It is interesting to see how Western health practitioners are increasingly recommending holistic practices such as yoga and mindfulness, to help us deal with stress. Currently, these activities are employed as part of addiction, eating disorder and Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), yet new studies are increasingly documenting new benefits of a mindfulness way of living.
Mindfulness: Keeping Mind and Body in the Here and Now
Mindfulness is a millenary practice with roots in yoga and meditation. Its main aim is to teach us to be in the present moment, quieting the mind, reducing stress levels, and improving our overall well-being. It involves being aware of our sensations, emotions and thoughts, yet not allowing them to rob us of peace. According to Harvard researchers, “”Neuroscientists have shown that practicing mindfulness affects brain areas related to perception, body awareness, pain tolerance, emotion regulation, introspection, complex thinking, and sense of self.”
The Documented Effects of Mindfulness
Numerous studies have discovered the specific benefits bestowed by mindfulness, which include reducing the symptoms of anxiety and depression. We sometimes compartmentalize our mental and physical health, despite the proven link between the two. Indeed, stress and depression are strongly linked to serious and often expensive to treat conditions and illnesses such as heart disease, obesity, and Type 2 diabetes. While in America, most of us are lucky enough to be covered against a range of diseases, prevention is always better than cure. Therefore, it is important to pursue a healthy diet and regular exercise – which can be very difficult to find the motivation for when we are mentally unwell.
Just this year (2017), new studies have proven mindfulness to be helpful with so many aspects of our lives, including increasing sporting performance, helping drinkers cut back on alcohol consumption, helping mothers face with the stress of having a newborn with serious conditions such as congenital heart disease, improving the memory, motivating us to make healthier choices, and helping college students cope with the stress of their first year away from home. Perhaps most interestingly, mindfulness was proven to be as effective as cognitive behavioral therapy for a wide range of psychiatric conditions.
How to Pursue Mindfulness in our Daily Lives
The regular practice of yoga and mindfulness meditation with the help of an experienced teacher is an excellent way to introduce mindfulness into our lives. However, there are a host of free online resources with ideas for this practice. One way is to simply head into a verdant forest and just be aware of the sounds, textures and sights, practicing breathing exercises and being aware of our bodily sensations, as well as our thoughts and feelings. Honor all emotions – both positive and negative, but always return to the present moment, using breathing as an anchor.
Mindfulness – bringing the mind to the present moment – is a free activity than can be practiced anywhere. It involves using breath to keep you ‘in the here and now’, without blocking thoughts, feelings and sensations. It has powerful benefits, since it helps us battle stress but also makes us more aware of sensations such as hunger and thirst (which can help with a weight loss diet, since it helps us identify when we are satisfied). Introduce mindfulness in your life for greater wellbeing, stress relief, and an improved memory and so many more benefits that come from simply ‘being’, exactly where you are.