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Make Mindfulness Part of Your Daily Routine in 2019

Be mindful and enjoy the moment.

Now that the busy holiday season is over, it’s a time to reflect on the past but prepare and refocus for the new year ahead. As we focus on the new year, it is always refreshing to have a clean slate.  As the year begins to unfold, there are tips to help you manage your day-to-day stress levels.  It begins with mindfulness.

What is mindfulness?
Mindfulness means paying attention in a particular way; on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgmentally.”   Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn (1991)

Mindfulness is best thought of as a way of being rather than an activity Almost any activity can be carried out with mindful awareness.

Three Key Features of Mindful Awareness:  

  1. Purpose –  intentionally and purposefully directing your attention rather than letting it wander.
  2. Presence – being fully engaged with and attentive to the present moment. Thoughts about the past and future that arise are recognized simply as thoughts occurring in the present.
  3. Acceptance – being non-judgmental toward whatever arises in the moment. This means that sensations, thoughts, and emotions are not judged as good or bad, pleasant or unpleasant; they are simply noticed as “happening” and observed until they eventually pass (Naik, Harris and Forthun 2016).

Mindfulness is a mind-body practice that has been found to benefit both psychological and physical health. The primary psychological change that occurs during mindfulness practice is an increased awareness of thoughts, feelings, and sensations in the present moment. Over time, mindfulness practice can help you to become aware of the space between noticing experiences and reacting to them by letting you slow down and observe the processes of your mind (Black 2010).

The ultimate goal of mindfulness practice is for you to take advantage of this space so you can make more intentional decisions – to wake up from living life on autopilot, based on unproductive habits of mind
(Black 2010; Walach et al. 2007).

According to the American Psychological Association, some empirically supported benefits of mindfulness include the following (Davis & Hayes 2011):

Psychological Benefits

  • Increased awareness of one’s mind
  • Significantly reduced stress, anxiety, and negative emotions
  • Increased control over ruminative thinking (a major cause and symptom of depression and anxiety)
  • Increased mental flexibility and focus
  • More working memory
  • Decreased distracting thoughts
  • Decreased emotional reactivity
  • Increased capacity for intentional, responsive behaviors
  • Increased empathy, compassion and conscientiousness of other’s emotions

Physiological Benefits

  • Enhanced immune system functioning
  • Increased brain density and neural integration in areas responsible for positive emotions, self-regulation, and long-term planning
  • Lowered blood pressure
  • Lowered levels of blood cortisol (a major stress hormone)
  • Greater resistance to stress-related illnesses such as heart disease

Spiritual Benefits

  • Increased self-insight and self-acceptance
  • Increased acceptance of others
  • Increased compassion and empathy
  • Increased sense of morality, intuition, and courage to change
  • Increased control over automatic behaviors
  • Increased self-discipline

The question is, how many of us would like to benefit from mindfulness if it provides these positive benefits?  All of us should strive to lower our stress level and enjoy our daily lives with a more positive attitude and more attentiveness. So, how can we  incorporate this into our lives?  The majority of this practice is about familiarizing yourself with what it feels like to be mindful, and getting better at “remembering” to maintain mindful awareness.

Experiment with creating your own mindfulness practices throughout your day. Being mindful of the sensation on the soles of your feet as you walk to your car or the taste and texture of your morning coffee can transform routine moments into deeply satisfying practices. However, having a ritualized and structured practice can be beneficial. To find out more about practicing mindfulness and how to incorporate a more structured practice in your life visit read Mindfulness: An Introduction.  

Sources:  Mindfulness: An Introduction. 2013, 2016.  Retrieved from the UF/IFAS Extension Electronic Data Information System:  https://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/fy1381.  Publication #FCS2335

 

Handling the Holiday Blues

Christmas tree

Aim to find JOY in this holiday season.

As the holiday season quickly approaches, many people are filled with extra holiday cheer and enthusiasm.  Some are jolly but still overwhelmed with all of the activities, decorating, and shopping that needs to be completed.  Then, there are those that find the holiday season as a reminder of things such as the death of a loved one, family feuds, divorce…the list goes on. If you are feeling this way, here are a few tips to make getting through the season a little bit easier.

