Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Relaxation Response Resiliency and Revelations!

Today I embark on a new endeavor. I'm enrolled in The Relaxation Response Resiliency program, an 8-week lifestyle course that is offered through the Benson-Henry Institute for Mind Body Medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital. My first class is tonight, and I'm psyched! The program is designed to teach "a variety of mind body skills and interventions to decrease medical symptoms and build resilience." I hope to benefit personally from this expert course on the power of positive thinking and mind body healing, as much as I hope to make connections in this field and learn about how to better share these skills with others.

This blog began as an outlet for tracking my progress in my self-proclaimed Total Body Happiness initiative, to combine optimized physical health and wellness with the alleviation of stress to increase one essential thing: happiness. In reading, thinking, and writing about this subject, I've recognized how much I consider these skills to be of paramount importance. What is more important to the human experience than figuring out how to be happy and healthy? Compared to that goal, what could possibly matter more? There is evidence all around us that money, status, gadgets, clothes, et cetera are not the answer. These are just some of the many ways people attempt to increase their happiness, but they most commonly backfire. Here's what matters to me: physical well being, strength, and resiliency, plus a positive mental attitude, genuine warmth and a listening ear for others. All so simple, all so essential, and at times all so illusive.

In my first blog entry, I discussed the difference between achievable goals and goals that are destined to fail. I summarized that the key difference between them is intention. To succeed at something, it has to be in sync with your most honest desires, not the desires you wish you had (to never eat cake again -- it's safe to say you don't really want that). If you truly want to feel better, you will invoke your higher mind. This is the "knowing" inside you that exists beneath any of the negativity that has held you down and kept you unwell in body or mind. The Relaxation Response Resiliency program teaches lots of ways to tap into your higher mind, including awareness of the present moment through breathing and positive affirmations. I look forward to sharing more methods here as I learn about them.

Today, I am in the mental, emotional, and physical space where I've sought to be, however, I did not arrive here as I thought I would. I have realized that the higher mind doesn't plan, it simply does. The real you, the whole you, the positive you is always there when you're ready to engage with it. At first, I decided that the only way to achieve my goal of daily exercise and meditation was to regiment those activities into my schedule like a Marine. When I began to approach these activities not as tasks I must complete, but rather as activities that I want to partake in, then they more gracefully found their way into my life.

I genuinely want fresh air; I shouldn't need to force myself. I genuinely enjoy my guided meditation CDs; I don't need to wake up half an hour early to sit and listen to them. Taking the pressure off has made all the difference. As a result, I feel better and my thinking and behavior have improved. Perfect timing to learn more through the Relaxation Response Resiliency program.

Goals & Components:
  • Develop skill in a variety of techniques that elicit the relaxation response
  • Reduce medical symptoms of stress, or ailments that are exacerbated by stress
  • Understand the link between stress and physical/emotional problems
  • Learn to turn off stress through new behaviors and attitudes
  • Appreciate the role of positive thoughts and beliefs in support of mind body healing
  • Successfully incorporate mind body principles and practices, including socialization, into personal health
  • Learn the importance of healthy eating and physical activity to overall health and well-being
Anyone With the Following Would Benefit:
  • Anxiety-Related Symptoms (such as palpitations, shortness of breath)
  • Headaches
  • Gastrointestinal problems
  • Skin problems
  • Pain
  • Sleep disorders
  • Autoimmune disorders
  • Mild/moderate depression
  • MS
  • Fatigue
  • Asthma-related symptoms
  • Allergy-related symptoms
  • Any disorder complicated by stress

One reminder for the day: breathing is always an option. Never deny yourself a pause, a reset from the moment, a breath. From Harvard Health Publications, Harvard Medical School article entitled Take a deep breath, "Deep abdominal breathing encourages full oxygen exchange — that is, the beneficial trade of incoming oxygen for outgoing carbon dioxide. Not surprisingly, this type of breathing slows the heartbeat and can lower or stabilize blood pressure." If you're interested in the power of breathing, you must read this article. It discusses such interesting things as how gender roles and body image contribute to shallow breathing, as well as the negative affects of shallow breathing, and the positive effects of deep breathing. Again, so simple, yet so essential. Are we seeing a connection between what is simple and what is essential? I am.