The negative impacts of stress seems to be a part of modern life. But does it have to be that way? Read on to learn how the practice of mindfulness can relieve stress and improve your health. Practical tips included!
(Read Part 1 of this series on mindfulness here!)
by Kristy Gargano, LSW
In the book A Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Workbook, Bob Stahl and Elisha Goldstein explain, “Today, mindfulness has expanded beyond its spiritual roots and even beyond psychology and mental and emotional well-being. Physicians are prescribing training in mindfulness practice to help people deal with stress, pain, and illness”. The reason health care professionals are prescribing, teaching, and even using mindfulness techniques themselves is because of its evidence-based research on how mindfulness impacts our mind, body and overall health.
how stress affects you
Let’s use stress as an example. Although stress is a normal human response, when confronted with constant stress, such as ongoing health issues, financial issues, or other daily stressors, if we don’t find a way to unwind in a healthy way, we become stuck in that state of stress. We soon struggle to differentiate between life and death situations, such running from a tiger, and everyday issues, such as your boss yelling at you. When these things are happening, our sympathetic nervous system is activated, and our bodies emit stress hormones that prepare us to do things like fighting back or running. Staying stuck in this state can lead to physical symptoms such as
weight gain and more.
The reason this happens is because, when in fight or flight mode, other parts of your body that aren’t necessary for your survival shut down or slow down, like your digestive system. Now insert a daily mindfulness practice, and we can regain control of our minds and bodies. Mindfulness practices will activate our parasympathetic nervous system. The parasympathetic nervous system is responsible for counteracting the effects of the sympathetic nervous system by bringing us back to a calm, regulated state.
Formal vs Informal Mindfulness Practice:
There are two distinct categories of mindfulness that can help you and your body reap the benefits of mindfulness: Formal and informal mindfulness practices. Formal mindfulness practice is typically a scheduled practice that consists of some type of medication lasting 10 to 60 minutes, sometimes more. Informal mindful practice is something you can do anytime, anywhere. It is about bringing non-judgmental awareness to the activities in your daily life.
A few formal mindfulness practice are:
Progressive muscle relaxation
A few informal mindfulness practice are:
Enjoying your favorite beverage
The formal and informal practices listed above are just a few that are available. Because of the growing research and popularity, there is a large number of other resources at your fingertips, and it can become overwhelming to navigate. It may be helpful to find a mindfulness-based practitioner to help support you on finding mindfulness practices that works best for you.