What do flu prevention, stress reduction, and type 2 diabetes management have in common? They are all therapeutic benefits of mindfulness.
Ok, first things first…do you even know what mindfulness is? What might come to mind is “being mindful” that is, “be mindful of others” or “mindful of your attitude.” That’s not exactly what practicing mindfulness means. The website get.gg explains mindfulness as “paying attention in a particular way: on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgmentally.”
Have you ever driven down the road, arrived at your destination without remembering how you got there? Well, that’s the opposite of mindfulness. Mindfulness is when you notice the feeling of the steering wheel in your hand, notice the leaves on the trees are turning color and the smell of the fall air. You are in the moment. Your mind is not drifting somewhere else, you are not worrying about the “what ifs” and you are taking everything in (without scrutiny). Experts have found that when we spend more time “in the moment” so to speak, we have improved health. Here is what Jeffrey Greeson (2009) of Duke University found out when he reviewed the research on mindfulness:
There is increasing scientific evidence to support the therapeutic effect of mindfulness meditation training on stress-related medical conditions, including psoriasis, type 2 diabetes, fibromyalgia, rheumatoid arthritis, chronic low back, and attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder. In addition, research has consistently shown that mindfulness training reduces symptoms of stress and negative mood states, and increases emotional well-being and quality of life, among persons with chronic illness. The use of mindfulness training in treating specific pain conditions, hypertension, myocardial ischemia, weight control, irritable bowel syndrome, insomnia, human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), and substance abuse is presently under investigation in research supported by the National Institutes of Health.
It appears when we practice mindfulness our brain actually changes. In one 8-week study, in the participants who had the biggest shifts in frontal brain activity had stronger resistance to getting the flu! The take away from that study was that mindfulness can help build up your immune system to resist disease. Study after study shows that practicing mindfulness significantly reduces the stress hormone cortisol. What does that mean to you? Well, your body has an easier time of staying healthy.
So what do you think, do you want to try mindfulness?
Here is a quick and simple place to start called “mindful breathing.” Again, this is from the website get.gg:
The primary focus in Mindfulness Meditation is the breathing. However, the primary goal is a calm, non-judging awareness, allowing thoughts and feelings to come and go without getting caught up in them. This creates calmness and acceptance.
- Sit comfortably, with your eyes closed and your spine reasonably straight.
- Direct your attention to your breathing.
- When thoughts, emotions, physical feelings or external sounds occur, simply accept them, giving them the space to come and go without judging or getting involved with them.
- When you notice that your attention has drifted off and becoming caught up in thoughts or feelings, simply note that the attention has drifted, and then gently bring the attention back to your breathing.
It's ok and natural for thoughts to arise, and for your attention to follow them. No matter how many times this happens, just keep bringing your attention back to your breathing.
Want to read more about mindfulness?
Go here: http://get.gg/mindfulness.htm
Also try the “pray-as-you-go” website. It has MP3 that are developed to help you pray. There is a section called “Preparing to Pray”, which walks you through breathing and body exercises designed to “quiet your mind” and prepare you to enter into prayer. http://www.pray-as-you-go.org/
Want to read the full article by Jeffrey Greeson? Here it is…
Greeson, J. M. (2009). Mindfulness research update: 2008. Complement Health Practitioner, 14(1), 10-18. Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2679512/