Mindfulness Meditation For Your Well Being
Mindfulness is often called ‘active relaxation’ or ‘mindfulness meditation’. This ancient Indian concept of calm and awareness is gaining widespread attention in the west as a natural means of reducing stress, improving health and enhancing wellbeing. Mindfulness-based therapies have been shown to reduce the severity and frequency of common illnesses and improve well-being. This includes depression, high blood pressure, insomnia and even migraines. These holistic approaches to help you get to the root cause of your feelings of stress and anxiety and therefore provide lasting relief.
Mindfulness-based stress reduction is an eight-week practical test that provides intensive, secular mindfulness instruction to help individuals with anxiety, panic, depression and chronic pain. During this time, participants regularly practice mindfulness techniques to reduce their stress levels, train their brain’s attentional processes and enhance their overall well-being. It is a scientifically proven process that works – quickly. It can be practiced by people of all ages, from adults to children, and does not require any special skills, abilities, tools or supplies.
In one study by Dr. Robin Marcus and colleagues at the University of Oregon Pain Clinic, pain was reduced by 70% in a sample of pain-free meditators who were instructed to focus on one element for a short period of time (a few minutes). This same group was then given a battery of psychological tests, one of which measured mood. The other tested the ability to handle tasks while being distracted. The group who focused on their element increased their reaction times on both the mood and task measures; they also showed greater improvement on the cognitive tasks than the other group. In other words, meditators who were practicing mindfulness had greater capacity to be aware of their emotional state and thoughts, which in turn led to improved mood and an improved ability to handle tasks.
A second study by Judith Viorst and Peter Sander at the University of Toronto Scarborough compared people who were happily working but stressed out with those who were sitting quietly and relaxed. The stressed group had lower self-esteem and lower levels of well-being. Those who were in the mindfulness condition did not show any significant changes in either measures. What’s more, these same researchers found that although stress and depression were still prevalent, there was a reduction in the severity of symptoms. Perhaps we can then consider the mind as being like a muscle, which when properly trained and exercised can increase our well-being?
Sander and his colleagues have been very keen on using mindfulness for psychotherapy. In a paper they published last year, they reported on a 10-year project which involved 200 therapists from across the country. At the end of the project, the therapists said that they felt more confident and compassionate about themselves, as well as having a greater capacity for change. The authors of this study are convinced that this improvement in self-awareness and compassion results, at least in part, from the use of mindfulness and some other types of cognitive and behavioral therapies. Their report on the study concluded, “The results demonstrate the great potential of using mindfulness as a complementary therapy.”
Perhaps it’s time to add “enhancing” mindfulness to our mental health and well being arsenal. Mindfulness has many benefits, including reducing stress and enhancing creativity. But it can also help with everything from weight loss to sleep disorders. So next time you’re wondering if mindfulness meditation is for you, ask yourself if you could benefit from increased awareness, compassion and self-care? And if you already do, why not make it a habit?