How Mindfulness can Reduce the Stress in Your Life

Life can be stressful. There’s no doubt about that. For some of us though, chronic stress is a very serious health issue. In the United States, job stress is the primary source of daily stress for most citizens. Approximately 1 million American adults miss work each day due to high levels of workplace stress.  

Chronic stress can impact your physical and mental health. Common issues associated with high levels of stress include a higher risk of heart attack, hypertension, lack of sleep, emotional issues, and mental health disorders. Nevertheless, there is increasing scientific evidence that mindfulness can help you to reduce your stress and increase your inner strength. 

What is mindfulness?

You’ve likely heard the term “mindfulness” before. But do you really understand what it means? Mindfulness refers to a mental state where you are calm and conscious of what is happening in the present moment. When you are mindful, you are fully aware of your thoughts, emotions, actions, bodily sensations, and environment.

Mindfulness also involves gentle acceptance of the present. This means you pay attention to your thoughts and feelings without judging them. Rather than trying to figure out if a particular thought is right or wrong, you simply acknowledge and accept it. Instead of regretting the past or worrying about the future, you simply stay in the present moment.

Today, mindfulness is used as an effective therapeutic technique. A number of well-respected institutions are studying the effect of mindfulness on chronic stress and long-term mental health. Institutions that are spearheading the research on mindfulness include the University of Massachusetts Medical School in the United States and the University of Oxford in the United Kingdom. Current clinical research suggests mindfulness can play a major role in healthy stress management and emotional regulation. 

How can mindfulness reduce your stress?

Current mindfulness exercises and activities have their roots in Buddhist meditation. The secular practice of mindfulness came to mainstream America primarily through the work of Jon Kabat-Zinn, PhD. Dr. Kabat-Zinn launched a Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MSBR) program at the University of Massachusetts Medical School in 1979. Since then, thousands of clinical studies have confirmed the effectiveness of MSBR and mindfulness in promoting physical and mental health.Mindfulness techniques have helped people of all ages, genders, races, and socioeconomic backgrounds. They have been used in hospitals, veteran clinics, prisons, schools, places of employment, and mental health centers. How exactly does mindfulness help you to let go of your stress and improve your health? Consider these 7 ways:

  1. Your cognitive awareness increases – This means you are more aware of what you are thinking in the present moment. When you are keeping track of your thought patterns, you can take a step back and assess whether a worrisome thought can really impact your life right now. If you confirm that it can’t, you can make the decision to address the thought or issue at a more convenient time.
  2. You have more time to think – Overreacting to a situation or taking action without considering the consequences can make a bad situation worse. A mindfulness approach allows you to think things through. Rather than becoming anxious or depressed about a matter, you can pause and come up with a solution that really works.
  3. You focus on “being” rather than “doing” – Stress, anxiety, and depression are often tied up with things you did in the past, or things you have to do in the future. By practicing mindfulness you are better equipped to focus on the present and just relax.
  4. You can identify what your body needs – Have you ever had the sudden realization that you’re incredibly tired or ravenously hungry? This likely happens when you are laser focused on work. When you try to concentrate on work for hours, you may not be able to pick up on your body’s signals. If this happens too often, you may begin to miss meals, sleep, and even bathroom breaks with regularity. Mindfulness helps you to become more aware of your body’s sensations. As your self-awareness increases, you will be able to give your body what it needs, when it needs it.
  5. You increase your emotional intelligence – Mental and emotional issues are often linked to your relationships with other people. For example, you may be angry with your spouse, depressed about breaking up with your ex, anxious about your meeting with your boss in the morning, or frustrated with your children’s antics before they go to bed. Emotional intelligence helps you to become more aware of other people’s feelings and find the best ways to interact with the individuals in your life. Mindfulness increases your emotional intelligence while reducing interpersonal conflicts and stress.
  6. You get more sleep – You may have sleep issues because you are upset about something that happened in the past or you may be worried about what could happen to you in the future. Mindfulness helps you to realize that you are okay right now. When you are no longer rehashing the past or fearing the future, you can get the rest you need to function at your optimal level.
  7. You give your amygdala a break – Your amygdala is the part of your brain that switches on your stress response. Mindfulness helps you to reduce the activity in your amygdala. A less active amygdala means less stress!

Everyday activities that promote mindfulness

Now that you know mindfulness can help you to reduce your stress, focus on the present, and improve your health, you may be wondering how you can become more mindful. Don’t worry, it’s pretty easy. Even if you have a packed schedule, you can improve your mindfulness by:

  • Spending a few minutes each day meditating on the positive things in your life
  • Changing your phone and laptop background to a calm, soothing image
  • Setting reminders on your phone to stay in the moment
  • Showing gratitude to each person you interact with
  • Doing one job or task at a time
  • Taking the time to savor your food
  • Remembering to take three or four deep breaths when you feel overwhelmed
  • Taking time to observe nature
  • Sharing a smile with the people in your life

Chronic stress is growing issue in the United States; however, mindfulness can help you to overcome it. If you want to learn more about mindfulness or if you need assistance with increasing your self-awareness, you can reach out to a licensed mental health professional in your community. A trained therapist can help you to deal with any overwhelming responsibilities, relationships, or experiences that have a negative impact on your life. In time, you will learn the skills you need to be a happier, healthier, and more mindful person.

author avatar
Angel Rivera
I am a Bilingual (Spanish) Psychiatrist with a mixture of strong clinical skills including Emergency Psychiatry, Consultation Liaison, Forensic Psychiatry, Telepsychiatry and Geriatric Psychiatry training in treatment of the elderly. I have training in EMR records thus very comfortable in working with computers. I served the difficult to treat patients in challenging environments in outpatient and inpatient settings
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