Upstate doctor speaks to SU about mindfulness

Upstate doctor speaks to SU about mindfulness

Healthy Monday Syracuse brings Dr. Kaushal Nanavati to campus on Monday to give a lunch lecture on mindfulness, in honor of National Public Health Week.
Published: April 7, 2018

Dr. Kaushal Nanavati believes that only two things are necessary to be happy in life: contentment and peace.

The key? Mindfulness, in which you can achieve both, he says.

On April 2, in honor of National Public Health Week, the Lerner Center for Public Health Promotion held a Monday lunch lecture on mindfulness and meditation to emphasize redefining public health through health promotion.

Nanavati, director of Integrative Medicine at the Upstate Cancer Center and Assistant Professor of Family Medicine at Upstate Medical University, led the lecture and spoke to faculty and students about the benefits of incorporating mindfulness into their daily routines. Mindfulness can effectively help to manage stress and boost psychological and physical health, he says.

There are two features of being mindful. The first is rooting your attention and awareness in the present.

“You can re-center yourself just by taking a deep breath,” says Nanavati.

The second feature is a shift in the state of mind; it is important to adopt an attitude of openness and acceptance toward your experiences, Nanavati explains.

Once you acknowledge the new reality, you can start toward change from a place of acceptance rather than a place of rejection.

“It’s a way to redefine your purpose,” says Nanavati.

Rather than focusing on every factor of stress in your life at any given point, being mindful helps you focus only on the things that you can control. Nanavati advises making two stress lists: one of the things you can change, and the other you have no control over. Focus on the first one, and check off things as you go. This way, Nanavati says, you prove to yourself that you are actively taking care of yourself.

Mindfulness has physiological benefits as well. Being mindful catalyzes a biochemical change, says Nanavati. It boosts your immune system and has been found to have disease-specific benefits, including helping patients relieve cold and flu symptoms, psoriasis, irritable bowel syndrome, and distress from diseases such as breast cancer. Mindfulness has found its place in the medical field, with formal interventions implemented such as mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) programs and mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT). These programs can be done at home, too; for example, you can take a free eight-week MBSR course at PalouseMindfulness.com.

“Even without access to external resources, we all have our own breath, our own mind.”

Meditation is an effective and accessible way to improve in mindfulness on your own, says Nanavati. During the lecture, he demonstrated several ways to incorporate meditation and mindful breathing into one’s daily routine. One method suggested placing a piece of chocolate on your tongue and breathing mindfully until it had fully melted. By keeping the focus on the melting chocolate, you can practice keeping your mind centered on the moment. But, like all things, such focus takes time. “It’s okay if your mind wanders,” says Nanavati. “If you don’t like what you’re thinking, interrupt and shift your thoughts slightly.”

Mindfulness is a completely individual experience that can have different effects on different people. It’s best to start small — a few minutes of deep breathing — and work your way up to full meditation practices, advises Dr. Nanavati. Eventually, mindfulness can contribute to a state of acceptance and forgiveness that ultimately leads to contentment and peace, he says.

Along with mindfulness techniques, Dr. Nanavati encourages incorporating core fundamentals of wellness into each day including nutrition, physical exercise, stress management, and spiritual wellness. Learn more about his core principles in his most recent book, Core 4 of Wellness.

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is a magazine journalism senior and contributor to the NewsHouse at S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications.