Mindfulness is a practice that comes from the East and may sound foreign to typical Westerners. Another word for it, more aligned with our Western culture, is attention training. Our attention and focus are essential for healthy functioning and are strong determinants of performance at work, stress levels, and emotional/mental health. Most people are victims of the so called "monkey mind" or compulsive thinking about past failures or future stressors. However, there are simple, easy to adopt techniques for training the mind to serve our needs. These practices are as basic and essential as brushing your teeth. Decades of research by Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn and his colleagues at the University of Massachusetts and other labs have demonstrated that turning them into a daily routine can have dramatic effects on our health and well-being.
Our model utilizes principles of classical and instrumental conditioning in order to turn healthy practices into a daily habit. To facilitate that process, we adapted established mindfulness exercises to typical daily routines such as having a skin care regimen. This way a familiar, established activity is used to facilitate the acquisition of a new, healthy habit.
1 – Use while having a mask.
2 – Use during a massage/Chi Machine session
3 – Use when applying a cream
4 – Use when having a Alpha-Stim treatment or on an inversion table
5 – Use while having a Perfectio LED session
EXERCISE 1: MINDFUL SKIN CARE (1, 3, 5)
• Apply creams slowly and with pleasure.
• Focus on the sensation of the cream/Perfectio on your face and hands.
• Notice colors, smells, and texture of creams.
• Don’t talk or watch TV while applying creams. Try to have your focus on the sensations rather than on the past or future.
EXERCISE 2: THE BASIC MINDFULNESS PRACTICE (1, 2, 4, 5)
Mindfulness helps us put some space between ourselves and our reactions, breaking down our conditioned responses. Here’s how to tune into mindfulness throughout the day:
1. Set aside some time. You don’t need a meditation cushion or bench, or any sort of special equipment to access your mindfulness skills—but you do need to set aside some time and space.
2. Observe the present moment as it is. The aim of mindfulness is not quieting the mind, or attempting to achieve a state of eternal calm. The goal is simple: we’re aiming to pay attention to the present moment, without judgment. Easier said than done, we know.
3. Let your judgments roll by. When we notice judgments arise during our practice, we can make a mental note of them, and let them pass.
4. Return to observing the present moment as it is. Our minds often get carried away in thought. That’s why mindfulness is the practice of returning, again and again, to the present moment.
5. Be kind to your wandering mind. Don’t judge yourself for whatever thoughts crop up, just practice recognizing when your mind has wandered off, and gently bring it back.
EXERCISE 3: THREE-MINUTE BREATHING BREAK (from the pioneers of MBCT—John Teasdale, Mark Williams, and Zindel Segal. Helps people attain the being mode). (1, 5)
This breathing break is like practicing thought awareness. You might recognize that you are feeling something painful. You label your thoughts, allowing them to exist in your mind, and know that they will pass. The lifetime of an emotion, even a very unpleasant one, is no longer than ninety seconds—unless you try to chase it away or engage with it. Then it lasts longer. The breathing break is a way to keep negative emotions from living past their natural life spans.
You can make it a habit, so it helps anchor it in a daily activity. Use it during a Perfectio session on while using a facial mask. At some point, you will automate the process and you’ll be able to apply it wherever you are.
You can picture this exercise like an hourglass—invite whatever is present in your mind broadly, then focus narrowly on the breath, and then expand awareness out to your full surroundings. Here’s our modified version:
1. Becoming aware: Sit upright and close your eyes. Connect with your breathing for a long inhalation and exhalation. With this awareness, ask yourself, “What is my experience right now? What are my thoughts? Feelings? Bodily sensations?” Wait for the responses. Acknowledge your experience and label your feelings, even if they are unwanted. Notice any pushing away of your experience, and soften around it, allowing space for all that comes up in your awareness.
2. Gathering your attention: Gently direct your full attention to your breathing. Notice each inhalation and each long exhalation. Follow each breath, one after another. Use your breathing as an anchor into this present moment. Tune in to a state of stillness that is always there right below the surface of your thoughts. This stillness allows you to come from a place of being (versus doing).
3. Expanding your awareness: Sense your field of awareness expanding around you, around your breathing, around your whole body. Notice your posture, your hands, your toes, your facial muscles. Soften any tension. Befriend all of your sensations, greet them with kindness. With this expanded awareness connect with your whole being, encompassing all that is you in the present moment.
This breathing break calms your body and offers you more control over your stress reactions. It shifts your thinking away from the doing mode and moves it toward the peaceful being mode.
WHY BREATH WORK IS SO IMPORTANT: RELEASE MENTAL PRESSURE, RELEASE YOUR BLOOD PRESSURE
Our breath is a window into knowing and regulating our mind-body. It is an important switch influencing the communication between brain and body. It’s sometimes easier to change our breath to relax than to change our thoughts. When we breathe in, our heart rate goes up. When we exhale, our heart rate goes down. By having a longer exhalation than inhalation, we can slow our heart rate more, and we can also stimulate the vagus nerve. Breathing into our lower belly (abdominal breathing) stimulates the sensory pathways of the vagus nerve that go directly to our brain, which has an even more calming effect. Dr. Stephen Porges, an expert in understanding the vagus nerve, has shown why there is a strong link between the vagus nerve, breath, and feelings of social safety. Many mind-body techniques naturally stimulate the vagus nerve, sending our brain those critical safety signals.
Countless studies have shown that focused breathing (belly breathing or alternate nostril breathing) can lower heart rate and blood pressure, improve cognitive abilities, and prevent disease.
Exercises that slow breathing, such as mantra meditation or paced breathing, are a reliable way to lower blood pressure. You are slowing down your body’s need to be aroused. You are turning up the volume on your vagus nerve activity, suppressing the sympathetic nervous system and slowing your heart rate even more. The vagus also turns on growth and restorative processes.
EXERCISE 4: BREATHING FOR RELAXATION (1, 2, 3, 4, 5)
Breathe in slowly counting to four (4 seconds).
Hold your breath counting to seven (7 seconds).
Exhale slowly counting to eight (8 seconds).
For some, focusing on the heart can be more peaceful than focusing on the breathing, and can still slow the breathing rate. The heart has such a complex and responsive nervous system that it is thought of as the “heart brain.” Below we provide a script for a short heart-focused meditation. It also has some words from loving-kindness meditations in it.
EXERCISE 5: HEART-FOCUSED MEDITATION (1, 2, 4, 5)
Sit comfortably. Take some long and slow inhales and even longer exhales.
Continue to breathe in, and breathe out, repeating a calming word or hold a beautiful image each time you breathe out slowly. Notice the pause between the breaths.
Become aware of your thoughts: “Where are my thoughts right now?” Smile at each of them as they pass through your mind; then return to your exhalation word or image.
Place your hands (palms or fingers) on your heart. You might say to yourself “Ahhh” as you exhale. Let the burdens you are holding release and flow out of your body.
“May I be in peace.”
“May my heart be filled with kindness.”
“May I be a source of kindness for others.”
Picture your heart radiating love. Picture a pet or person that you feel complete love for. Let that love radiate out toward others in your life.
Continue to breathe in, and breathe out slowly. Notice where you are holding in tension. As you exhale, let yourself feel enveloped in safety, warmth, and kindness.
EXERCISE 6: MINDFUL EATING (General)
• Mind – gut connection: It takes 20 minutes for our brain
to register fullness.
• Eat slower; put down fork between bites.
• Notice colors, smells, and texture of foods; chew slowly.
• Don’t eat in front of the TV.
• Take small bites & chew well.
• Learn portion control.
Ref. Harvard Medical School, 2010