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Mindful : August 2019
PHOTOGRAPHBYTHAISRAMOSVARELA/STOCKSY many of us, and multitask- ing may contribute to our feeling that we cannot get our head above water. In fact, according to the Stress in America Survey, up to one-third of Americans have reported extreme stress in their daily lives since 2013. Neuroscientists have shown that multitasking may not be as productive as we think it is. We shift between tasks in rapid serial progression. This rapid shifting carries a “cognitive load,” or certain amount of mental effort, and each “switch” is asso- ciated with a cost in our brain’s processing ability and speed. How are we dealing with never-ending to-do lists, floundering in a sea of tasks, and feeling the bur- den of daily challenges rel- evant to sexuality? It turns out that they are implicated in the loss of desire for sex in particular. If our brains are perpetu- ally engaged in multitask- ing, as we continually attend to numerous compet- ing demands on our atten- tion, we actually spend very little time living in the pres- ent moment. We vacillate between thinking about the future (planning, worrying, strategizing) and living in the past (replaying scenes, ruminating over conversa- tions, mourning missed opportunities). We spend far more time living outside of the present moment than in the present moment. Brain-imaging stud- ies show that distraction and inattention impair Bathing Mindfully Take a bath or a shower. As you do so, notice par ticular par ts of your body, such as your hands, arms, breasts, stomach, legs, and feet. Focus your attention on your body and let your thoughts simply “be as they are” in the back- ground. Use all of your senses as you do this to enhance the experience. For example, notice the tex ture of your skin, its color, and what sounds or smells might emerge as you bathe. Once you have finished and have dried off, spend a few minutes noticing yourself in a mir- ror. What can you appreciate about your body? (Think about function—not just appearance.) Are there parts of your body that give you a sense of pleasure or pride? Are there any parts of your body that you do not appreciate? Your body is alive. What does it feel like? Are there aspects of your body that deserve more attention? As you do this, notice any emotions you may be feeling, both positive and negative. It will be important to leave this exercise with the feeling that your experience of your body is a balance of things you do like or appreciate and perhaps things you do not or wish were different. Throughout the rest of the day, be aware of your body as you engage in your daily routine. — Lori Brotto our ability to attend to and process sexual cues. Even in a highly sexually arous- ing situation, our brains may not be paying attention to sexual triggers that are necessary to elicit a sexual response. It is as if the body is present but the mind is elsewhere—lost in thoughts, memories, or plans. How Mindfulness Helps Mindfulness is about fully inhabiting the present moment, without trying to change anything. It involves a complete acceptance of who you are and what your experience is—without judgment. Whether it is for the treatment of chronic pain, stress, or arousal, it can be used to tune in instead of tuning out and to bring our full awareness to these bare sensations— moment by moment. There is great variabil- ity in people’s awareness levels of their bodies. For example, some people are aware of their heart rate and can estimate, within a few beats of accuracy, their own heartbeats per minute. Other people are aware of small changes in muscle tension and can use that awareness. There is also evidence that judgmen- tal thoughts about being inadequate or feelings of embarrassment, g uilt, or anxiety can interfere with a person’s interoceptive awareness (awareness of stimuli within the body). In a study from the Uni- versity of Toronto compar- PRACTICE 64 mindful August 2019