Focus On Your Lifestyle

Your body and mind deserve to relax

Move Every Day

Exercise

Stress is a big factor that affects everyone, especially those susceptible to IBS. Our bodies react to stress in different ways and when stress continues for long periods of time, the mind reacts with anxiety, depression, and difficulty with coping. Stomach disorders often follow this trend and lead to the development of IBS symptoms [1]. About ¾ of all IBS patients link symptom severity with stress. Appropriate exercise – not too hard, not too easy – has been found to create a better mood and lower overall stress [2]. When the body is active, the stomach tends to work at peak efficiency. Walking at least 20 minutes each day is a great place to start. [3] Use best judgment when choosing an exercise routine. You want to choose something to increase your heart and breathing rates gently without stressing yourself further. Work with your health care practitioner to determine what is safe and comfortable. Try to be consistent and give your body a rest when you are experiencing flare-ups. Exercise over the long term can improve symptoms and is an important management tool [4].

Check in with your health care professional if conditions become worse or new symptoms appear. Here are a few resources for IBS and exercise:

Gastrodigestivesystem.com          Everydayhealth.com          ibsliving.today

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Focus, Center, Breathe

Yoga

Yoga is an effective form of stress relief and can be very relaxing. The practice of yoga is based on the focus of the mind-breath-body connection. Yoga has been around since about 3,500 BC and is a discipline which is recommended by the World Health Organization. [5] Practicing yoga creates an awareness and command over breath and movement causing a sense of calm, control, and relaxation. Over 20 million Americans are actively participating in yoga today [5]. Studies show that yoga helps improve IBS symptoms, sleep patterns, and stress management.[5][6] Yoga is very personal and postures can be customized for your specific needs and abilities. It is important to listen to the body and practice safely. This activity is about focus and should be soothing and calming. Talk to instructors and find one who can help you determine what is appropriate for you specifically.

Check in with your health care professional if you experience new symptoms or your symptoms become worse.

Here are a few resources for IBS and yoga:

Yogainternational.com                                        Artofliving.org

Quiet the Mind, Reset the System

Meditate

Yoga and meditation go hand in hand. Meditation, yoga, and prayer have been found to cause a deep relaxation response – a state of healing rest – when practiced regularly. Research has shown that this state reduces stress, anxiety, blood pressure, heart and breathing rates.[7][8][9] Meditation is a technique that allows you to be completely present and breaks negative thought patterns and fixations. Emotions are processed and the mind is re-balanced easing the stress response and improving IBS symptoms. Just ten or fifteen minutes of daily focus can have lasting benefits. As you start, realize that some days will be more successful than others, keep at it. Here are some tips for starting from Zen Habits : Breathe

