8 Ways to be More Mindful at Work

There are many ways to incorporate mindfulness throughout your work day, and you only need a few minutes at a time. Here are 8 ideas to get you started:

1. Take a moment when you wake up: Take 2 minutes to just notice your breath when you first wake up. We release the most stress hormones right after waking up, as our thoughts about our day provoke fight-or-flight responses.

2. Take 10 min in the car or at your desk: Spend the first 5-10 min of your work day just paying attention to your breath. When you find your mind distracted, release the distraction and return attention to your breath. Many things will compete for your attention throughout the work day; for these few minutes, your attention is entirely your own.

3. Pause between meetings: Take a minute or two to practice mindfulness at the beginning of each meeting to boost your focus and effectiveness.

4. Single-task: When we multi-task, our brain switches rapidly from one task to another, often losing information each time. Try to group similar tasks together and do one task at a time as much as possible.

5. Connect with your senses: Up to 47% of our day is spent on autopilot, thinking about something other than what we are doing. Come back to your senses, sight, sound, smell, etc. in order to stay more present and aware.

6. Use reminders: Every time your phone rings or dings, take a mindful breath. Or set an alarm to go off every hour to cue a minute of mindfulness. Place a small sign or note in your workspace to remind you.

7. Practice gratitude: Humans have a negativity bias, where we naturally focus on problems. Deliberately find things that are going well in order to boost creativity, health, work relationships, and the quality of your work.

8. Accept what you can’t change: Being mindful means accepting the present moment as it is, and yourself as you are now. Once you accept what is happening, you can move forward with next steps and learning from any mistakes.

What Really Works for Back Pain

Back pain is one of the most common reasons people go to the doctor, and there are new guidelines on how to treat it. Researchers analyzed more than 150 studies to understand what really works and what doesn’t. The conclusion: instead of medication, try yoga, massage, or mindfulness.

These guidelines, published by the American College of Physicians on Feb 13, 2017, say to use techniques that speed up the healing process to relax muscles, joints and tendons. This can be done through massage, acupuncture, and spinal manipulation, as well as mind-body therapies like yoga, tai chi, and mindfulness-based stress reduction.

This new recommendation is in alignment with the new CDC & FDA guidelines for the usage of opiods, which are now known to be inappropriate for chronic pain management. It instead recommends trying massage, yoga, and mindfulness first, then NSAIDS like ibuprofen and naproxen to reduce inflammation. Acetaminophen is not recommended, since it does not reduce pain or inflammation.

Low back pain is common, and the way it is currently treated in medical settings is a good example of low value health care: expensive tests and therapies that don’t fix the problem. Moving to more effective treatments for both acute and chronic conditions by recommending yoga, massage, and mindfulness will help reduce suffering in patients and frustration in those who treat them.

At HaLe’, our manual medicine therapists and our self-care class instructors are experienced in treating low back pain. For regular aches and injuries, we recommend you come to class or make an appointment. For more severe conditions, please talk with us so we can guide you to the right treatment plan for your body.

 

Alertness vs. Awareness

There is a difference between alertness and awareness.

Alertness is a state of being ready to react immediately to a stimulus. It activates the sympathetic nervous system, which prepares for a quick response. The body becomes ready to run or fight, but also to think quickly, make decisions, adjust plans, and catch falling objects.

Awareness, on the other hand, cultivates the parasympathetic nervous system, which calms, nurtures, and nourishes the body. It is a process of noticing and bringing attention to things without jumping into action. As a state of being instead of doing, it often brings a sense of expansiveness and ease to the body.

The stress of daily life often calls for alertness as we activate our sympathetic nervous systems and jump in to deal with crisis, solve problems, and move quickly from one thing to another. This is not a sustainable lifestyle, though. We need to also practice awareness to stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system and to nourish and rebalance the body.

Practicing awareness brings resiliency and vitality to the body, so that there are deep reserves of energy to call upon when switching into action mode. The nervous system thrives when it has opportunities to replenish and restore, and our health is depleted when we are unable to switch off our alert action mode in order to rest.

Cultivating awareness in order to balance our times of alertness helps to raise our life energy and to better handle the stress of daily life. If you can only do one thing, try coming to class at HaLe’. Any and all of our classes will support your body in shifting into rest and repair mode. For deeper or more acute issues, explore the personalized care of our therapy offerings.

