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Learning to be 'mindful'

The course I took focused on utilizing mindfulness when in stressful situations such as relationships, work, medical pain, panic, and general anxiety. I signed up for an eight-week series of classes.

Each class varied a bit and participation was necessary. We had homework, which included writing down times during the day when we felt different emotions and the circumstances surrounding them. We wrote down what we ate, if we ate it mindfully, notes on the texture, taste, and smell of the food.

What did I find most interesting?

We did "body scans" in class, which included lying stretched out on the floor, eyes closed, and listening to a given recording. It made us be aware, focus on each part of our body – and really feel how each was doing – noticing any pain, tingling, stillness, etc. Basically it was a lesson in learning to listen to my body. It was well past time.

It's funny the things you can only realize when you slow down and actually stop. We did yoga, mindfully. It wasn't about sweating as much as possible or flowing, it was about moving with purpose and staying present.

In the first few weeks we were asked to take a few breaths in times that typically frustrate us prior to reacting – such as being stuck in traffic, running late to work, or waiting in line behind someone at a coffee shop that is ordering for a group. A month before this course, I would have been getting frustrated and irritated, letting it elevate my mood for a period of time.

Now I was taking a few breaths and thinking about my breaths; my response wasn't the same. Similar to fight or flight mode, right? There are many opportunities for us to get irritated, upset, or distracted each day and this course was teaching me to re-ground myself, take a few breaths, and then evaluate the matter at hand.

Why overwhelm and run down our bodies, internally or externally, when it's not necessary?

It makes sense.

"Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In response lies our growth and our freedom." – Viktor E. Frankl

I still find this quote impactful, nearly four years after taking the course. Along with this, I still practice some techniques that I learned in the course – such as finding my breath, asking myself how I feel or how an event made me feel, and being still at the end of the day, free from distractions, running my own sort of body scan and just check in with myself. It's so simple. Why didn't I learn this earlier?

Shelby Ramsey is a health journalist and publisher of


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