Yoga instructor Gail Holness is one of the three presenters scheduled for the Mind/Body Connection event. She sees mindfulness as a powerful and transformational tool that anyone can use if they take the time to engage with their thoughts. /Photo courtesy of Gail Holness

Event to build understanding of mind-body connection 

By Nate Smelle

Published Nov. 16 2017

As part of its Haliburton Highlands Community Education Series Community Support Services is hosting two sessions on Wednesday Nov. 22 focused on the mind/body connection.

Beginning at 10 a.m. the morning session will take place at the Lloyd Watson Centre in Wilberforce; and the afternoon session is to be held at the Haliburton Highlands Museum starting at 2 p.m.

Co-organizer of the event Brigitte Gebauer said the programs will be led by three presenters each providing insight on how participants can improve their overall health through practising mindfulness and understanding the mind/body connection.

With a background in meditation she has personally seen how mindfulness along with physical and conscious movement can benefit people suffering from a variety of illnesses or conditions.

“What all the research is telling us now is that the mind/body connection is such an important part of our health” she said.

“Things like mindfulness really improve your capacity to manage life and stress and many illnesses. We thought it was an important topic to bring to the community. There’s an awful lot of people out there who have health issues and maybe using these approaches can help to mitigate those.”

Yoga instructor Gail Holness is one of the three presenters scheduled for the event. When an individual becomes aware of their thoughts Holness said that awareness manifests emotions within their body. Whether that emotion is based in anger or happiness she said it will express itself in their body somehow.

“When we get an emotion it’s the emotions that move us to action” said Holness.

“Our body responds to those emotions and depending on what they are we can be contracting our muscles increasing our blood flow to our hands and our legs increasing our heart rate and our breath or relaxing our arms and legs and increasing the blood flow to our gut. There are all kinds of different things that are happening when we are reacting to our thoughts.”

Once an individual starts to become mindful of their thoughts and how they are reacting to them she said that knowledge enhances their ability to make choices.

“When we practise mindfulness we step back from those thoughts so that a thought can happen” explained Holness.

“We can be calm while it’s happening and in that calmness instead of just reacting like a reflex to our thoughts we can consider a different way of responding that’s going to be healthier. Not just healthier physically but healthier socially. It just multiples because you can’t make a decision to do something without being mindful of what those actions are leading to – whether it’s the food you eat or the argument you decide not to cause.”

As a social worker with the Haliburton Family Health Team Barb Fraser has also been teaching mindfulness through meditation. Her presentation will provide participants with details about what meditation and mindfulness is using a program developed by Dr. Jackie Gardner-Nix at St. Michael’s and Sunnybrook hospitals in Toronto. Fraser also plans to lead a brief meditation as a demonstration for those who would like to learn more and experience a meditation practice.

“I will review the benefits of mindfulness and mediation for health and well-being particularly in helping to manage chronic pain” said Fraser.

“This includes emotional pain such as stress anxiety and depression as well as physical pain that may be the result of an accident or injury illness or health condition.”

Client support co-ordinator with the Alzheimer’s Society Jennifer Stubbert is also scheduled to present. She will be speaking on the Minds in Motion program – a physical activity program with mental stimulation for people with dementia and their caregivers. Minds in Motion is designed to get individuals living with any form of memory loss out into their communities. She said they are also meant to help people enjoy fun and interactive programs in a safe and friendly environment. Stubbert pointed out how studies have shown that by taking part in both physical and mentally stimulating activities people can increase balance mobility flexibility and alertness; increase confidence; reduce isolation; and slow down the progression of dementia.

“Our hope is that this program will help to reduce the stigma that suggests that people with dementia no longer have the cognitive capacity to participate in programs or to contribute meaningfully within their community. This program strives to educate people about the importance of socialization brain health physical activity and positive action to live well with memory loss or dementia.”

For more information on the Mind/Body Connection event and to register contact the Community Support Services office at 705-457-2941.