Mindfulness in Motion: Give Chi-Kung a Try!
We all know personally or through following the media how these unprecedented times may be impacting our mental and emotional states. We may be aware of experiencing these shifts in well-being personally, or be witnessing our family, friends or coworkers struggle with anxiety, depression or difficulty sleeping.
Looking at the pandemic’s impact on our working population – the sector we serve directly through Colorado In Motion’s Industrial Health program – very recent research is showing a devastating impact on worker mental health.
The good news is that many people are seeking out resources for practicing better self-care, including making sure to get outside and move more, learning how to breathe better, learning how to meditate, or trying one of a host of Mindfulness-based practices, such as yoga, meditation, or Tai-Chi. Research into Mindfulness demonstrates a positive impact on mood and mental health across all sectors of society. And often, it’s easier than you think to get started!
So as we wait for things to return to ‘normal,’ we may have an opportunity to reduce feelings of stress and loss of control by practicing Mindfulness.
There may be as many definitions of ‘mindfulness’ as there are people practicing it and experiencing what it means to them personally. In order to talk about it and share our experiences with others, we need a working definition. Here is my favorite (from my first alma mater, UC Berkeley – Go Bears!):
Mindfulness means maintaining a moment-by-moment awareness of our thoughts, feelings, bodily sensations, and surrounding environment, through a gentle, nurturing lens. Mindfulness also involves acceptance, meaning that we pay attention to our thoughts and feelings without judging them—without believing, for instance, that there’s a “right” or “wrong” way to think or feel in a given moment. When we practice mindfulness, our thoughts tune into what we’re sensing in the present moment rather than rehashing the past or imagining the future.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recognize the benefit of Mindfulness-Based Interventions (MBI) such as Yoga, Meditation, Tai-Chi, and Chi-Kung and in 2017 showed that while certain demographics of working people were increasingly using these interventions, greater access for all working people.2 The CDC supports workers through NIOSH and its Total Worker HealthTM program – recognizing that worker Safety and Well-Being are intricately connected.
Some of our Industrial Health employer clients have chosen to offer MBI to their employees at work, and the feedback from our Industrial Yoga and Chi-Kung classes has been encouraging!
If you are curious about some of these Mindfulness-Based practices, I highly recommend trying Chi-Kung. It is a gentle form of movement that allows you to feel more grounded and aware of your surroundings – increasing your awareness of how you are feeling in the present moment. What’s more, you can practice it in shoes or bare feet, indoors or outdoors, with kids preparing for virtual learning at home, or winding-down with a spouse or partner at the end of a busy day.
Here is a link to a video showing how to perform a 15-minute series of exercises that may help you and those you care about to maintain a steadier state of mind and body. The focus is moving slowly while you increase your awareness of your internal ‘environment’ as well as your external ‘environment.’ This increased ‘awareness’ can help you feel more ‘centered’ or ‘grounded’ – what some call being more ‘present.’
And perhaps being more ‘present’ will help us slow down enough to recognize where we do have some control – our breath, our movements – and that the things over which we may have less control are changing.
Dona Leonard is an Occupational Therapist and Industrial Health Director at Colorado In Motion