  1. Feel your emotions – Many people want to suppress their sadness or anxiety, but this only makes it worse. We are all allowed to grieve, cry and feel mad at times.  If you feel this way, let yourself feel your feelings.  You will feel better once you have accepted and worked through the emotions. You also do not have to force yourself to feel happy just because it is the holiday season.
  2. Reach out to others – Instead of secluding yourself, spend time with others whether it’s at church, a community group or with family and friends. Spending time with others and socializing is good for the spirit.
  3. Volunteer – There are tons of volunteer opportunities during the holidays.  Try something new and volunteer your time to a worthy cause.  You’ll feel great about helping others and contributing to a cause.A national survey commissioned by UnitedHealth Group talked to 3,351 adults and found the majority of participants reported feeling mentally and physically healthier after a volunteer experience.
    The research showed:
    *  96% reported volunteering enriched their sense of purpose in life
    *  94% of people said volunteering improved their mood
    *  80% of them feel like they have control over their health
    *  78% of them said volunteering lowered their stress levels
    *  76% of people said volunteering has made them feel  healthier
    *  About a quarter reported their volunteer work helped them manage a chronic illness by keeping them
    active and taking their minds off of their own problems
    *  Volunteering improved their mood and self-esteem
  4. Be realistic – Realize that times and traditions change as families grow and age. Do not focus on things having to be the same every year.  Be willing to accept changes, such as adult children may not be able to attend the family gathering, so utilize technology and talk through video conferencing, share pictures on email and/or Facebook.  Find a way to make it work.
  5. Set aside differences for everyone’s sake. Aim to accept family and friends the way they are, even if they do not meet your expectations. Leave grievances at the door for the day and enjoy your family and friends. Share those grievances and talk at a more appropriate and private time. Also, remember they could be feeling the stress of the holiday too. So, be patient if someone is grouchy or sad as you celebrate.  You may both be feeling the same way.
  6. Learn to say no – Be realistic in the number of activities you and your family can participate. Do not feel guilty because you cannot attend every party and event you are invited too.  Graciously decline an invite and share that your schedule is booked, but thank them for thinking of you. A host does not expect that everyone will attend their parties.
  7. Take a breather as needed – If you start to feel overwhelmed with anxiety, anger or sadness take a few minutes to be alone. Take 15 minutes to spend in the quiet to reduce the stress and clear your mind. For example: listen to soothing music, do a few mindful breathing exercises to slow yourself down or read a book to temporarily escape the stress.
  8. Seek professional help as needed – there are times when the emotions are just too overwhelming to sort through on our own. If you continue to feel sad, anxious, angry, etc. there is absolutely no shame in seeking the help of a doctor or mental health professional. It will only help you work through your feelings with a non-bias person. Helping yourself feel better will improve your quality of life and those around you.

Learn to take care of yourself first. Learn your limitations and accept them.  Don’t t let other’s expectations overwhelm you.  Just remember when you start feeling extreme levels of emotions and/or stress, take a few deep breathes and remind yourself to relax and feel the moment.  Be mindful of your surroundings and remind yourself of your many blessings even when going through difficult times.  Make it your personal goal to feel your feelings and enjoy what you can about the holiday season whether it is the twinkling lights, time with friends and family, the food or any of the many special holiday traditions.

Striving for and maintaining a healthy lifestyle is an achievable goal and a National 4-H Council mission mandate for all of our 4-H members, families and volunteers.  To learn more about healthy lifestyles and 4-H, find your local UF/IFAS Extension office.

Sources:

2017 National Youth Science Day

As part of National 4-H Week, 4-H’ers participate in 4 H National Youth Science Day (NYSD), the world’s largest youth-led science experiment. This year’s 4 H NYSD event will take place on October 4. The 2017 4‑H National Youth Science Day Challenge is called Incredible Wearables!  This year’s challenge was developed by University of Nebraska-Lincoln and incorporates the fast-evolving field of wearable technology, teaching kids to not only use technology but to create it and understand how it works.

From watches and eyewear to fashion and virtual reality headsets, wearable technologies are fast becoming the must-have accessory for forward-thinking people around the world. Wearable technologies didn’t start out as trendy however – one of the world’s first wearable technologies was the hearing aid! Wearable technologies are now used in industries around the globe, from education and sports, to health, fashion, entertainment, transportation and communication. In this year’s challenge, youth use the engineering design process to build a prototype wearable technology that will gather data to help solve a real-world problem. They will design and build their own low-cost wearable health monitor following the engineering design process. This process includes defining the problem, designing and building prototypes (solutions) then systematically testing and evaluating enabling them to redesign for optimization of wearability and functionality.

