Mindfulness is Good for Your Brain When Standing in Line (Guest post by Kelly Wilson)
This week, I’m honored to have Kelly Wilson as my guest. Kelly is a comedian and author who writes about grief, recovery, mental health, abuse, and healing. Today, she shares with us the usefulness of mindfulness, even if it does make you look like a moose.
Mindfulness is Good for Your Brain When Standing in Line
Practicing mindfulness for better mental health is hard.
There is no better place to practice mindfulness than while standing in line at the pharmacy.
The irony is that I was picking up my antidepressants while this whole mindfulness-in-acton situation happened. These magical happy pills are necessary to help my post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, and anxiety, which can sometimes present as rage.
I was the only one in line, waiting for the customer in front of me to be helped so that I could get my one refill and go to my next appointment. The customer at the counter had arrived probably thirty seconds before I had. She had four – or maybe three – prescriptions – I know this because it was “the big question.”
The Pharmacy Lady helping her found the first prescription. Then she wandered to find the second. She moved like the sloth in Zootopia at the DMV.
I gritted my teeth and said to myself, this is the perfect opportunity to practice mindfulness. I thought of the (in)famous quote from Thich Nhat Hanh, which is the basis of my mindfulness practice: “Smile, breathe, and go slowly.”
As the minutes ticked away – closer to my next appointment – I willed the corners of my mouth to turn up into a smile. I grinned like a deranged clown, all plastered smile and flinty eyes. I tried to breathe slowly, in and out through my nose, focusing my awareness on having compassion for the person who was clearly sick and in need of these medications.
It was finally determined that the third prescription was not a prescription at all, but an over-the-counter foot cream. I know this because the foot cream was in the aisle next to where I was standing, and Pharmacy Lady came out from behind the counter – ever so slowly – to go over the foot creams with the customer.
“Brad? Brad!” she called to the pharmacist, still behind the counter and not required to help anyone with anything.
Again, I breathed in and out, faster and faster, as Brad came out from behind the counter to also go over the foot creams. I was almost hyperventilating at this point, still with a smile cut into my facial muscles, which started to ache.
Ten minutes had passed since I had arrived to stand in line to get my one refilled prescription, which had been preordered. At this point, the Pharmacy Lady grabbed the phone to call someone about the fourth prescription.
It could be that I looked like a deranged clown, or that I was breathing like a moose, or that I had whipped out the notebook that I always keep in my purse to take notes, because this was a good story about mindfulness. I’ll never know the reason why the Pharmacy Lady finally asked one of her coworkers to help me out.
Apparently, smiling and breathing in a vaguely threatening manner isn’t the only advantage to practicing mindfulness for good mental health. I started taking my first mindfulness class earlier this year, and I have experienced many benefits related to the different practices I have learned.
The foundation of mindfulness is to purposely connect with the present moment, accepting all of it without judgement. Examined scientifically, this practice alters the structure and function of the brain. Those who practice mindfulness meditation have increased activity in the pre-frontal cortex of the brain, which is the area associated with positive emotion. Several studies have shown changes in brain activity during mindfulness meditation with lasting results; those who have practiced for five years or more have more active areas of the brain involved in the regulation of emotion.
Mindfulness meditation has been shown to improve sleep, reduce chronic pain, relieve stress, and lower blood pressure. Psychotherapists continue to incorporate mindfulness meditation to help treat anxiety disorders, depression, eating disorders, and substance abuse. There are many classes, recordings, smartphone apps, and programs offered for those who want to try mindfulness for better mental health.
Even though you may find yourself breathing and looking a bit deranged while trying to practice mindfulness meditation, this practice can help in a variety of ways and is completely worht it.
Especially if you have to stand in line at the pharmacy anytime soon.
Kelly Wilson is an author and comedian who entertains and inspires with stories of humor, healing, and hope. She is the author of Live Cheap and Free and Don’t Punch People in the Junk. Her latest book, Caskets From Costco, is a finalist in the 18th annual Foreword Reviews’ INDIEFAB Book of the Year Awards and has also been chosen as a finalist in the 10th annual National Indie Excellence Book Awards. As a survivor of childhood sexual abuse, Kelly writes and speaks about finding hope in the process of recovery. Kelly writes for a living and lives with her Magically Delicious husband, junk-punching children, dog, cat, and stereotypical minivan in Portland, Oregon. Read more about her at http://www.wilsonwrites.com and connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, Pinterest, Instagram, and YouTube.