Mindfulness

What Does Mindfulness Do for You?

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The negative impacts of stress seems to be a part of modern life. But does it have to be that way? Read on to learn how the practice of mindfulness can relieve stress and improve your health. Practical tips included!

(Read Part 1 of this series on mindfulness here!)

by Kristy Gargano, LSW

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In the book A Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Workbook, Bob Stahl and Elisha Goldstein explain, “Today, mindfulness has expanded beyond its spiritual roots and even beyond psychology and mental and emotional well-being. Physicians are prescribing training in mindfulness practice to help people deal with stress, pain, and illness”. The reason health care professionals are prescribing, teaching, and even using mindfulness techniques themselves is because of its evidence-based research on how mindfulness impacts our mind, body and overall health.

how stress affects you

Let’s use stress as an example. Although stress is a normal human response, when confronted with constant stress, such as ongoing health issues, financial issues, or other daily stressors, if we don’t find a way to unwind in a healthy way, we become stuck in that state of stress. We soon struggle to differentiate between life and death situations, such running from a tiger, and everyday issues, such as your boss yelling at you. When these things are happening, our sympathetic nervous system is activated, and our bodies emit stress hormones that prepare us to do things like fighting back or running. Staying stuck in this state can lead to physical symptoms such as

  • headaches

  • muscle tension

  • digestive issues

  • weight gain and more.

The reason this happens is because, when in fight or flight mode, other parts of your body that aren’t necessary for your survival shut down or slow down, like your digestive system. Now insert a daily mindfulness practice, and we can regain control of our minds and bodies. Mindfulness practices will activate our parasympathetic nervous system. The parasympathetic nervous system is responsible for counteracting the effects of the sympathetic nervous system by bringing us back to a calm, regulated state.

Formal vs Informal Mindfulness Practice:

There are two distinct categories of mindfulness that can help you and your body reap the benefits of mindfulness: Formal and informal mindfulness practices. Formal mindfulness practice is typically a scheduled practice that consists of some type of medication lasting 10 to 60 minutes, sometimes more. Informal mindful practice is something you can do anytime, anywhere. It is about bringing non-judgmental awareness to the activities in your daily life.

A few formal mindfulness practice are:

  • Body scan

  • Yoga

  • Progressive muscle relaxation


A few informal mindfulness practice are:

  • Enjoying your favorite beverage

  • Art/creative process

  • Washing dishes


The formal and informal practices listed above are just a few that are available. Because of the growing research and popularity, there is a large number of other resources at your fingertips, and it can become overwhelming to navigate. It may be helpful to find a mindfulness-based practitioner to help support you on finding mindfulness practices that works best for you.

If you need the support of a compassionate counselor who incorporates mindfulness in clinical practice, call Kristy today at 630-480-0060 x 706 or fill out the “Get In Touch” form on our contact page.

Mindfulness: More than a buzzword; More than just sitting with your eyes closed.

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Curious about the true definition of mindfulness? Racing thoughts, trouble relaxing, worry filling your mind? Read more to find out how mindfulness can help you in everyday life.

(A 2 Part Series)

By KRISTY GARGANO, LSW

You’re standing in line at the store. You’re already in a hurry because you need to get to work on time for a meeting. You realize the person in front of you is not only buying items, but also has several returns, and this is   the only lane open… Your head is racing with thoughts about yelling at the cashier to hurry up, and then about how you’re already on thin ice with your boss, and you become increasingly agitated. Caught up in your thoughts, you haven’t realized how tight your chest feels, and the fact that you’re taking short, shallow breaths. Instead of finding ways to calm yourself, you begin to sigh audibly so that the person in front of you, and the cashier might hear you. This, of course, doesn’t speed up the process.

Once you’ve left the store, you race to work, and there’s not one moment given to yourself to check in and slow down. The experience at the store sets the tone for your entire day, and you end up labeling it “a very bad day”. Can you relate to this experience at all? I know I can. And if you could see me, you’d see my hand raised with admission. In this scenario, were you being mindful? No. Was your mind full? Most definitely. I’m sure each one of you reading this can think of a different situation where you were stressed, anxious, or *insert strong emotion here*, and were so caught up in the negativity of the situation that it spilled over into other parts of your day. Can I tell you a secret? It happens to most of us, if not all. The most challenging part, I think, is what happens after we realize how we reacted or responded to situations. Typically, self-judgement sets in, and it takes us even further away from a mindful state.

What is mindfulness?

So, what is mindfulness? Jon Kabat-Zinn explains it as “Paying attention in a particular way: on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgmentally”. Looking back at the above scenario, if you are thinking about what already happened, or what’s to come, you are stuck in the past or thinking ahead to the future, not the present moment.

  • Ruminating about the past leads to → Depression

  • Overthinking and worrying about the future leads to → Anxiety

  • Focusing on the here and now leads to → Awareness, contentment, stillness, being able to settle into whatever is happening in the moment, and much more.

You may be considering, “But Kristy, thinking about the past and future is unavoidable”, and to some degree you are right! We need time to reflect back and plan for our futures. It’s when the past and future get in the way of our living in the here and now that we notice trouble. Don’t worry, this happens to all of us. It is the very second we notice our mind has wandered that we are being mindful. That is what it means to practice mindfulness. The more we bring awareness to our wandering mind in a gentle and kind way, the more we gain control of it. Practicing mindfulness is not a one-and-done kind of deal. That’s why many people call it a “practice”, because it takes repetitive application, and it becomes easier and easier to recognize when you are not being mindful the more you apply it.

Why Mindfulness is Trending

Mindfulness has grown in popularity over the years because, when practiced consistently, it gives results. Mindfulness practices, some of which I will cover more in the coming blog post, have evidence-based research backing its ability to decrease depression, anxiety, and pain, among other things. I have personally found mindfulness has helped me feel more grounded, more aware of the little joys in life, and most importantly, how my body communicates with me in subtle ways that I never noticed before.

If you need the support of a compassionate counselor for racing thoughts, anxiety, worry, or life stress, call Kristy today at 630-480-0060 x 706 or fill out the “Get In Touch” form on our contact page.