Sit for just two minutes.
This will seem ridiculously easy, to just meditate for two minutes. That’s perfect. Start with just two minutes a day for a week. If that goes well, increase by another two minutes and do that for a week. If all goes well, by increasing just a little at a time, you’ll be meditating for 10 minutes a day in the 2nd month, which is amazing! But start small first.
Do it first thing each morning
It’s easy to say, “I’ll meditate every day,” but then forget to do it. Instead, set a reminder for every morning when you get up, and put a note that says “meditate” somewhere where you’ll see it.
Don't get caught up in the ``how`` - just ``do``
Most people worry about where to sit, how to sit, what cushion to use … this is all nice, but it’s not that important to get started. Start just by sitting on a chair, or on your couch. Or on your bed. If you’re comfortable on the ground, sit cross-legged. It’s just for two minutes at first anyway, so just sit. Later you can worry about optimizing it so you’ll be comfortable for longer, but in the beginning it doesn’t matter much, just sit somewhere quiet and comfortable.
Check in with how you're feeling
As you first settle into your meditation session, simply check to see how you’re feeling. How does your body feel? What is the quality of your mind? Busy? Tired? Anxious? See whatever you’re bringing to this meditation session as completely OK.
Count your breaths
Now that you’re settled in, turn your attention to your breath. Just place the attention on your breath as it comes in, and follow it through your nose all the way down to your lungs. Try counting “one” as you take in the first breath, then “two” as you breathe out. Repeat this to the count of 10, then start again at one.
Come back when you wander
Your mind will wander. This is an almost absolute certainty. There’s no problem with that. When you notice your mind wandering, smile, and simply gently return to your breath. Count “one” again, and start over. You might feel a little frustration, but it’s perfectly OK to not stay focused, we all do it. This is the practice, and you won’t be good at it for a little while.
Develop a loving attitude
When you notice thoughts and feelings arising during meditation, as they will, look at them with a friendly attitude. See them as friends, not intruders or enemies. They are a part of you, though not all of you. Be friendly and not harsh.
Don't worry too much that you're doing it wrong
You will worry you’re doing it wrong. That’s OK, we all do. You’re not doing it wrong. There’s no perfect way to do it, just be happy you’re doing it.
Don't worry about clearing the mind
Lots of people think meditation is about clearing your mind, or stopping all thoughts. It’s not. This can sometimes happen, but it’s not the “goal” of meditation. If you have thoughts, that’s normal. We all do. Our brains are thought factories, and we can’t just shut them down. Instead, just try to practice focusing your attention, and practice some more when your mind wanders.
Stay with whatever arises
When thoughts or feelings arise, and they will, you might try staying with them awhile. Yes, I know I said to return to the breath, but after you practice that for a week, you might also try staying with a thought or feeling that arises. We tend to want to avoid feelings like frustration, anger, anxiety … but an amazingly useful meditation practice is to stay with the feeling for awhile. Just stay, and be curious.
Get to know yourself
This practice isn’t just about focusing your attention, it’s about learning how your mind works. What’s going on inside there? It’s murky, but by watching your mind wander, get frustrated, avoid difficult feelings … you can start to understand yourself.
Become friends with yourself
As you get to know yourself, do it with a friendly attitude instead of one of criticism. You’re getting to know a friend. Smile and give yourself love.
Do a body scan
Another thing you can do, once you become a little better at following your breath, is focus your attention on one body part at a time. Start at the soles of your feet — how do those feel? Slowly move to your toes, the tops of your feet, your ankles, all the way to the top of your head.
Notice the light, sounds, and energy
Another place to put your attention, again, after you’ve practice with your breath for at least a week, is the light all around you. Just keep your eyes on one spot, and notice the light in the room you’re in. Another day, just focus on noticing sounds. Another day, try to notice the energy in the room all around you (including light and sounds).
Really commit yourself
Don’t just say, “Sure, I’ll try this for a couple days.” Really commit yourself to this. In your mind, be locked in, for at least a month.
You can do it anywhere
If you’re traveling or something comes up in the morning, you can do meditation in your office. In the park. During your commute. As you walk somewhere. Sitting meditation is the best place to start, but in truth, you’re practicing for this kind of mindfulness in your entire life.
Follow guided meditation
If it helps, you can try following guided meditations to start with. My wife is using Tara Brach’s guided meditations, and she finds them very helpful.
Check in with friends
While I like meditating alone, you can do it with your spouse or child or a friend. Or just make a commitment with a friend to check in every morning after meditation. It might help you stick with it for longer.
Find a community
Even better, find a community of people who are meditating and join them. This might be a Zen or Tibetan community near you (for example), where you go and meditate with them. Or find an online group and check in with them and ask questions, get support, encourage others. My Sea Change Program has a community like that.
Smile when you're done
When you’re finished with your two minutes, smile. Be grateful that you had this time to yourself, that you stuck with your commitment, that you showed yourself that you’re trustworthy, where you took the time to get to know yourself and make friends with yourself. That’s an amazing two minutes of your life.

Always consult your healthcare professional if new symptoms appear or your condition becomes worse. Here are a few resources for IBS and meditation:

How-to-meditate.org               zenhabits.net               psychologytoday.com

Sources

[1]

Spiller, R., Aziz, Q., Creed, F., Emmanuel, A., Houghton, L., Hungin, P., . . . Whorwell, P. (2007). Guidelines on the irritable bowel syndrome: mechanisms and practical management. British Medical Association, 56(12), 1770-1798. Retrieved from http://web.a.ebscohost.com.contentproxy.phoenix.edu/ehost/detail/detail?sid=04b062 c2-0982-48f3-b66e-0a661d1b92c2%40sessionmgr4001&vid=0&hid=4112& bdata=JnNpdGU9ZWhvc3QtbGl2ZQ%3d%3d&preview=false#AN=174.

[2]

Young, S. (2007). How to increase serotonin in the human brain without drugs. Journal of Psychiatry and Neuroscience, 32(6), 394-399. Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2077351/.

[3]

Chey, W., Kurlander, J., & Eswaran, S. (2015). Irritable bowel syndrome: a clinical review. American Medical Association, 313(9), 949-958. DOI:10.1001/jama.2015.0954.

[4]

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/01/110125092231.htm

[5]

Kavuri, V., Raghuram, N., Malamud, A., & Selvan, S. (2015). Irritable bowel syndrome: Yoga as remedial therapy. Evidence Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, 2015, 1-10. doi:10.1155/2015/398156.

[6]

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2673138/

[7]

http://news.harvard.edu/gazette/story/2015/05/meditation-may-relieve-ibs-and-ibd/

[8]

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22618308

[9]

http://healingdigestivedisorders.org/patient-information/research-articles/meditationrelaxation

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