to your patients.
This free app’s biggest advantage is that it makes great use of your mobile devices. Unlike mindfulness apps that require you carve out time for a meditation practice, Buddhify tailors its various meditations to your on-the-go life. If your smart phone and laptop are your office, Buddhify might be an excellent choice for you.
If you prefer a no-frills lifestyle, Meditation Timer Pro should fit right in with your minimalist approach. It includes guided meditations with visuals and sounds, a meditation scheduler, and an adjustable timer. An added bonus, particularly if you are looking for something easy to navigate, is that the mobile app is easy to navigate.
Are you that person who needs to challenge themselves or track their progress in order to get motivated? If so, Sattva Meditations & Mantras was made for you. In addition to various guided meditations and meditation music playlists, it also includes a heart rate monitor, a tracker that lets you see your progress, and a meditation community so that you can challenge yourself. This is also a great way to set up a buddy system with your coworkers or friends.
Are you still somewhat uncertain about the benefits of mindfulness and meditation? There’s nothing wrong with a healthy dose of skepticism. In fact, 10% Happier’s mission is convincing you of the benefits of mindfulness. It does this by making the process as simple and practical as possible.
There is a podcast that includes new content every week to keep things interesting and fresh. This may be a great app if you are still not certain that you will benefit from a regular meditation practice.
We all know the saying that variety is the spice of life. The same can be said for your mindfulness practice. You don’t necessarily need, or want, the same practice all the time. In some instances, you may want to work on being more focused, while on others, you may simply want to get more relaxed.
This is where Omvana can really shine. It boasts a huge library of various meditation programs, ranging from helping you focus on improving your romantic relationships to motivating you to stick with your exercise routine. There are also music tracks that can help you focus during your mindfulness practice.
It’s all too easy to get overwhelmed trying to keep up with your practice, your professional development, and your personal life. Fortunately, there may well be the perfect mindfulness app that can help you not only take it all in stride, but help keep you serene through it all.
How to use mindfulness in your chiropractic practice
A Google search on the word yields a whopping 40.5 million hits. But what is this phenomenon and how do you “do” it?
What is mindfulness?
According to Greater Good, “Mindfulness means maintaining a moment-by-moment awareness of our thoughts, feelings, bodily sensations, and surrounding environment,” and involves acceptance without judgment.
Rooted in Buddhist thinking, mindfulness has actually been around in this country since 1979 when Jon Kabat-Zinn launched the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Program (MBSR) at the University of Massachusetts Medical School. The program teaches that meditation is only one way to practice mindfulness, and that some other, more common practices, can enhance mindfulness.
For instance, Kabat-Zinn suggests paying attention to your breathing, particularly if you are immersed in an intense emotion. Also, he recommends calling on the five senses to gain “conscious awareness” of your surroundings and situation; noticing physical sensations, such as the wind whipping your hair as you step outside or the sun baking your skin as you lounge on the beach, is another aspect of mindfulness.
Ed Halliwell, a UK-based mindfulness teacher and writer, further explains: “Mindfulness lets us tune in to what's going on in our brain and body—and better deal with what’s bothering us.” He adds that employing a mindful approach to life allows us to face difficult emotions in a nurturing way.
Experts indicate that incorporating meditation into your approach can enhance the experience. Contemplative Psychotherapy training proposes that mindfulness be nurtured through sitting meditation, according to Karen Kissel Wegela, PhD, professor at Naropa University and author of The Courage to Be Present.
Her approach involves three dimensions: body, breath and thoughts. This version of utilizes meditative practice and requires the practitioner to take a seated position, either alone or in a group, and focus on breathing and return to the breath when thoughts draw the mind away.
While many mindfulness programs are geared toward self-improvement and fulfillment in adults, several schools now offer mindfulness programs and purport to provide benefits for teachers and students alike. Teachers who practice mindfulness may experience reduced stress and burnout, while their students have been said to increase attention spans, regulate emotions and improve social/emotional skills. Best of all, these benefits often continue into adulthood resulting in higher quality employment opportunities, lower instances of crime and substance abuse and better mental health outcomes.
