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Discover the health benefits of mindfulness

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We are living in an increasingly busy world. Often we are wrapped up in thoughts and feelings, constantly moving from one thing to the next without a moment’s peace.

You may find it useful to stop, and ask yourself, “What is happening right now, in this moment?”

Are your thoughts racing? Are you focusing on what happened yesterday and what will happen tomorrow? What would it take to help you enjoy living in the present moment with less stress and anxiety?

Mindfulness is being rediscovered today as a simple, yet powerful way to support overall health and well-being. Through yoga, meditation and breathing exercises, individuals learn to bring the body and mind to rest in the here and now.

“What we see in mindfulness practice is that people are dealing with lots of stresses, overwhelming feelings and pain, and by getting quiet and aware, we can choose to relate to ourselves and others in a kinder, more compassionate way,” explains Julie Anne Larkin, mindfulness coach who is offering consulting services as part of Riverwood Healthcare Center’s Healthy Communities Partnership three-year wellness initiative funded by Allina Health and the George Family Foundation. “Mindfulness is all about accepting things as they are right now without judging or responding negatively.”

“Mindfulness has proven to be effective in my own life as a way to manage stress and improve my overall wellbeing,” says Liz Dean, Riverwood marketing manager. “Our reactions to situations can change outcomes. Therefore, I choose to take a proactive approach to health and life’s situations by choosing to be mindful, slowing down, taking deep breaths and living in the present moment. The benefits of this way of living are tremendous.”

Dean adds: “We are thrilled to begin offering mindfulness classes and coaching to patients as a way to continue our support for better quality of life and improved wellbeing.”

Mindfulness class, coaching services

Larkin will begin teaching a four-week mindfulness class called “Stabilizing the Mind” at Riverwood Healthcare Center in Aitkin on Wednesdays, Feb. 5, 12, 19 and 26, from 5-7 p.m. Riverwood will offer this mindfulness class throughout the coming year, adjusting the meeting time for some daytime as well as evening hours.

Participants will be introduced to mindfulness practices such as yoga, meditation and breathing exercises (these techniques have no connection to religious beliefs or instruction). Limited to 15 participants, the cost of the class is $40 (discounted from its full $125 value), which includes a manual with CDs of yoga, meditation and other practices for use at home. To register or for more information on the mindfulness class series, call Riverwood Education at 218-927-5552.

“We all have stress, anxiety and pain in our lives,” Larkin adds. “Suffering is a part of the human experience, but if we can step back from it, we create a space for something greater to emerge. We can draw on our inner wisdom to ultimately transform our relationship to the suffering which brings forth our inner capacity for happiness, peace of mind and life satisfaction. This 4-week class will provide simple ways to integrate mindfulness practices into your daily life. ”

Larkin will also be available to meet one-on-one with those who are participating in free wellness coaching with Dan Schletty, health and wellness coach at Riverwood. Mindfulness coaching can be particularly helpful for those who are feeling stuck and encountering difficulties moving forward with their wellness goals.

A healing tool for mind and body

Mindfulness practice is a healing tool that has proven benefits for the mind and body. Janet Larson, PhD, family nurse practitioner and mental health specialist at Riverwood, says that she recommends mindfulness practices to 75 percent of mental health patients.

“From a mental health standpoint, just focusing on the right here and right now is so important,” Larson explains. “Even without mental illness, many of us face a lot of stress daily from being bombarded with a lot of things all at once. I regularly advise my patients to get in the car and just drive instead of trying to multi-task while driving—listening to the radio, talking on the phone, and drinking or eating something.”

Larson adds, “For people coping with high anxiety, calming the mind can help them control their heart rate and sleep better too. I ask my patients what they are willing to do and then recommend mindfulness tools such as a breathing exercise, yoga, meditation or workshops.”

“We can’t change the stress in our lives. Life is chaotic and mindfulness is about how we get our brain to process it all. Everyone can benefit from calming the mind. In the health care field, we need to focus on the wellness vs. illness model of patient care. Incorporating mindfulness tools into patient care and treatment is a step in this direction.”

Dr. Tim Arnold, family physician at Riverwood, also finds mindfulness a useful tool to promote wellness among his patients.

Dr. Arnold comments, “I talk with my patients regularly about mindfulness and what it really means. It may be perceived as complicated or difficult, but it really isn’t. We can incorporate this into our lives in very simple ways with very little effort. Mindfulness can have a profoundly positive effect on our physical and mental health. Numerous well designed studies have shown a significant reduction in heart disease and a significant impact on the treatment of depression and anxiety.”

“As a physician, I regularly deal with the problems that modern medicine creates in an attempt to treat disease,” Dr. Arnold adds. “Mindfulness is an incredibly powerful alternative treatment option for many ailments and it comes with no side effects and virtually no monetary cost. I can see the positive physical change in how people look and feel after a 10-minute conversation about mindfulness.”

Kick off the new year with mindful living. Bring more relaxation and calm into your life through mindfulness. Take time for yourself. Live in the moment. Try meditation or yoga. Take a deep breath.

Denton (Denny) Newman Jr.
I've worked at the Brainerd Dispatch with various duties since Dec. 7, 1983. Starting off as an Ad Designer and currently Director of Audience Development. The Dispatch has been an interesting and challenging place to work. I'm fortunate to have made many friends, both co-workers and customers.
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