While the idea of mindfulness may be an emerging concept, incorporating it into your daily habits can help to improve your overall health and wellbeing.
At Pritikin Longevity Center, the powerful transformation that takes place is more than just the physical, it is the mental and emotional as well. As one of our experts, Pritikin's Senior Mind Body Specialist Liza Pitsirilos teaches programs that bring mindfulness into your everyday life to support you living, being and feeling your best.
Learning to Navigate Stress
In order to adopt the practice of mindfulness, one must first understand where their stress is coming from. Nearly everyone is striving for happiness, whether that means making more money, losing weight or improving relationships. According to Liza, however, it is in that striving that people tend to get too caught up in the end goal. In failing to stop and breathe every so often and really take the time for contemplation, the mind continues to be filled with worry, doubt and fear, which in turn only leads to greater stress and inflammation. But rather than avoiding these moments of stress, Liza encourages guests to learn to navigate through them.
"You can experience happiness with the unfolding moment as it is, without changing it," she said. "It's a never-ending process."
In 2014, 77 percent of Americans reported living with physical symptoms that were brought on by stress, according to the American Institute of Stress. That same year, close to 30 percent reported regularly feeling stressed in their career, which often led to missed work. These absences and other stress-related medical costs led to spending by U.S. employers of up to $300 billion that year alone. These feelings of stress have the potential to increase the risk of stroke, heart attack and heart disease. Similar to all working Americans in today's day and age, Pritikin guests have expressed a number of stressors that they feel are always present.
Two years ago as Liza closed a yoga class at the center, she began to notice something. Following the namaste at the end, people were continuing to sit with their eyes closed, breathing, meditating and just being in that moment. For Liza, this indicated that there was a shift happening to people and the way in which they approached mindfulness. The practice of yoga provided them with access to a kind of stillness that enabled them to really be present in the moment.
Though for the majority of guests, the topic of mindfulness and meditation is relatively new, once the conversation was started, Liza saw the desire for continued support.
Putting It Into Practice
There is in fact a way to manage stress and enhance your health and wellbeing through mindfulness and meditation. Breathing exercises, yoga and meditation can all have a significant impact on lowering stress levels. Simply learning how to breathe better can make a big difference.
"There's a growing body of science and research that is showing the impact of mindfulness on people's lives, from reduced anxiety and stress to relieving chronic and physical pain and discomfort," Liza explained. "Similar to the way that yoga has grown and more and more people have begun to adopt it, mindfulness is now moving from something that a small group of new age folks practiced to part of the cultural mainstream."
"It starts with observing the moment and taking that one deep breath."
On the most basic level, it is about paying close attention to the moment in a non-judgmental way, she explained. It starts with observing the moment and taking that one deep breath. Once guests become mindful of their thoughts and emotional state, they gain the power to choose differently. They gain the knowledge and awareness that the response to any given thought is from a physical place. Reaching this place is where that mind-body connection really takes shape.
Peace of Mind for a Powerful Life
Following conversations with guests and hearing feedback that they are looking for ongoing support in practicing mindfulness, Liza and the team at Pritikin developed a new a la carte service, Peace of Mind for a Powerful Life. As mindfulness is not exactly information that can be generalized, the service provides individualized feedback through "wellness catalysts" who customize the process to meet the needs of each guest. This program is designed to support guests returning home from Pritikin who wish to incorporate mindfulness and meditation into their lives on a daily basis, whether they are at home or traveling. The program begins with an initial assessment: a snapshot of the guest's day-to-day to see where mindfulness could impact the quality of life for the guest.
The program includes guided meditation, techniques based on anchoring and visualization and centering tools that allow you to refocus. Each session opens with a check-in on energy levels, stress levels and attentiveness levels. The goal is to help you get acquainted with eventually doing this process on your own.
"This service is about opening up the conversation of what mindfulness is," Liza explained. "It's something that means something different to everyone. In this program in particular, it's an exploration of what mindfulness means in the context of the participant's life. You get personalized attention and care that sets you up for success for taking mindfulness into your everyday life and thus living a powerful life that you love."