Mindfulness, Meditation and Disease Prevention Briefing

August 5, 2016

by Cassie Smith

Mindfulness, Meditation and Disease Prevention Briefing
June 15, 2016

We know stress can have a negative impact on health, but sometimes it’s unavoidable. The key is to learn how to better manage stressful situations and regulate our emotions.

Mindfulness Briefing PhotoOn June 15, Rep. Tim Ryan (OH), author of “A Mindful Nation: How a Simple Practice Can Help Us Reduce Stress, Improve Performance, and Recapture the American Spirit,” hosted a discussion at the U.S. Capitol about the role meditation and mindfulness play in disease prevention, stress reduction and healthy living. Representatives Rick Nolan (MN), Jim McGovern (MA) and Shelia Jackson Lee (TX) and several Congressional spouses were among those who attended.

Congressional Families Program Executive Director Lisa McGovern introduced Rep. Ryan who became a convert to mindfulness following the 2008 election. After a five-day meditation retreat, culminating in 36 hours of silence, he found his mind sharper than ever before. Now he practices daily and has pushed for meditation in Ohio schools, for veterans suffering from PTSD and for members of Congress and staffers on Capitol Hill.

 Along with his wife Andrea, a school teacher and mother of three, Rep. Ryan answered questions from attendees on how they utilize the practice in everyday life while being pulled in multiple directions. The goal is to focus fully on whatever you are working on or whoever is in front of you. This means breaking from a culture that often values multi-tasking and using multiple technological devices at once.

Rep. Nolan talked briefly about his own experience with meditation, which he has been practicing for 40 years. Despite noticing the positive effects, he is still “looking for that discipline,” a reminder that this skill strengthens over time.

Meditation specialist Patrick Coffey, who co-founded The Blue Ridge Prison Project to train inmates in mindfulness at Virginia’s maximum-security prison for women, led the group in several meditation exercises. The room fell nearly silent as he coached the group through the sessions of deep breathing and focusing on the moment. Mr. Coffey noted that major medical universities are researching the benefits of mindfulness practices on the immune system, adding to a growing body of evidence on the health benefits of meditation.

If you are interested in trying meditation, check out these tips:

  • Start with a simple dose — Five to ten minutes a day is a good start for beginners.
  • Find support — Mr. Coffey mentioned a group of his students who gather on a silent morning phone call for five minutes of mediation each day.
  • Look for resources online — You can find numerous meditation tutorials online that can be done at home. Several attendees also suggested smartphone apps, including Calm and Headspace, which could be especially useful when traveling.
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