How mindfulness can change your life

Body-mind therapist Ofra Ziv says over the past 30 years, researchers have found that mindfulness lowers stress, increases cognitive function, and slows the aging of brain cells.

OFRA ZIV: My mission is to help people live a calmer life and to help them to release pain.  (photo credit: HAGIT FRENKEL)
OFRA ZIV: My mission is to help people live a calmer life and to help them to release pain.
(photo credit: HAGIT FRENKEL)

Sitting at my computer one evening, looking at the camera attached to my screen, my jaw muscles slackened, my eyes felt heavy and I entered a state of total relaxation.

I was not experiencing Zoom fatigue, nor was I suffering the soporific effects of listening to an overly talkative interviewee. In fact, I was in one of the most interesting and, yes – mindful – Zoom interviews I had experienced.  

Ofra Ziv, whose pleasant face and calming voice graced my screen, is a body-mind therapist and a mindfulness facilitator, combining touch and massage with energy treatments to lessen stress. 

“My mission is to help people live a calmer life and to help them to free pain,” she says. “I treat the body as if it is one system, combining the body and soul.” 

Ziv, whose academic training is in organizational psychology, works with individuals and groups to help reduce stress.

 A man clutches his head as he suffers from a headache and stress (Illustrative) (credit: MAXPIXEL) A man clutches his head as he suffers from a headache and stress (Illustrative) (credit: MAXPIXEL)

“People experience pain resulting from stress – back pain, headache – all types of illnesses are caused by stress. I help people on an individual level through touch and by providing tools such as mindfulness to deal with stress.”

Ziv works in her clinic in Rosh Ha’ayin and visits organizations and companies, leading seminars on managing stress through mindfulness. She has been working in the field for 15 years and dates her interest in mindfulness to a period in her life when she was working in the field of organizational psychology.

“I saw what pressure does to people, how it influences managers and the atmosphere of the staff, and how it influences workers themselves,” she recalls. “When the level of pressure rises,” she notes, “it affects people and causes tension.” 

Ziv began to study and research the subject and took numerous courses in mindfulness. Today, she notes, mindfulness techniques are used by leading companies such as Google and Apple to help employees deal with stress.

Mindfulness originated in ancient Eastern and Buddhist philosophy and was introduced to the Western world by Jon Kabat-Zinn, a professor of medicine at the University of Massachusetts, who researched its effects on the body from a medical and scientific perspective.

Quoting Kabat-Zinn, Ziv says that mindfulness meditation is “the awareness that arises from paying attention on purpose in the present moment and non-judgmentally.”

Over the past 30 years, says Ziv, researchers have found that mindfulness lowers stress and increases cognitive function. People are distracted much of the time, she says, by many factors.

“Our minds are always thinking, and we are rarely in the present moment – the here and now.” Ziv explains that the thoughts that are constantly swirling through our minds can create pressure and stress.

Mindfulness combines breathing with meditation, she explains. 

“We learn to pay attention to our breathing, to calm the nervous system, focus our attention and, most importantly, to pay attention to our bodily sensations, thoughts and emotions, and observe them without having the impulse to react from a certain emotion.”

When Ziv conducts workshops at companies’ offices, she observes that many people ignore the signs of stress that appear in their bodies. During these sessions, she teaches participants to pay attention to their breathing and calm their thoughts.

“The more you practice these relaxation techniques,” she says, “the more calm and clarity it creates.”

It is for this reason, she adds, that mindfulness helps cognitive function, improves memory and slows the aging of brain cells, and helps people focus.

“It creates a type of mental and physical quiet,” she says.

Companies today understand the importance of maintaining the physical and mental health of their employees, she notes, and mindfulness training can help both employees and their supervisors.

“If managers are tense, the tension filters down to their workers. If they can learn to remain calm and manage these situations, it will influence their workers as well.

“Our minds are so distracted that we lose the connection to our bodies,” she continues. “When I visit organizations, I ask if workers eat lunch in front of their computers or if employees don’t go to the bathroom in order not to take time from their work. This is not healthy, and the body becomes tense. 

“It is essential to preserve our well-being in the workplace, where we spend most of our time. Regulating our emotions and attention is a life skill,” she says. 

Ziv says her ultimate goal is to explain to people what is happening inside their bodies and how to identify the signs of stress and use the mindfulness techniques that she teaches them to manage them at home. Mindfulness exercises do not require special equipment and can be performed in just a few minutes each day. 

“Mindfulness changed my life,” says Ziv. “I was very stressed and was a perfectionist. That’s why it is important for me to pass it forward. It’s all about being a better person toward yourself and being good to yourself.”

She acknowledges that while stress can be released in many ways, such as sport or dance, mindfulness holds a special place for her.

“I am personally very connected to the idea of mindfulness. It helps us develop the capability of being more compassionate because you learn to develop the ability to focus and understand what happens to you, to be non-judgmental.”

As our interview approaches its conclusion, with its impromptu mindfulness session in the middle, Ziv smiles and says, “Don’t you feel better after doing the mindfulness exercise?”

The answer, I reply, is a resounding yes.

Ofra Ziv can be reached by phone and WhatsApp at 054-4861907, by email at  [email protected], or via Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/ofraziv.relax and https://www.facebook.com/ofra.zv/.

This article was written in cooperation with the subject.