Mindfulness and Stress Reduction

Centuries of practice and numerous studies proved meditation to be helpful for lowering stress levels. Mindful practices give you the tools to respond differently under pressure and they reduce stress. But how does being mindful actually helps us do that? Let’s look at mindfulness and stress reduction.

What is Mindfulness?

Mindfulness is described as the basic human ability to be fully present and aware of the existing moment and current activities, without interpreting, judging or over-reacting to it. Mindfulness suggests that our mind is fully attending to what we are doing and what is happening around us at the present moment.

While mindfulness is an intuitive skill, it can be practiced through proven techniques such as meditation. It can also be taught through an integrated approach, combining meditation with other activities like yoga or sports.

Mindfulness is evidence-based.

As aforementioned, mindfulness is not based on faith, but on science and long-standing experience.

Mindfulness doesn’t require the change.

Mindfulness is actually something that we already do regularly. Namely, we already have the ability to be present and concentrate on a certain moment of our being without the need to make any dramatic changes in our behavior or beliefs. Mindfulness is something that is already familiar to us, we just need to recognize and practice it. Anyone can do it. Being mindful doesn’t require you to change; it recognizes and nurtures the best of who you are as a human being.

Mindfulness as a way of living.

Mindfulness brings awareness and consideration into everything we do and therefore is more than just a practice. It is a way of living that makes our overall well-being better.

How Does Mindfulness Ease Stress?

Long-time stress can have a great impact on our mental and physical health. Over the last decade, stress has become one of the lead reasons for declined mental health in millions of people worldwide. According to 2014 survey by The American Institute of Stress, 77% of people in the US regularly experience physical symptoms caused by stress, such as low energy, aches and pains, insomnia, low libido etc., while 73% of people reportedly experience psychological symptoms of stress like moodiness, irritability or aggression, anxiety, depression and other mental health problems.

Another research from 2015 found that stress affects Millennials more than any other age group. Additionally, work-related stress is the most common type of stress that people refer to.

It helps in different ways

Mindfulness exercise can help you ease stress-related symptoms in different ways. It can improve your mood and increase optimism, help you stayed focused and improve your memory and concentration. Furthermore, mindfulness practice can boost your confidence, enhance your emotional intelligence and improve your relationships with other people.

Practicing mindfulness, you will become more aware of your thoughts

Mindfulness exercise enables you to become aware of your thoughts. Being aware of your thoughts allows you not to react to stress in the first place. You have a moment to pause instead, which allows you to deliberate and come up with the best solution.

Mindfulness leads to relaxation

Practicing mindfulness, you will start feeling relaxed because mindfulness ‘wakes up’ your ‘being’ state of mind. Abstaining from any kind of action is associated with the relaxation, as opposed to our ‘doing’ mode of mind, that is related to action and the stress response. Practicing mindful breathing can help you relax in situations that you perceive as stressful. While sitting or, even better, laying comfortably, focus attention on your inhale and exhale. Repeat this exercise until you feel fully relaxed.

Mindfulness makes you more sensitive to the needs of your body

Practicing mindfulness can help you recognize stress-related somatic symptoms such as headache, stomachache or back pain earlier and take appropriate action.

Mindfulness increases your emotional intelligence (EQ)

Mindfulness helps you become more aware of your own and other people’s emotions. Being mindful, you are aware of what do you feel, why you feel that way and how your feelings can affect other people.

It also increases your ability to understand the feelings of others as well. That way you are less likely to get into conflicts and expose yourself to stress. In other words, mindfulness increases your emotional intelligence and consequently, helps you lead a happy and fulfilled personal and professional life.

Mindfulness reduces the activity of your brain’s stress response center

According to psychologist and wellness coach Robbie Maller Hartman, Ph.D., research shows that a few minutes of mindfulness practice every day may alter the brain’s neural pathways, making you more resilient to stress.

Mindfulness exercise reduces the activity in the part of the brain called amygdala. The amygdala is a part of the limbic system in our brain that plays a key role in the processing of emotions. This almond-shaped set of neurons located deep in our brain’s medial temporal lobe is key in triggering our stress response. So, reducing its activity, mindfulness practice reduces your background level of stress.

Mindfulness improves your concentration

Practicing mindfulness helps you stay focused and improves your concentration, memory, and problem-solving skills. As a result, you complete your tasks more efficiently. And you act more professionally, which leads to a greater sense of well-being. All of this leads to reduced stress response.

Mindfulness sparks your gratitude

Being aware of what is good in your life, whether it is a personal life, professional life or relationships, helps you improve your resilience to stress and stay emotionally balanced. Gratitude awareness may deepen your happiness and increase your overall well-being.

Mindfulness can change your attitude to stress

Awareness of your thoughts and emotions offers you the opportunity to think differently about the stress that negatively affects the quality of your everyday life. Rather than just seeing the negative consequences, mindfulness enables you to observe how the increased pressure caused by stress helps energize you.  So you may be able to focus that energy on finding constructive ways to cope with the challenges.

No special training is needed

Mindfulness is not something you need to be specially trained for. It doesn’t require you to change who you are. However, you can improve this inner ability with simple practices that are scientifically proved to benefit our mental and physical health, our professional success and our relationships with other people.

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