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City of Hagerstown offers Mindfulness Challenge to help reduce stress

City of Hagerstown offers Mindfulness Challenge to help reduce stress

For many, November can be a stressful month. 

Along with falling leaves and temperatures, the 11th month ushers in the official start to the holiday season. 

The City of Hagerstown is offering a new program as a way to combat excess stress. Fall Into Mindfulness Challenge runs through Thursday, Nov. 30. It is a self-guided online program that consists of a weekly newsletter, and mindfulness motivational tips which can help reduce stress. 

The Mindfulness Challenge is led by certified yoga and meditation instructor Michelle Grimes. 

Grimes said in developing the program, she took cues from Jon Kabat-Zinn, who is internationally known for his work with mindfulness. Grimes said Kabat-Zinn defines mindfulness as paying attention purposefully in a nonjudgmental way. 

“I think that’s really important, especially the (nonjudgemental) part because we have a tendency to judge ourselves (and) others, and it brings about a sense of guilt and stress, and we’re so hard on ourselves,” Grimes said. “The old cliche, we’re our own worse enemy, it holds true. I think if we practice (being) nonjudgemental for ourselves, it will help spread that to others and there will be less judgment in the world,” she said. 

Grimes is hoping to reach a wide audience with the challenge. 

“My goal here is to get as many people involved as possible. Because what we know now through research is that we have a tendency to live in the past and in the future. And so even when we’re sitting here talking, or whatever we’re doing, we have a tendency to think, ‘OK, what’s for lunch?’ What’s for dinner?’ Or you know, what we did yesterday, and it’s just a human condition, it’s what we do, but what research has found is that living a more mindful more aware lifestyle helps to reduce stress, anxiety, depression, etc.,” she said.

The program, which costs $10 per person, can be applied to both children and adults. 

“(Participants are) going to receive the newsletters, which are what I’m going to be doing and the mindfulness motivation, which again, will have tips, techniques, for adults and for children alike. Some simple things like waking up and taking time before getting on electronics, shutting down maybe 15 minutes prior to bed,” Grimes said. “I like to have fun, so (the newsletters) are going to have like a fun tone to them, a playful tone. I feel like that makes it more accessible to everyone.”

Breathing exercises also are included in the challenge. 

“A breathing technique that we use with children is called a balloon breath. So we have children envision a balloon, and we tell them, ‘imagine your belly is a balloon.’ Pick a color of your balloon, so let’s say it’s purple. So we’re going to blow up your purple balloon, so we’re gonna take a deep breath in and they’ll fill their bellies with air and then when they exhale, the purple balloon deflates. And that technique keeps them right centered on the moment to focus on their bellies and their breathing. And what happens too with that one ... it reduces any kind of anxiety that children may feel,” she said, noting she started doing it with her daughter when she was just a year old.  

Getting away from bad habits is another thing that might be alleviated for people who take the Mindfulness Challenge. 

“A lot of us gain weight over the holidays. There’s this whole idea of mindful eating. And it’s being aware of tasting your food versus mindless munching. And it also helps us to tune into, ‘Are we full? Are we eating just to eat? Or are we eating because we’re bored? Are we an emotional eater?’ So it helps you to be present when you’re eating,” she said.

The holidays aren’t the only time or trigger that might cause over eating.  

“A lot of times we eat and we’re on our cell phones, or we’re on our laptops, or we’re eating in front of the television, and we don’t realize that we don’t taste our food. And then we don’t digest properly. And then from that stems all kinds of different health problems from improper digestion,” Grimes said.

Mindfulness, too, Grimes said, can affect your physical health, too. 

“Mindfulness is shown in research to increase brain gyrification, folding of brain tissue, which allows the brain to process information more efficiently. Research also suggests that mindfulness can reduce stress-induced inflammation, which leads to physical ailments,” she said. “Therefore, mindfulness may help reduce rheumatoid arthritis, reduce the risk of heart disease, fight chronic pain (and) aid in weight loss.”

Participants in the Mindfulness Challenge also are eligible for weekly prizes. Participating sponsors include Elmwood Farms Bed & Breakfast, Bella Salon, Discovery Station, Fitness Revolution, Gelato Bliss, Indigo Moon Amber Sun, Public Square Cafe, Pura Vida, Hong Kong Chinese Restaurant, Regenerate Float Center and Tranquility Salon and Spa. 

“We had really generous donations from local businesses, which was incredible. So it’s going to be really fun,” Grimes said.

The course will wrap up at 5:45 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 30, with a workshop in the Fit Room at Fairgrounds Park, 351 N. Cleveland Ave., Hagerstown. During that time, the grand prize for the challenge will be awarded. 

“I’m the grand prize,” Grimes said with a laugh. “I’m offering a $500 value, and it’s basically me for two hours and whoever wins, it can be a group, it can be an individual, and basically it can be workshop style, it can be whatever. It’s basically picking my brain for two hours, about health, wellness, yoga, mindfulness, meditation, all that good stuff.”

About the Mindfulness Challenge

The Mindfulness Challenge is a self-guided course continuing through November to help reduce stress. 

The course is suitable for all ages and is led by Michelle Grimes and offers weekly prizes. 

The cost is $10 and includes a wrap-up workshop from 5:45 to 6:45 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 30, in the Fit Room at Fairgrounds Park, 351 N. Cleveland Ave., Hagerstown. 

To register or for more information, go to www.hagerstownmd.org/1302/Mindfulness-Challenge

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