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Women Living Well - Spring 2005
Student Papers
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Getting The Most Enjoyment Out of Life: Mindfulness As a Tool to Enhance Well-being

Camilla Culler

Mindfulness can be defined as being consciously aware of your actions, living in the moment without extraneous thoughts or distractions, and engaging in positive, reflective thought patterns. Because we live in an era where life is fast-paced and technology is geared towards making work and travel more efficient, it is often difficult to find the time to take a deep breath and relax. Television, cell phones, the Internet, and palm pilots, though they do help us stay connected to the world in which we live, also serve as a time consuming intrusion and distraction. In our society multi-tasking is viewed as essential. Since we are juggling so many different balls at once, we lose the ability to identify the things that are most important in our lives, and to easily set priorities. We neglect our loved ones, and we start to simply go through the motions of living.

However, many of the people who live a frenzied lifestyle are missing out on the joy of attending to detail and really relishing and enjoying life. Rather than living in the moment some people are always looking towards what is next on the agenda. Being mindful can not only help you to be more relaxed and less stressed physically and emotionally, but it can also allow you to have a deeper sense of satisfaction, to be more contemplative, and to fully appreciate life.

Primarily, mindfulness can be used as a tool to alleviate stress and anxiety. Meditation, when the mind is cleared of all thoughts, combined with deep breathing is a way to give your body and your mind a much-needed rest. In class during Mark Schultz's lecture(1), we practiced a short meditation with our eyes closed. Also, Mark's student spoke about how whenever she feels nervous on her walk over to Mark's office; she concentrates on feeling the ground under her feet and the sunlight on her face. By immersing oneself in the moment, the worries and fears of the present, seem to dissipate and what is left is a feeling of calmness and wholeness. By diminishing the thoughts that are triggering the stress reaction, emotional and physical health will be greatly improved. Also, the immune system will be strengthened and energy levels will increase.

Besides affecting our stress levels directly, mindfulness can also be used as a tool to help maintain healthy exercise levels and to promote good eating habits. Matt Brzycki talked about knowing your body's limits during exercise, and being aware of the signals that your body is sending you to either stop working out or increase your intensity. Also, Mimi Murray discussed how important it is to do a fullness check every once in a while, to see if it is necessary to continue to eat. She explained that we often continue to polish off our food after we have reached the point of satisfaction. By putting down our fork and routinely checking on our hunger status, we will be able to eat to the point of satisfaction rather than to the point of feeling sick. By being aware of our body and our fullness levels when we eat, we can begin to modulate food intake. By being mindful of the experience of eating itself, we can enjoy and savor the tastes and textures of the food, rather than simply gulping it down. This type of conscious awareness regarding the foods we choose to consume can lead to healthy choices and decisions that will support nutrition and physical health.

Finally, mindfulness and awareness are important for the general enjoyment of life. Glenn talked about how it is necessary to be aware of the time you spend in different arenas of life, such as work and family. He explained that one must make sure not to neglect things that are important or to spend too much time on busy work such as phone calls and e-mails. Prioritizing is key, because it helps to achieve balance and stability, and to manage time efficiently. It is important to be aware how you expend your energy. Once you are able to balance your time well, you will be able to do the activities that you love and that make you happy, without sacrificing too much of your life a s a whole, such as job and family.

The combination of alleviating stressful thoughts, eating nutritiously, exercising until you have reached your own specific physical limits, and managing time, all contribute to a persons overall emotional and physical well-being. By placing the emphasis on self-awareness and mindfulness one can have the ability to reach full potential in life and to enjoy every minute of it.


1)Women Living Well Spring 2005, our class website with a link to Mark Schultz's lecture

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