As a Colorado licensed psychologist and integrated behavioral health provider specialized in clinical care of older adults, primary care, suicide prevention, program implementation and evaluation, Samantha Farro knows the power of mind over matter.
Farro is class president of the Colorado Psychological Association and holds a faculty appointment with the CU School of Medicine and CU Anschutz Multidisciplinary Center on Aging.
On April 15, Farro presented at the Emotional and Mental Health Wellness for Older Adults Spring 2021 webinar series held with UCCS and the CU Anschutz Multidisciplinary Center on how mindfulness can be used to improve health and change perspective.
Prior to the presentation, on April 4, Farro’s brother was injured in a motorcycle accident. She used how she handled this situation to express how she uses mindfulness and how beneficial it was to her in this time.
She said, “I realized I actually have been using mindfulness strategies all week to manage and support myself through everything that’s been going on.”
Farro identified what mindfulness is, as well as what it is not. The term “mindfulness” originated from within Eastern spiritual and religious traditions, while in Western medicine and psychology, it refers to health behaviors and practices, according to Farro.
“Mindfulness is nonjudgmental present moment awareness of what is going on inside and around us, being present to our experience, allows us to face difficulties without becoming caught up in our reactions to difficulties, fosters slowing down, being more gentle, and coming to grips with what actually is.”
Mindfulness is a process, Farro noted. “It’s not like we are trying to achieve a total state of mindfulness and check that box and now I’ve achieved that. It’s a way of being in one moment to another. It comes and goes. Mindfulness might be losing my focus a hundred times but returning it back one hundred and one times.”
Farro said that mindfulness is also a habit, so that “the more we practice it the easier it is for us to have moments of mindfulness.”
Furthermore, it comes in many different forms. “It can be something as simple as attending to my breath at any point in the day, to doing a full on meditation retreat. All forms of mindfulness practice can be beneficial,” Farro said.
Mindfulness is not “a relaxation exercise, not a way to avoid difficulties in life, not about striving to achieve a different state of mind,” according to Farro.
She also instructed a guided grounding exercise as part of her presentation, based on the following:
5 things you can see
“Maybe it’s a clock on the wall, maybe it’s the floor tiles, or the carpet. You may notice the height and color of the walls in the room.”
4 things you can feel
“Maybe it’s the clothes on your body, you may notice the point in contact with you and your seat, you may notice your feet on the floor, or the temperature in the air.”
3 things you can hear
“Try to see if you can hear more ambient sounds that you don’t normally tune into. This might be the hum of an air conditioner. You might notice clock ticking or birds chirping outside.”
There are other formal ways to practice mindfulness, as Farro exemplified through images of meditation and yoga. Mindfulness can be informal as well. She said, “It’s about connecting more fully to even the most mundane moments.”
Farro spoke about the specific things that are involved no matter how someone wishes to practice mindfulness. She shared the examples of pausing, breathing, paying attention to the body, sense perception and thoughts:
“Stopping for just a moment to really notice what’s happening inside and around us.”
“Noticing the pace of your breathe, noticing the character of your breath, is it rapid or slow? Noticing the temperature of the air as it comes in and out. What does it feel like and where do I feel it in my body when my lungs are full versus when they are empty.”
Pay attention to your body
“Where is the most relaxing point in your body right now?”
Farro closed out her presentation by emphasizing mindfulness of thoughts.
“We aren’t trying to stop our thoughts. Instead take a step back … Imagine our thoughts as clouds in the sky and just let them float in and out of your perspective,” she said.