5 Ways to Cleanse with the Changing Seasons

by the HaLe’ Team

The change of seasons can shake things up in a body and affect the balance of health. The roots of our systems, rhythms, and routines loosen. New order is about to be established, but hopefully not before a good cleansing. Here are several simple ways to support your body through the seasonal shift:

Massage & Bodywork: The changes in atmospheric pressure and temperature affect the lymphatic system and its ability to clear out the body. This especially true for people with damaged lymphatic systems, but a lot of people will begin to feel bloated and icky, and generally not great. The lymphatic support of massage helps the body complete its cleansing process and move body fluids. Any kind of massage will help with this, though if deep, vigorous massage doesn’t sound good to you, consider trying a gentler technique like lymphatic massage or relaxation massage.     -Adie Grey MacKenzie, LMT

Cupping Therapy: These cups use negative pressure (suction) to literally create space in the body. This allows the old stagnated blood to be broken up and moved out. The body’s response is to heal and restore the area that received the cupping, which brings a sense of lighter, cleaner space in the body, a free flow of energy, and room for new possibilities. -Erin Law, LMT

Yoga: The onset of Fall is a powerful time to use our yoga practice as a means to re-balance the body. Big exhales, deep twists, and gentle forward folds help to prepare us for the onset of brisk weather. Winter is soon approaching. We want to shake out our bodies and flush away the unnecessary holding so that we can comfortably turn inward and nestle into ourselves during the darker months of Winter.     -Jane House, RYT

Ayurveda: Support other cleansing practices with tongue scraping. Do it every morning, back to front. Cleanses build up ama, or toxins, which are described as a sticky waste. Scraping these from the tongue keeps the toxins from being redirected back into the body, and reduces bad breath. Also make sure to take extra time to rest, and try to plan your cleanse during a time when you can take it easy.     -Summer Leniger, Ayurveda Wellness Counselor

Mental Cleansing Meditation: Visualize the mind space as rooms in your house. With eyes closed and body upright, awake, and alert, travel from room to room repeating these cleansing phrases:

  • Entry hall / front door: “Breathing in, I know I am breathing in. Breathing out, I know I am breathing out.”
  • Great room / main living area: “Being here, Being now.”
  • Kitchen: “Letting go of worry, Letting be this moment.”
  • Bedroom: “Calming the mind, Releasing the tension.”
  • Bathroom: “I can have peace any moment,I have peace in this moment.”
  • Attic / crawl space / basement: “Nowhere to go, No one to be, Just being.”      -Elmo Shade, Mindfulness Coach

3 Ways to Be Mindful at Your Desk: Easy, Easier, and in Motion

by Elmo Shade

There are simple ways to begin a mindfulness practice.  It’s not mystical or magical; anyone can do this.

1. The Easy Way: The 3-Breath Technique (sit or stand)

Picture an hourglass wide at the top & bottom with a narrow center.

Breathe IN (count of 5) through nostrils deep into belly (expands) then breathe OUT through nose and/or mouth (count of 7).

Connect with the wide, open space of the present moment.

Breathe IN and connect with a particular part of your body, e.g. palms, feet, heart as though you were aerating it with the breath, then breathe OUT. Same count of 5 and 7.

Breathe IN and connect with the ENTIRE body, widening your awareness and spaciousness, then breathe OUT, same count as before.

 

2. The Easier Way: Sit or stand without any agenda for 2-5 minutes

Shift from “doing” to just “being” whatever that means for you

Watch where the mind goes without judging it or trying to change anything you are experiencing. Just allow.

Feel free to switch between the “Easy Way” and the “Easier Way”.

Begin with 2-5 minutes daily, expand to 2-5 minutes during the day whenever you have an opportunity and/or are feeling stressed.

The more you “practice” the stronger your “mindfulness muscle” becomes.

 

3. Mindfulness in Motion:

Sit with back supporting itself by moving to middle or front of chair

Feet are flat on the floor. Sense the 4 corners of the feet with your awareness (sides of big and little toes and both sides of heel)

Hands rest on knees, palms down

On IN breath, retract hands back moving along upper thighs until heel of hand touches hip bone (waist)

On OUT breath move hands back down slowly to starting position at knees

Do 5X

Then, on IN breath, retract hands back as before

On OUT breath, move hands past knees all the way down to ankles

On next IN breath, retract hands all the way back up hip bone (waist)

Do 5X

With both iterations, sync the breath so top of the IN breath is at the TOP of the movement and bottom of the OUT breath is at the BOTTOM of the movement

 

Better Sleep through Massage, Yoga, and Mindfulness

Sleep is a complex biological process that is vital to our overall wellbeing. There are now 85 different recognized sleep disorders that affect almost 70 million Americans, and the long-term consequences of sleep loss are associated with a long list of chronic and sometimes very serious health conditions. In addition to being linked to increased risk of heart attack and stroke, poor quality sleep is also related to chronic musculoskeletal pain, specifically osteoarthritis, fibromyalgia, and low-back pain.

Massage, Yoga, and Mindfulness are all drug-free ways to improve quality of sleep.