Mindfulness programs have also taken root in corporate offices with the end goal of enhancing organizational skills, improving leadership qualities, and achieving work-life balance. Janice Marturano attended a six-day “training of the mind” that introduced her to mindfulness and changed her career path. After spending 15 years at General Mills in a leadership position, she left the company to found the Institute for Mindful Leadership (IML) in January 2011.
Since that time, IML has conducted numerous trainings with remarkable results. For instance, a multi-year study at a Fortune 200 company produced impressive outcomes: 48 percent increase in focus; 40 percent increase in personal productivity; 31 percent improvement in employee satisfaction; 34 percent advancement in performance under pressure; and 34 percent better ability to prioritize.
Plenty of anecdotal evidence exists for the benefits of mindfulness, and science backs up those claims. For instance, Psychosomatic Medicine published the results of an eight-week clinical training program that found mindfulness meditation produced “demonstrable effects on the brain and immune function.”
Another study from May 2011 indicates that mindfulness can help a person control brainwaves and thus focus better.
And yet another study published in Emotion compared meditation with dance, an activity that demands close attention to the body, and found that the former technique enhanced emotion and promoted higher body awareness better than the latter.
The authors noted, “Most centrally, our findings bridge two important themes in emotion theory: response coherence and body awareness.” In other words, meditation encouraged greater awareness of the body.
Taking a mindful approach to all aspects of life might yield some positive changes – in time. Marturano’s words in an article published in the August 2016 issue of Mindful, offer encouragement: “Be gentle and patient with yourself. Most of us have lived lives of such constant distraction that learning how to be more present takes time.”
A guide to 3 different types of meditation
Meanwhile, current discourse seems to be lacking in basic courtesy and civility, we feel more isolated than ever from friends and family, and society in general has become more polarized.
All of this can leave you feeling stressed, anxious, and depressed. If this is the case, it may be an excellent opportunity for you to look into starting some self-care, built around a solid meditation practice. There is a wide array of medication practices from which to choose, each of which helps you achieve your goals in different ways.
In fact, if you are considering starting some type of meditation practice, you are in good company. According to a 2015 survey put out by the National Center for Health Statistics, 18 million Americans, or approximately 8 percent of the general population, use some type of meditation technique.1
Mindfulness meditation, mantra meditation, and meditation combined with yoga were the most popular, according to survey respondents. What are these types of meditation, and how might they be beneficial? Read further to find out more.
Mindfulness meditation involves remaining in the present moment, rather than fixating on things in the past or dreading the future. The key is to be aware of your present surroundings, but without attaching judgment or negative thoughts or emotions to that awareness. Mindfulness meditation also includes being aware of your breathing and slowing it down to progressively relax.
This form of meditation has been extensively studied, particularly in regard to its effect on both physical and mental health. A 2012 paper, in the journal Psychotherapy, summarizes some techniques that psychotherapists can use to incorporate mindfulness meditation into their therapeutic encounters with patients.2
A 2014 paper, in the journal American Journal of Physiology: Regulatory, Integrative and Comparative Physiology, studied a group of African-American men with chronic kidney disease. The patients underwent either training in mindful meditation or standard education on lifestyle changes.
At the end of the study, those patients who did mindful meditation showed significantly greater improvement in symptoms than did those who only received education on lifestyle changes.3
2. Mantra meditation
Mantra meditation comes from the Hindu and Buddhist traditions and uses a repetitive sound or word to help clear the mind. Gongs or chimes can often be used, as well as the very common Om chant.
Regardless of the word or sound, the intent is to allow the mind to reach a deeper level of awareness. Mantra meditation can work well if you have difficulty focusing on just your breath. A sound or word may serve as a better focal cue in this case.