During the innovative, hands-on project, these future engineers must work together to design, build and refine a wearable health-tracking device that is easy-to-use and aesthetically appealing. In fact, youth from Bay County have been training with their adult leaders to teach this challenge to other youth in their community on National Youth Science Day. Jason Scott, from Scott Innovative Solutions and an engineer at NSA PC, teamed up with the Bay County 4-H Agent to teach youth and adult partner teams about this project enabling them to be able to share their knowledge with others on October 4. When participants will attempt to solve the problem of people not staying active enough to lead healthy lives. In fact, youth will build a prototype fitness tracking device that could ultimately be marketed and sold to consumers to positively affect fitness behaviors.

After completing the challenge youth will have had an experience of using the engineering design process to build a device to help them monitor their health so they can gather data to make better decisions. They will understand more about how wearable technologies like FitBits, Smartwatches and other wearable devices are made.

The field of wearable technologies continues to grow in both quantity and quality. New technologies are being developed and put on the market on a regular basis, including virtual reality and augmented reality devices, clothing and accessories, as well as health monitoring devices. The future of wearable technologies is limited only by the imaginations of those designing them. By studying STEM and participating in this National Youth Science Day Experiment, youth could use technologies to develop products and mechanisms we haven’t even thought of, but definitely desire! To find out more information about other 4-H programs like this or volunteer your time to work with youth, contact your local UF IFAS County Extension Office or visit http://florida4h.org.

Comparing device to prototype

 

Bleeding Green with Senior 4-H’er Danielle Tinker

Danielle with her state officer team and Adam Putnam, Florida Commissioner of Agriculture and 4-H Alum.

Danielle with her state officer team and Adam Putnam, Florida Commissioner of Agriculture and 4-H Alum.

How do you 4-H? Through 4-H, youth can participate in clubs, mentorship, project mastery, competitions, local, state, and international trips, and service opportunities unlike any other youth development program in the country. Along with specific skills, 4-H also works to impart life skills, or workforce readiness skills, to its youth. One of the best ways 4-H teaches leadership and responsibility to youth is by giving youth the power to choose how involved they will be and take ownership over what their experience will look like. When youth choose in fully to 4-H, the results are remarkable and inspiring. When our Senior 4-H’ers (14-18 year olds) take advantage of all that is available to them, the impact is a rewarding one. One can observe Senior aged 4-H’ers youth who are both driven to challenge themselves and who take ownership of their own success in 4-H and of their county and state program at large. One such extraordinary example is State 4-H Council Treasurer, Danielle Tinker of Escambia County, FL. 

Danielle affectionately says she had to “beg” her mother to get her involved in 4-H. That kind of drive is indicative of the approach Danielle has taken in her 4-H experience overall. “One of the greatest things about 4-H is that it has given me opportunities to try so many new and different things. Some of them… I am glad to have been exposed to them and had opportunity to learn about those things…Then there are areas and events that have changed who I am and where I will end up in life.” Because Senior 4-H youth are able to define their experience, they can explore the depth of their interest area. Sometimes only by trying on various projects do youth find the field that drives them most of all. After pursuing projects like hiking, camping, drama, participating in the fair exhibits, and consumer judging competitions, Danielle got involved in leadership and livestock raising. Here Danielle found her niche. She has passionately pursued many leadership roles at the club, county, and state level and succeeded in her goal to be part of the process of improving the program and spurring others to be involved. Her love of leadership and livestock together have helped Danielle to define her goals in a way that captures both areas, saying that “Through 4-H I have discovered that I love raising livestock and I hope someday to have my own farm where I can raise and care for livestock.”13096312_10154159026847558_3125887732858775077_n Her entrepreneurial spirit, developing mastery in hog raising, and the leadership skills she has learned will translate into the lifelong values and behavioral change we see in many of our 4-H’ers that have let their experiences direct how they think of others, themselves, and their place in the world.

