UM educators work together to make mindfulness guide
COLLEGE PARK — While teaching a nutrition program series, Dhruti Patel, family and consumer sciences faculty with the University of Maryland Extension, was approached by a single mother with three children. The last thing this mom wanted to think about is putting nutritious food on the plate for her or her children — she just doesn’t have time, according to Patel. This mom holds three jobs, has a household to run, and a “healthy meal” doesn’t rank as a priority. Consumed by exhaustion, she needed tools and information from Patel that focused on mental well-being and how she could take care of herself so that she could prioritize taking care of her children.
That offered a new realization for Patel. “I was under the assumption that I was helping my students, but I may have been missing the mark. They were not ready for the nutrition information yet, there were more basic needs that needed to be met,” she said.
Thus began Patel’s journey of looking into stress management and mindfulness in a professional capacity. Eventually, she was taken to a world-renowned Mindfulness-based Stress Reduction evidence-based program, offered by the University of Massachusetts Medical Center.
“As a young girl, I noticed my grandfather engaged in meditative practices; and he looked pretty cool and he was my idol, so I started following in his footsteps and practicing,” said Patel, who has been using mindfulness since she was a child. “I remember it was more of a personal journey. I never thought about that in a professional aspect.”
Patel brought in her own personal experiences through the lens of evidence-based programming, and began developing the guidebook, teaming up with colleagues Amy Rhodes, 4-H youth development specialist, and Erin Jewell, family and consumer sciences nutrition educator, to create a book that would be an all-inclusive resource for people interested in incorporating mindfulness practices into their personal and professional spheres. The new “Mindfulness Activity Guide for Adults” is a full educational program designed to teach people about reducing stress and maintaining a healthy well-being, providing the breadth and depth for those interested in teaching and instruction, as well as incorporating those techniques into our everyday lives.
“There is a plethora of information on types of mindfulness and meditative practices, but there are none which takes you from A to Z of the understanding and background knowledge part of mindfulness. We didn’t want to just focus on practice, but also on background and purpose,” Patel said. “This book was created to serve as something that’s one-in-all that adults can take with them and know everything about the activity or practice.”
“The book itself is a great introduction to what mindfulness is, the types of mindfulness, and how to create an environment of tranquility in order to achieve mindfulness,” said Rhodes, 4-H educator in Wicomico County and one of the authors.
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, long-term stress can harm your health. Continued strain on your body from stress may contribute to serious health problems such as heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, and mental disorders like depression or anxiety. Incorporating mindfulness and meditative practices can alleviate the stress that leads to these debilitating conditions.
This book is useful for any adult, to either take on this understanding of mindfulness activities on a personal note or to the person who would like to be an instructor or use these practices in their daily activities guiding others. The book contains information based on the benefits of mindfulness and meditation in everyday life, as well as meditation and nonmeditation based mindfulness step-by-step guides to practice.
“You could use this in many scenarios,” Rhodes said. “Let’s say you’re getting ready to start a meeting, and you know it’s going to be a long stressful meeting. Maybe you can choose one of the activities from the guide to help people transition into the meeting, or have a mid-morning, mid-afternoon break where you use these tools to help your team de-stress and refresh.”
This book offers the opportunity for beginner to advanced mindfulness practitioners to use this guide to build confidence in leading mindfulness activities and complement existing programs. It’s a tool for educators, professionals, and personal use. “It’s very versatile and adaptable to many different situations. It’s useful for people working with groups, child caregivers, and even single moms.”
The guide incorporates meditation practices, stretching and postures designed to help relieve physical stress, and mindful eating habits, said Jewell, who specializes in nutrition and mindful eating, part of the holistic approach to mindful living. “In our fast-paced world, mindfulness just helps us to slow down and appreciate things; and I think that’s what we need right now, especially as we are currently out of touch with people and things that we lose focus on things that we should be more grateful for.”