Mindfulness: Health Benefits Beyond Stress Relief

A Powerful Tool for Positive Change

Young woman being mindful
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Is constant worry about the future or the past creating stress in your life? There are many ways to manage the specific obstacles you face. If you are experiencing thoughts that cause great discomfort or unease, it might be time to begin a mindfulness practice to support coming back to the here and now in order to significantly reduce your level of stress.

What Is Mindfulness?

Mindfulness is the practice of becoming more fully aware of the present moment—non-judgmentally and completely—rather than dwelling in the past or projecting into the future. It generally involves a heightened awareness of sensory stimuli (really noticing your breathing, feeling the sensations of your body, etc.) and being "in the now."

While mindfulness has origins in Eastern philosophy and Buddhism, there is no necessary religious component to mindfulness. Anyone with any belief system can enjoy the benefits of mindfulness.

How Is Mindfulness Attained?

Mindfulness can be achieved through meditation, but one can also practice mindfulness through daily living. Simply focusing on the present moment and quieting your inner dialogue can help you attain mindfulness.

What Are The Benefits of Mindfulness?

As Eastern practices gain more popularity in the West, mindfulness has been paired with cognitive therapy. Early research shows some very promising results.

Practicing mindfulness, mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT), and mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) have been found to be helpful with the following:

Anxiety Disorders, including Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)

People with GAD may experience significant reductions in anxiety and depressive symptoms after a mindfulness-based intervention.

Depression

People who experienced residual depressive symptoms following a depressive episode experienced a decrease in symptoms and ruminations following a mindfulness-based intervention, with further gains a month later.

Relationship Issues

One study found that people who exhibited greater mindfulness as a personality trait tended to enjoy greater satisfaction in relationships and deal with relationship stress more constructively. The research also found that those who employ mindfulness have a lower stress response during conflict and that the state of mindfulness was associated with better communication during conflicts. Both studies link mindfulness with relationship well-being.

Sleep Problems

Research suggests that MBSR may be effective for improving the psychological health of people with breast cancer.

Eating Disorders

One study found that mindfulness-based interventions could be effective for targeting eating behaviors including emotional eating and binge eating.

Stress Management

Studies have found mindfulness to be helpful with daily stresses as well as more serious stresses experienced by those with a chronic or life-threatening illness.

The practice of mindfulness has been shown to have lasting positive effects with benefits that increase with practice.

How Can Mindfulness Be Used To Relieve Stress?

Studies show that mindfulness can be helpful in stopping ruminations over things that cause stress; it helps people keep from dwelling on negative thoughts.

Mindfulness can also be used to decrease anxiety over the future. It can provide a break from stressful thoughts and allow you to take a mental break and gain perspective, among other things.

As mentioned earlier, mindfulness can be achieved most simply through meditation. Regular practice of mindfulness meditation has benefits for your physical as well as your mental health

For those who tend to get "antsy" during meditation (don’t worry, you’re not alone), there are other ways to ease into the practice of mindfulness. Gardening, listening to music and even cleaning the house can become a practice in mindfulness if you take the right approach. Focus on the present and quiet that voice inside - the one that offers the running commentary on what you’re doing, what you’ve done, and what you will be doing.

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