Enhancing Daily Joy Through Mindfulness
Posted 2/22/2016 by UHBlog
If you feel stressed from a sense that you’re thinking too much, or feel that your mind is too busy, this may be affecting your personal happiness, says mindfulness coordinator Suzanne Cushwa Rusnak, MEd, MSSA.
“When we stop to notice, we’re usually thinking ahead to the future – planning, worrying, or of the past – remembering, regretting,” she says. “When we know intellectually that the only moment we have to actually live is the present one, it can be very beneficial to our nervous systems – and to our sense of well-being, to be aware of the life we’re living in the moment we’re actually living it.”
Mindfulness isn’t getting rid of the clutter of everyday live, as much as it is becoming aware of the clutter and taking joy in the small things – the feel of a quilt on your skin as you get into bed or how the sun glints off the snow.
“Mindfulness doesn’t mean acknowledging things that are large or grandiose,” she says. “There are little things that otherwise would go unnoticed. When we stop to see them and experience life moment-by-moment, they add up and enhance our overall joy.”
Practicing mindfulness doesn’t require special equipment or any extra time, and there are no specific steps to happiness. Although meditation is an important part of the process, you can devote as much or as little time as you have available. In other words, don't get stressed about achieving mindfulness.
Physiologically, mindfulness calms the sympathetic nervous system, the one that regulates our “flight or fight” response. This, in turn, calms both our mind and body. Practiced regularly, mindfulness:
- Reduces blood pressure
- Lessens anxiety and stress
- Wards off depression
- Reduces sensitivity to pain
- Improves well-being
“When we have true awareness of the moment and what is going on within and around us, we tend to see more clearly what our options are,” she says. “We have choices we aren’t aware of when we're on autopilot. Mindfulness allows us to take ourselves off autopilot and take advantage of all of our choices. That can bring a lot of joy.”
Mindfulness doesn’t stop your minds from thinking, says Rusnak, who likens it to becoming an engineer of your train of thought. It isn’t a method of pushing the clutter from your daily lives as it is a way to settle the clutter – like the inside of a snow globe.
“I truly believe that mindfulness can help everyone add joy to their lives,” she says. “It is a very human practice that doesn’t ask you to do anything new. Just to remember important things we have forgotten.”
Suzanne Cushwa Rusnak, MEd, MSSA is the coordinator of mindfulness programming at University Hospitals Connor Integrative Health Network. You can request an appointment with Rusnak or any other UH Connor Integrative Health Network provider online.