Mindfulness and how it is helping battle an eating disorder

    Being aware

    theAQ’s Michelle Twomey talks about mindfulness and how it is helping her battle an eating disorder

    Breathe in: Mindfullness has helped Michelle Twomey reduce the stress in her student life. (Submitted)
    Breathe in: Mindfullness has helped Michelle Twomey reduce the stress in her student life. (Submitted)

    In the basement of the C.C. Jones building at the University of New Brunswick, Jen Rowett begins her group by calling everyone, including myself, to sit along the wall on a yoga mat in a comfortable position and take a few slow deep breaths.

    Mindfulness, the practice of being present in the moment and being fully aware, is the focus of the group led by Rowett. Last Friday was the third hour-long session that included sitting and eating meditations.

    Mindfulness is used to reduce stress and help the body and mind relax. It is a way for anyone with a busy life to take time to focus on themselves. For me, taking time to be mindful has become an important way to reduce my stress, lower my blood pressure and just relax. It was something I was introduced to over my extended Christmas Break when I was diagnosed with anorexia.

    “If you can become aware that you are alive and that you are a breathing human being, it is a really soothing way for the mind to begin to settle down,” Rowett said, referring to the importance of mindfulness in everyday life. “It doesn’t have to take a long time. Just taking a few simple breaths can bring an individual back to the present moment.”

    While everyone else returned to school after Christmas break, I spent the month of January at home in Portland, Maine. I took that time to work on both my mental and physical health through a partial hospitalization program at Mercy Hospital. One of the main components of my day was focusing on mindfulness and how that can improve the quality and energy in my life.

    I focused on breathing, body scanning and relaxing the body to reduce my stress and normalize my eating habits.

    Rowett has been organizing the mindfulness group at UNB for a year now. As a master’s student, she understands the need for stress reduction in a students’ life. She uses a less structured version of mindfulness from the University of Massachusetts Medical School model.

    Paula Graham, a new participant to mindfulness, is also a master’s student at UNB. Graham has done yoga in the past, but was interested in a new way to relax with her busy class schedule.

    “Well most of my week is spent reading papers, writing papers, or having meetings about reading and writing papers,” Graham said. “So, I like to take at least a few hours a week to do something that has nothing to do with school, a time to of refuel.”

    Participating in the mindfulness group last week reminded me of the importance of remembering to be mindful. Now that I’m back into the busy day-to-day student life, it has been easy to forget about mindfulness.

    But being part of the group refreshed my willingness to make the time to take a few deep breaths and come back to the present moment.