Being able to translate skills like leadership, responsibility, communication, resourcefulness, and being goal oriented from a specific task or project to all aspects of life is the type of behavior change positive youth development strives for. When asked about the benefits of 4-H, Danielle said,

4-H has helped me develop skills that I can use in my future such as self confidence, public speaking and time management…Maybe most importantly through the leadership opportunities, events, and trainings that I have had in 4-H, I will never be the same.  I have gained confidence, skills, and abilities that I can carry with me into whatever my future holds.”

Though all 4-H youth develop these skills, as youth age into being a Senior 4-H’er, many new opportunities become available that put them at the center of their county and state programming. Projects, leadership opportunities, and travel for this group is much more challenging and autonomous than the mentor heavy experience of younger 4-H’ers. Youth are able to meet with their peers throughout the state and nation who are delving into making what they experience in 4-H part of their lifelong vision and goals for themselves.

12295444_1008171835891965_3627116461056797003_nOne of the most important skills 4-H teaches is to use your head, heart, hands, and health not only for oneself but for club, community, country, and world. Years of community service through 4-H have helped to mold Danielle into an empathetic and thoughtful young woman.
I have learned about compassion for others through community service, and gained a passion for teaching and helping others get the most out of the opportunities afforded them through 4-H and that understanding will go with me in whatever I am passionate about as an adult.” While Danielle has pursued 4-H to the hilt, there is something to be gained through every experience.  

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Senior 4-H’ers can choose to be part of many incredible experiences that are exciting, rewarding, and continually challenge them in the moment as well as throughout their lives. 4-H is a program for all ages. Get on board. Contact your local county agent or look into all the incredible opportunities at the Florida 4-H website.

Grow Confidence with Blue Ribbon 4-H Public Presentations

4-H has given Cass Dillard the confidence to deliver his first illustrated talk at the Washington County 4-H Events.

4-H has helped this Washington County youth develop confidence to speak in front of groups.  Photo credit: Julie Dillard, UF IFAS

A 2001 Gallup poll found that 40% of Americans suffer from glossophobia, or fear of public speaking.  This statistic inspired the famous joke by stand-up comedian Jerry Seinfeld that at most funerals, “the average person would prefer to be the one in the casket rather than the one delivering the eulogy.”  Fortunately, 4-H offers an easy antidote through our public speaking program.  4-H public speaking helps youth:

  • Demonstrate mastery of a subject
  • Practice quality communication
  • Increase self-confidence when speaking in front of others.

How and where would you find a 4-H volunteer teaching public speaking? Almost anywhere you’ll find 4-H activities! Here are some examples:

The main public speaking education program supported by your 4-H Office is called County Events.

What is County Events?

County Events is a venue in which 4-H’ers can share what they have learned in their project work though several different contests, including demonstrations and illustrated talks. These are show-and-tell type presentations lasting 3-12 minutes in which a 4-H member shows mastery of a subject matter area. Some contest regulations include:

  • Talks must fall between 3-12 minutes for juniors and intermediates, and 5-12 minutes for seniors.
  • Team demonstrations must show active, equal participation of both members.
  • Presentation must fall under an approved category.

Creating a Presentation

  1. Topic Selection- should be age appropriate and preferably related to their 4-H project.
  2. Organizing Thoughts- points should be logical and support the main theme.
  3. Visuals- neat, attractive and easy to read
  4. Practice Strategies- club meetings are a great place to practice and practice makes perfect!

Creating Buy in

Last month our Make a Difference Monday online volunteer training addressed ways for club leaders and parents to get their youth excited about public speaking.  Regional Specialized 4-H Agent Stacey Ellison shared some creative ideas to encourage youth and families to “buy in” to the idea of public speaking:

  • Set expectations
  • Have older youth mentor younger youth
  • Use the team approach
  • Approach it as a game show or cooking show where they can highlight their knowledge or skills

Awards and Recognition

County Events combine two forms of achievement and recognition for youth. These are:

  • Peer Competition (a panel of judges subjectively identifies, in a concrete time and place, the best teams or individuals through ranking)

Through this dual recognition system it would be possible for a blue ribbon presentation to place third in peer competition. All 4-H’ers who achieve blue ribbon standard at the county level move forward to the district level of competition.

If you have a passion for public speaking, consider becoming a 4-H volunteer.  We are in need of judges for our speech contests as well as speech coaches.  For more information on County Events please contact your local UF IFAS County Extension Office or visit http://florida4h.org.