Mindfulness Is the Secret to a Healthier Year in the Hudson Valley

Photo by Adobe Stock | Марсель Ахметов

The Hudson Valley has more than earned its rep for the prevailing air of peace—but even so, the past couple of years have been tough ones, leading people to prioritize mental health more than ever. Mindfulness is where it’s at.

Though the Covid fire is still smoldering and could be for a while yet, the pandemic-fueled emotional reckoning is well underway. Mental health experts full-on agree that the collective uncertainty, anxiety, and stress of the pandemic—not to mention months of lockdown—took a high toll. But now that things are continuing to open up, business is booming at area wellness centers and yoga and fitness studios.

“People just really couldn’t wait to come back,” says Michele Miller, director of luxury spa Wholeness Center in Valley Cottage. “They desperately needed a place to get away, both physically and mentally.” According to Megan Goldschein, owner of Pure Barre Mount Kisco, “When our studio was allowed to reopen, it was like watching people come out of their shells.”

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Alongside the joyful return to spa services and in-person exercise is a definite trend toward practicing mindfulness, says Maureen Benedict, founder of RedTail Power Yoga in Hopewell Junction. “That means time spent in conscious awareness of the present moment, of intentionally being where you are. To simply slow down, breathe and observe with curiosity what is actually happening now.”

That’s where meditation comes in. Setting aside even a mere 3–5 minutes in the morning to meditate will set the tone of your day on the right track, advises Benedict. “There’s a common misconception about meditation, that it’s somehow hard or mystical,” she says. “In reality, it’s very natural. It’s simply a process of choosing to focus on the present moment with your physical body, using consistent steady breathing as a tool.”

Woman holding a yoga pose.
Photo Adobe Stock | stanislav_uvarov

In keeping with the trend of embracing meditation, Miller has also noticed a distinct uptick in bookings for wellness treatments such as reiki, chakra balancing, and sound healing such as singing bowl sessions—when powerful sounds and vibrations encourage the body to return to a more harmonious state. These things may have seemed far-out before, but not anymore. “I find people are much more open-minded about the benefits of these kinds of holistic treatments now,” she says.

She’s also seen a spike in clients purchasing monthly memberships to Wholeness, rather than just booking one-off services. Becoming a member is a plan to prioritize wellness and commit to setting aside time for yourself, says Miller. Massages are in especially high demand at Wholeness, which she attributes to an understandable craving for human touch after so many months of isolationism. But massage does far more good than easing tense muscles. It can improve circulation, open up connective tissues (called fascia), and result in endorphins blitzing your blood stream, which tamps down stress and brings about a feeling of general well-being. Goldschein suggests that fitness clients book out classes for the full week rather than one at a time, so they can plan their schedules accordingly. In other words, set up classes in advance, the same way you would doctor’s appointments and haircuts—so they happen.

As much as the workouts make a difference physically, they are also key to healing the mind and spirit. “People walk out of class standing taller, prouder, and smiling bigger than they did when they walked through the front door,” says Goldschein. “Every single time.”

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Put. Down. The. Phone.

If being mindful had an equal opposite reaction, it would be phone scrolling. “It’s actually an escape from the present, and a habit,” says Maureen Benedict of RedTail Power Yoga. As with all habits, greater awareness brings the power to be intentional. Create and set boundaries for intentional smartphone and social media use, rather than defaulting to them for mindless mental escape. Her tips:

  • Allow a certain amount of time per day to check in with the apps that are most important to you, and that’s it. Use a timer to keep yourself honest.
  • Set your phone to “do not disturb” at certain times of the day, such as during meals.
  • Disengage several hours before turning in for the night (science proves this can help you sleep better). Turn off the sound when you’re sleeping, and even better, keep the phone out of your bedroom altogether.
  • No checking your phone first thing in the morning. Allow yourself time to wake up without distraction. This way, you set the tone for your day, instead of your phone doing it for you.

Related: Find Serenity Inside Poughkeepsie’s Himalayan Salt Cave

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