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Mindful Self-Care for the New Year by Madiha Saeed, MD

A wave is coming. Can you feel its building momentum? Each new year brings with it an upsurge of new intentions, past regrets, and over-extended to-do lists. You have two options on setting the tone for the new year; to be swallowed up whole, struggling for air, not knowing if you will make it out of the first quarter of 2019 or not or to learn to ride the waves until they eventually smooth out.

Stress, work, family responsibilities, and routines can trap you in a pattern of negative thinking that feeds on itself and creates more stress and unhappiness. This cycle often leads to other ailments including fatigue and depression, and eventual drowning in our own remorse. How can we learn to surf the waves? One way is by creating some inner peace with gratitude and mindfulness. Let me explain….

Gratitude

Gratitude is an emotion expressing appreciation for what one has. Being thankful helps to create a subconscious world of positivity, that governs 90% of our thoughts and actions. The positive energy boosts optimism, which in turn helps prevent disease and improves our immune system, well-being, and sense of happiness; no matter what the world is throwing at us.

Gratitude is not just some feel-good action; practicing it daily, not just around holiday-time, is proven to have actual physiological consequences. It helps lower inflammatory markers, influences epigenetics, and even helps the heart, adding years to life. “Heartfelt” emotions—like gratitude, love, and caring—produce “sine” or coherent waves radiating to every cell of the body. All determined through technology that measures changes in heart-rhythm variation and measurements of coherence. Research shows that with “depleted” emotions—like frustration, anger, anxiety, and insecurity—the heart-rhythm pattern becomes more erratic and the brain recognizes this as stress. This in turn creates a desynchronized state, raising the risk of developing heart disease and increased blood pressure, weakening the immune system, impairing cognitive function, and blocking our ability to think clearly.

According to a study published by the American Psychological Association in 2015, a grateful heart is also a happier and healthier heart, literally. They found that higher gratitude scores were proportional to a better mood, higher-quality sleep, more self-efficacy, less inflammation and improved heart health. Gratitude makes us optimistic. Being optimistic improves our health and has been proven to improve our immune system and lower inflammation.

Practical ways to Prасtісе Grаtіtudе

Nоw thаt уоu’rе mоrе aware оf why іtѕ so іmроrtаnt tо рrасtісе gratitude, уоu mау bе wondering how уоu саn bеgіn рrасtісіng being thankful іn your daily life. Hеrе are ѕоmе ѕіmрlе wауѕ уоu can ѕtаrt being grаtеful tоdау:

  • Wake up Grateful. Immediately when you wake up, think of 10 things that you are grateful for. This makes sure that every day you wake up on the right side of the bed.
  • Kеер a Grаtіtudе Journal – Onе оf thе best wауѕ tо practice grаtіtudе is to kеер a jоurnаl. Rеѕеаrсh ѕhоwѕ thаt this іѕ оnе оf thе best wауѕ tо nurture a thankful mindset. Gеt yourself a journal, оr еvеn a nоtеbооk, аnd ѕtаrt wrіtіng down thіngѕ уоu’rе thаnkful fоr еасh day оr even just оnе dау a wееk.
  • Post Phоtоѕ, Words, and Items оf Grаtіtudе Around Hоmе аnd аt Wоrk – Rеmіnd уоurѕеlf tо bе grаtеful bу роѕtіng photos, wоrdѕ and іtеmѕ оf grаtіtudе around уоur hоmе and аt wоrk. Quоtеѕ thаt іnѕріrе you to feel grаtіtudе or рhоtоѕ thаt mаkе you fееl grateful wіll hеlр уоu focus оn grаtіtudе.
  • Start Sауіng “Thаnk Yоu!” – Sіmрlу saying “thаnk you” tо реорlе more often wіll help уоu practice grаtіtudе.
  • Lеt Friends аnd Fаmіlу Mеmbеrѕ Know You’re Thаnkful fоr Thеm – Tаkе time to lеt уоur frіеndѕ аnd family mеmbеrѕ know thаt уоu are thаnkful fоr thеm. Prасtісе grаtіtudе bу wrіtіng a thank уоu nоtе, a special letter оr ѕеnd a text tо lеt thеm knоw hоw grаtеful you аrе to hаvе thеm іn уоur lіfе.
  • Prасtісіng Grаtіtudе аѕ a Fаmіlу аt Dinner – When уоu ѕіt down to a fаmіlу dіnnеr, gо аrоund the table аnd hаvе each person ѕау ѕоmеthіng thеу are grаtеful for before уоu eat.

Mindfulness

Mindfulness is how you’re feeling right now in THIS moment, internally and externally. Staying calm and present in the current moment will help to bring your nervous system back into balance and decrease stress. Being present helps you to not worry about the past and future, and it limits stress; it can be applied to almost any activity you are engaging in (eating, exercising, walking, meditation, and/or working). Mindfulness allows us to see our internal and external environment clearly, showing us how best to respond and be fully aware of many different levels of perceptions at once.

Practicing Mindfulness 

  • To practice a mindful meditation, choose a quiet, relaxing, and comfortable environment. Unplug from electronic devices, free yourself from obligations.
  • Keep your spine straight, sitting up.
  • Choose a point of focus—an internal feeling, external word or phrase, a calming imaginary scene or an object in your surroundings.
  • Eyes can be either open or closed.
  • Develop an observant, noncritical attitude, becoming aware of your physical sensations. If you do get distracted, gently turn your attention back to your point of focus.
  • Concentrate on your breath and be grateful.
  • You can help slow down your thoughts by focusing on something else, like your breath, a special image, or prayer.

With the waves of worry, thoughts and checklists that fill our minds, it is easy to succumb. With meditation and positivity, one can transform their body for the better in a very powerful way, refreshing the spirit, lowering inflammation and learning to ride the waves to survive the new year and life’s stresses. So, go ahead with a grateful heart and deeply, mindfully breathe; you’ll ride the waves easier and much more enjoyably this year.   You got this!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

MADIHA SAEED, MD is a practicing board-certified family physician in Naperville and a traditionally published author of a best-selling book, The Holistic Rx: Your Guide to Healing Chronic Inflammation and Disease. Madiha Saeed, MD a mother of 4 holistically raised boys (who also educate the world), on social media she is Holistic Mom, MD, is the director of education of Documenting Hope (a national organization dedicated to healing chronic disease in children), writes for Holistic Primary Care, and speaks internationally igniting the world with my energy and passion to ignite a healing revolution! She has appeared in numerous prestigious holistic online summits, radio, newspaper, and even international Emmy winning medical talk shows.