3. Meditation and yoga
If you already have a regular yoga practice, you already are familiar with breath awareness, so it should be very easy to add meditation to your existing yoga practice.
In fact, some styles of yoga, such as kundalini, already include meditation and mantras. One of the benefits of combining meditation with yoga is that it works to heal both mind and body.
A recent study in Complementary Therapies in Medicine surveyed military personnel about their experiences with yoga.4 Those who had a regular yoga practice all reported that it greatly improved their mental and physical well being.
Given the high rates of PTSD among veterans and active-duty military personnel, as well as the chronic back, neck and shoulder pain they often incur from the weight of their packs, a program to combine meditation and yoga could be of enormous benefit.
With a 24/7 news cycle, instant global communication, and greater demands on your professional and personal time, you may feel that you simply can’t stop and catch your breath. Times such as these are when you should take a break and do your meditation practice to center yourself and improve your physical, emotional, and mental health.
References1. Clarke TC, Black LI, Stussman BJ, et al. Trends in the use of complementary health approaches among adults: United States, 2002-2012. National Health Statistics Reports, No. 79. Hyattsville, MD: National Center for Health Statistics, 2015.
2. Davis DM, Hayes JA. What are the benefits of mindfulness? A practice review of psychotherapy-related research. Pychotherapy. 2012;48(2):198-208.
3. Park J, Lyles RH, Bauer-Wu S. Mindfulness meditation lowers muscle sympathetic nerve activity and blood pressure in African-American males with chronic kidney disease. American Journal of Physiology: Regulatory, Integrative and Comparative Physiology. 2014;307(1):R93-R101.
4. Hurst S, Maiya M, Casteel D. Yoga therapy for military personnel and veterans: Qualitative perspectives of yoga students and instructors. Complementary Therapies in Medicine. 2018;40:222-229.
Learning to practice the art of patience
Can you recall the last time you waited in a long and slow-moving line at the grocery store checkout aisle? If you’re like most people, you probably shifted from one foot to the other, muttering under your breath at the pokey cashier and dawdling shoppers.
Today’s fast-paced lifestyle has launched society into perpetual high gear. Instant gratification has become the expected outcome, whether you’re talking about food preparation, job promotion, or internet searches.
Patience in a modern world
According to the website Not Hardware, waiting for anything is a rarity in today’s world.1 For instance, the site notes that 1 in 4 people will abandon a web page that takes more than four seconds to load. And this impatience extends to other aspects of life.
Approximately 70 percent of Americans eat fast food at least once a week and millions seek the perfect love match in three- to eight-minute speed-dating sessions, the site reports.
But if you slow down, will you be left behind while rest of the world moves on without you? Not really, according to Mindful Magazine, which offers several good reasons to cultivate patience. First of all, research shows that it can boost your mental health.
A 2007 study on the psychophysiological study of patience found less depression and fewer negative emotions in people who exercised it. The study also reported improved physical health, noting that patient individuals had fewer medical issues, such as headaches, acne flare-ups, ulcers, diarrhea, and pneumonia.
Benefits of being patient
Individuals are not the only ones who can benefit from being patient in their lives. A 2014 study, “Taking time for patience in organizations,” examined the benefits of practicing patience as an organization and found several perks for both employers and employees. The study authors note that it can lead to quality product and services. Amazon founder Jeff Bezos is quoted as saying, “A business model built on patience will pay off.” There’s little arguing that he was right.
Furthermore, this study suggested that patience leads to lasting prosperity for the company that practices it. Patient interactions in the office translate to a pleasant working environment and increased productivity.
Another important outcome of being patient in the workplace is an increase in ethical behavior. “Employees and managers who have the patience to accept that they cannot dominate every situation, task, and person may be less likely to engage in fraud or other types of corruption in the workplace,” the study notes.
