The Herald, Sharon, Pa.

February 16, 2014

Mind over matter

Mindfulness can break today’s stressful lifestyle

By Meghan Keely
Herald Writer

SHARON — Your alarm clock didn’t go off, you had no time for coffee, you are running late for work and the guy in the truck beside you thinks it the perfect time to cut you off.

We have all been there, but what if you could control how you react? What if you didn’t feel the need to shout obscenities? What if you could reduce that stress?

Sharon resident Susan Matthiessen believes she has the cure and it is mindfulness.

“Mindfulness is being present and attentive to what is going on internally and externally in the present moment,” Matthiessen said. “There is an ability to be non-reactive in the present moment, to see other possibilities and respond calmly. I teach mindfulness skills and I have seen the results. It helps with depression, anxiety, pain management, stress and more.”

Matthiessen said mindful living consists of meditation practices and learning specific mindful skill sets.

“Some practices are formal which include the mind-body-brain enhancing skill of secular meditation with your eyes closed. Some are practiced with your eyes open, engaging in everyday activities with great attention, awareness and presence. They work together to help train you to face everyday stressful situations in a much more efficient and productive way,” Matthiessen said.

Matthiessen explained through the practice of mindfulness you can change your brain. She suggested the practice makes it possible to “teach an old dog new tricks.”

With the constant disturbances and influx of information in today’s world, many people become stressed. It is normal for someone to be more involved with what happened or what is going to happen, than with the present, Matthiessen explains.

“We are more distracted now then ever in our culture,” she said. “It has a detrimental effect on our work and relationships.”

Matthiessen said through mindfulness one can learn how to be more responsive to life’s triggers, learn to understand the negative thought process and learn personal mental patterns.

“We all have habits that are engraved and triggered by stress,” Matthiessen said. “Some people sit down with a bag of chips and mindlessly eat till the bottom of the bag. They are not aware. Mindfulness makes you more aware and have a conscious mind. It is finding your control and empowerment.”

Matthiessen said one of the skills she teaches is uni-tasking.

“Multi-tasking is no longer a resume booster. It means your focus is distracted between many things,” she said. “Many companies are starting to teach mindful techniques to their employees.”

Other courses taught in mindfulness include mindful stress management; mindful eating and self care; mindful communication and conflict management; mindful leadership; mindfulness in schools; and mindfulness and the brain.

According to Matthiessen, through mindfulness one can improve attention and performance; increase focus; decrease anxiety and depression; improve quality of sleep; decrease experiences of chronic pain; sustain weight loss and health gain; improve brain function and physical structure; increase emotional regulation and negative habit reduction; and increase resilience to impacts of chronic stress.

The origins of mindfulness evolve from ancient Buddhist meditation practices. In the 1970’s Jon Kabat-Zinn founded the modern day practice at the University of Massachusetts Medical School.

“The practice was put into secular format from ancient meditating and beliefs,” she said. “It has really grown in the last 30 years. In a recent report by JWT Worldwide, 2014 was called the year of mindful living. It is going to keep getting more recognized and practiced.”

Matthiessen said she became interested in the connection between mind and body when she took a birthing class in the late 1970’s.

“I was pregnant with my daughter and decided to take a class with a doctor that showed me breathing and relaxation. I wanted a natural birth. This was not a typical Lamaze class. I gave birth to a 10 pound baby with no drugs and I realized there was something to this breathing meditation. I became a massage therapist and in 1990 became certified in hypnotherapy. I turned my focus onto mindfulness specifically and I am a firm believer in it’s benefits.”

Matthiessen is currently working with a group of people to start an online mindful living program and classes for mindfulness.

“It’s still new in this area,” she said. “Have to knock out the misconceptions out of the way. I have trained hundreds of corporate employees in these skill sets. It improves work performance and reduces stress.”

Matthiessen suggests for a person to sit down every day for 10 minutes and practice a simple breathing meditation.

“Our culture pushes instant gratification and mindfulness takes time. There is no perfection to the practice. Do it every day and work with skill sets and it will give you the ability to make different choices in your reactions to life.”

To learn more information on Matthiessen, mindful living and courses offered visit her website at www.tcfml.org.