Americans are currently reporting high levels of stress – emotional symptoms, and to an even higher degree, physical symptoms.
People are seeking help for stress-related medical issues in record numbers, usually wanting to alleviate their symptoms as quickly and painlessly as possible. Sadly, many people say that they are too stressed to find time to make changes that might help.
These stark facts remind us how important it is to keep discussing this topic and find solutions to these growing problems.
One of my favorite prescriptions for stress is mindful living. What is mindfulness? Here is one definition: “Awareness, cultivated by paying attention in a sustained and particular way: on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgmentally.” – Jon Kabat-Zinn, founder of the Center for Mindfulness in Medicine, Health Care, and Society at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, who is credited with applying mindfulness practices to stress reduction in the U.S.
Mindfulness evolved from ancient Eastern teachings, has a role in medicine and psychology, and is now used by major hospitals, universities, corporations, and the military.
How does mindfulness work?
On a thinking level, mindfulness invites us to focus on being, not doing. This quiets the “monkey mind” that is racing through frenzied thoughts about our to-do lists for the future or inventory of the past. It invites us into the present moment and turns this into a judgment-free zone where we allow and accept what is, and then redirect as needed.
On a physical level, breath is an anchor point in mindfulness, as we focus on body and breath. This actually calms the nervous system. Even more astounding, mindfulness and meditation can create new neural pathways that help us cope with stress and respond with more compassion for ourselves and others.
We offer several doable techniques to do with the breath. One of the best is called the “physiological sigh” by Andrew Huberman (Huberman Lab). (Follow this link to a brief video with clear directions.) I have used this technique in my yoga classes and with individual clients with anxiety.
What are some other benefits of mindful living?
- Clarity of mind
- Calm and serenity
- Increased enjoyment of simple things
- Increased positivity
- Increased gratitude
- Increased ability to handle stressors and cope with cravings
- Reduced anxiety and depression
- Better relationships
- Increased resilience
- Improved sleep
- Stronger immunity
- Fewer obsessive thoughts
- Lower intensity of chronic pain
- Reduced risk factors for chronic disease
- Improved ability to control emotions
Mindful living truly is the key to an integrated, less stressful, and more serene lifestyle. With it, you can solve daily challenges with food, exercise, stress, and decision making.