Learning to slow down
But for some individuals, it could be challenging to shift from a mind constantly in motion, and they will be unwilling or unable to wait. Zorka Hereford, author of Essential Skills, offers some commonsense suggestions for nurturing patience: Set patience as your goal for one day by being mindful and in the moment, and then make it a daily practice. “Developing patience is much like physical exercise because it requires persistence and effort,” she says.
Deep breathing can help slow down your pace and create opportunities to rethink an impulse, whether gulping down a second drink or buying yet another pair of shoes, Hereford says. It may also reduce the risk of creating an uncomfortable or awkward situation. For example, immediately responding to a comment could result in hurt feelings or worse.
Hereford recommends thinking about potential consequences before blurting out your thoughts. She asserts that being patient is a skill anyone can master. “As far as challenges to cultivating patience, there is really only one—the reluctance to do the work required,” she says.
1 Colaner S. “Instant America” and Our Waning Patience for Everything. Hot Hardware. http://hothardware.com/news/instant-america-and-our-waning-patience-for-everything. Published March 2012. Accessed Nov. 2016.
5 ways a clear mind can improve your life
Although meditation has been practiced for thousands of years, it didn’t really catch on in the U.S. until just a few decades ago. Now that it has, researchers want to know how meditation helps. By studying this age-old technique, they hope to better determine what positive effects it has both physically and psychologically.
The ancient practice presents many benefits, including the ability to:
1. Lower your blood pressure and stress levels
Even a few minutes of meditation a day will impact overall stress levels in the body. The American Heart Association supports meditation as one way to help lower blood pressure, lower stress, and reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease.1 Meditation achieves this partially by decreasing the adrenaline that your body releases. A study found that meditation-practicing Americans with known heart disease had a 48 percent reduced risk of a heart attack or stroke than the same population who didn’t meditate at all.
2. Strengthen the immune system
Several studies have found that practicing in regular meditation has positive effects on your immune system. This means that you will likely have fewer bouts with a cold bug or flu virus. Meditation also has a preventive effect against disease and illness as your body is stronger and better able to respond invaders.2
3. Improve brain function
Although brain function declines naturally over time, research published by Frontiers in Psychology reveals that meditation helps lessen that effect.3 Meditation slows the degeneration of the gray matter, especially when meditation is practiced long term, and it serves to improve your memory and focus.
4. Lessen pain and anxiety levels
JAMA Internal Medicine reports that many studies confirm lessening the pain perceived by those who meditate, whether due to an injury or chronic condition.4 In fact, it offers 30 percent improvement when the pain is visceral (related to internal organs) and a 5 to 8 percent improvement to severity when the pain is musculoskeletal. This same study also found an impact on anxiety and depression levels.
5. Help prevent insomnia
Sleep is essential for a productive work day, and in a recent study, participants who learned and practiced mindfulness meditation found it easier to fall and stay asleep. Not only that, but they reported a decrease in daytime fatigue, allowing for a more focused mindset.5
These are just few of the ways meditation can help improve the quality of life. People choose to meditate for different reasons. As a chiropractor, let these five important reasons encourage you to try it today and spread the word to your patients.
1 American Heart Association. “Meditation and heart health.” http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/Conditions/More/MyHeartandStrokeNews/Meditation-and-Heart-Disease-Stroke_UCM_452930_Article.jsp. Published May 27, 2015. Accessed June 8, 2015.
2 Morgan N, et al. The effects of mind-body therapies on the immune system: meta-analysis. PLoS One. 2014;9(7). Accessed June 2015.
3 Lunders E, et al. Forever young(er): Potential age-defying effects of long-term meditation on gray matter atrophy. Front Psychol. 2015;5:1551. Accessed June 2015.
4 Goyal M, et al. Meditation programs for psychological stress and well-being. JAMA Intern Med. 2014;174(3):357-68. Accessed June 2015.
5 Black D, et al. Mindfulness Meditation and Improvement in Sleep Quality and Daytime Impairment Among Older Adults With Sleep Disturbances JAMA Intern Med. 2015;175(4):494-501. Accessed June 2015.