Massage: People who receive massage experience deeper, more restorative, less disturbed sleep. It doesn’t matter which modality of massage or what time of day; studies consistently report that massage contributes to a more organized sleep pattern, where the various stages of sleep happen in consistent order and duration. The positive effects of massage on sleep also contributes to a reduction in pain-sensitizing neurotransmitters, which lowers pain levels. (Source: Ruth Werner, Massage Bodywork)

Yoga: There have been several studies recently that show yoga can improve disrupted sleep. A Harvard Medical School study showed that yoga can help chronic insomnia, making it easier to fall asleep, stay asleep, feel well-rested, and wake up after sleeping. A study of cancer survivors linked yoga to better sleep quality, less fatigue, and improved sense of quality of life. In general, yoga seems to increase sleep efficiency, enhance quality of life, and decrease insomnia. (Source: Michael J Breus, PhD, Psychology Today)

Mindfulness: Like Yoga and Massage, Mindfulness is a way to invoke the Relaxation Response, which is a deep physiological shift in the body that is the opposite of the stress response. For many people, sleep disorders are a reaction to stress. Spending 20 min a day in a mindfulness practice helps create a reflex to bring forth a feeling of relaxation. Then it is easier to access that feeling of relaxation at night to assist in falling asleep and maintaining better quality of sleep. A study on a mindfulness awareness program showed results including less insomnia, fatigue, and depression. (Source: Julie Corliss, Harvard Health)

Sleep is crucial to our health, and Massage, Yoga, and Mindfulness are all effective tools for improving the overall quality of our sleep without using pharmacological drugs. They help with insomnia, fatigue, pain levels, sleep pattern organization, and sleep efficiency. Getting enough high quality sleep is a cornerstone of a healthy life, and there are many ways to improve your sleep and your sense of wellbeing.

The Four Foundations of Mindfulness

by Elmo Shade

  1. CONTACT- Breath, Body, Sounds, 5 Senses

The formal training of mindfulness takes place on the meditation cushion by re-directing the wandering attention. Breath and body awareness is the best place to start. By re-directing attention from the thinking mind to the breath or the felt sense of the body, we begin to condition our attention to be in the present moment.

ex: smelling the sweet aroma of chocolate in an ice cream shop

 

  1. FEELING TONES- Pleasant, Unpleasant, Neutral

Every single experience or event has a feeling tone to it, i.e. a categorization of “I like it” (pleasant); “I don’t like it” (unpleasant); “I am undecided or neutral about it” (neutral). By paying attention to the experience and its feeling tone, we can begin to examine our inner relationship to it, e.g. clinging to what is pleasant or pushing away and resisting what is unpleasant.

ex: I love the smell of chocolate 

 

  1. PERCEPTION- Mental Filters, Assumptions, Stories

Between stimulus and response, there is an approximate gap of .25 seconds. It is in this gap that we filter an event based upon past experiences. Our MAPS or “My Assumptions, Perceptions and Stories” become our reality and our reality is most often not in concert with what is factual or true. Perception then is NOT reality; it is only the ego misrepresenting the past in the present moment.

ex: chocolate reminds me of wonderful family experiences 

 

  1. CONSCIOUSNESS- Intention to act, e.g. reacting v responding

If we are not paying attention, our inclination will be to “do something”, i.e. to react with attachment (cling to it) or aversion (get rid of it) which lead to unhealthy and unproductive mental states like anger, blame, judgment/becoming. Paying attention to the truth of the present-time experience allows us to respond with curiosity and compassion instead of being stuck in a reactive pattern, e.g. indulging.

ex: I can’t believe I ate the whole thing. I feel sick and emotionally drained

The Benefits of Mindfulness Practice

from Elmo Shade

The most common reasons people come to a Mindfulness Practice are

  1. Physical pain or chronic pain
  2. Emotional pain due to loss, death, or serious or potentially fatal diagnosis
  3. Inability to manage the day to day stressors of life

The benefits of mindfulness are known and well-documented. It reduces levels of stress, meaning the autonomic nervous system is not in fight, flight, or freeze mode. This then reduces both anxiety and depression, reduces fatigue and burnout, and reduces periods of restlessness. This leads to an increased ability to pay attention and concentrate and higher cognitive performance, particularly while learning. It enhances hormonal balance for women, and enhances the immune system of men and women.

Chronic pain, many of our physical ailments, and even diseases that we are experiencing are not actually illnesses or diseases. They are a result of the body system storing stress and pain that has never actually been released in a healthy manner. Mindfulness helps to reduce the discomfort of pain, both emotional and physical, and increases our capacity for compassion for ourselves and others.

Because Mindfulness Practice is about paying attention to physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual energies, it often leads to increased levels of energy. It can decrease fatigue and increase stamina. This higher energy level then brings increased movement. The American Psychiatric Association shows we spend 6-12 hours a day not moving, and this does not count the time we spend sleeping. Having the energy to move is a tremendous benefit.

Mindfulness Practice is evidence-based and proven to benefit quality of life through the reduction of physical pain, emotional pain, and chronic stress. Our collective stress levels are higher than they have ever been, especially for women, and that takes a toll on our health. We can bring ourselves back into balance through mindfulness.