Self-Care with Power of the Mind
Our thoughts are powerful and can affect our physical, mental, and emotional health. Your mind can affect your body—for example, you can use the power of your mind to lower blood pressure or control pain. Practicing mindful awareness helps you use the connection between your body and mind. Mindful awareness (also referred to as mindfulness) is paying attention in a particular way: on purpose, in the present moment, and nonjudgmentally. It helps you to be aware of thoughts and feelings.
We often think of our bodies and minds as separate, but common statements such as, “gut feeling,” “stress headache,” or “butterflies in my stomach” acknowledge the connection. It is helpful to notice the connection between your body and mind so you can use each to support the other. By calming your mind, you can calm your body and allow it to function better. You can notice this by taking calming breaths to decrease feelings of stress or by doing a guided meditation to decrease your heart rate. Your Whole Health includes all of you – working together with mindful awareness to guide you to an optimal state.
Mindfulness is simple. Not easy, but simple! Jon Kabat-Zinn calls it, “living your life as if it really matters.” What do we do when something really matters to us? We pay attention to it. While mindfulness can be practiced in many ways, the goal is to live our day-to-day lives while paying attention and being present. If you are washing the dishes, keep your mind on washing the dishes, if you are talking to someone, stay there. It’s easy to time travel to a conversation this morning or to an activity tonight and to walk your body around the world without your mind. Like driving and texting, it is unlikely to go well.
Be kind to yourself. When you notice that your mind is not with your body, gently bring it back. Your task in a moment may be processing the past or planning for the future. If your task is washing dishes, notice the water, the soap, the towel. Allow yourself the restful experience of doing one thing at a time. You may be surprised at how much more manageable life is one moment at a time, taking things as they come.
Power of the Mind Approaches
- Biofeedback – Using biofeedback you learn to change some ways that your body works, such as your breathing, heart rate, and muscle tension, using signals from your own body as a guide.
- Breathing Exercises – You can use deep breathing exercises to become calm and to help treat conditions that stress may cause or make worse.
- Meditation – In meditation, you train your mind to focus on your breathing, a word, or an image. You do not pay attention to what is going on around you. This helps your mind and body relax.
- Progressive Muscle Relaxation (PMR) – With PMR, you relax all of the muscles in your body in order, one group at a time. You can do this by first tensing a muscle and then relaxing it. This helps teach you how muscles feel when they are tense. A second way, called progressive relaxation, is to focus on relaxing the muscles without tensing them first.
Power of the Mind Practice Resources
- Video: Whole Health - Power of the Mind
This video explains how thoughts affect the body and how the body affects thoughts, along with how to harness the mind-body connection to improve well-being.
- Featured Story: Reduce Stress Through Mindfulness - Whole Health
In this article, two mindfulness experts discuss how the practice improves well-being by reducing stress, developing resilience, managing pain, and improving anxiety and depression.
- App: Mindfulness Coach | VA Mobile
This app leads users through steps to learn how to practice mindfulness to reduce stress and cope with unpleasant thoughts and emotions.
- PHI (Personal Health Inventory) and PHP (Personal Health Plan Wallet Card)
The Personal Health Inventory is the first step toward you and your care team building your Personal Health Plan.
Learning to calm your mind takes practice. What is most beneficial for one person may not be the preferred method for another. The #LiveWholeHealth Blog Series has a variety of short videos you can use to explore and practice power of the mind activities. These videos include breathing exercises, tai chi demonstrations, progressive muscle relaxation techniques, Yin meditations as well as many others.