Practicing mindfulness has been a hot topic recently, and many people have opinions on this topic. In fact, 40% of Americans meditate weekly, 8% meditate once or twice a month, and 4% do it several times a year. Practicing mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) techniques can reduce everyday stress significantly. MBSR reduces anxiety and depression.
Throughout this article, we will explore mindfulness, the benefits of practicing mindfulness, how often you should practice it, and how actually to put it into practice.
What is Mindfulness?
Before we understand mindfulness-based stress reduction and its techniques, let’s look at mindfulness. According to Berkley, the official definition of mindfulness is “maintaining a moment-by-moment awareness of our thoughts, feelings, bodily sensations, and surrounding environment, through a gentle, nurturing lens.” It is the quality or state of being aware of something. In other words, it’s a form of active, nonjudgmental listening and paying attention to the present moment.
It is an effective way to reduce stress, anxiety, and depression. Additionally, mindfulness can improve sleep quality, increase focus and concentration, and boost your immune system.
In short, mindfulness is all about paying attention to your emotions and feelings without judgment. This practice focuses on the here and now – not reflecting on the past or the future but staying present.
How Often Should I Practice Mindfulness?
Now that you know what mindfulness is and its key benefits, you may be wondering how often you should put it into practice. But, again, practicing mindfulness comes down to you and your schedule.
Some people practice mindfulness every day. Others practice every few days or even practice once a week. So it depends on how much time you have in your routine to practice mindfulness.
Additionally, the length of mindfulness depends on the person as well. Beginners tend to start with practicing mindfulness for a few minutes, while more accustomed people may practice mindfulness for a half hour or more.
Now let’s explore how you can practice mindfulness in your everyday life.
What is Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction?
Now that we know what mindfulness is let’s look at Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR), one of the famous mindfulness programs applied to health benefits. MBSR is a program that Jon Kabat-Zinn created in the 1970s. The program helps people who suffer from chronic stress, pain, and illness.
The program includes an 8-week course that teaches different mindfulness exercises. These techniques can be used in daily life to help manage stress and pain. The MBSR course includes:
-Awareness of thoughts and feelings
The goal of MBSR is to help people live their lives with more awareness and less stress. Kabat-Zinn’s 1990 book Full Catastrophe Living describes the MBSR program in detail. In addition, Jon Kabat-Zinn founded the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Clinic at the University of Massachusetts Medical School. Jon Kabat-Zinn’s work has been very influential, and the MBSR course has been used by hospitals, schools, and corporations around the world.
MBSR can be beneficial for anyone who wants to learn how to manage stress and live a more mindful life. However, the program is especially helpful for people who suffer from chronic stress, anxiety, pain, or illness.
MBSR is helpful in treating conditions such as anxiety, depression, chronic pain, high blood pressure, heart disease, cancer, etc. Let’s look into how you can apply some of the MBSR exercises to your life.
How To Practice Mindfulness In Your Life
There are many ways to include mindfulness exercises in your everyday life. Some examples of mindfulness practices include:
- Accepting Yourself: Accepting yourself for who you are, your flaws and all, is a great way to practice mindfulness. We often forget to treat ourselves with the same kindness, compassion, and empathy that we would with a close friend. Accepting and loving yourself can help you go a long way.
- Living in the Moment: Being present at the moment can really help you slow down and enjoy life. Try to find the good things about that moment and forget about your past problems or the stress of the future. Dropping these and focusing on the now allows you to make new memories and be truly present with those around you!
- Breathing: In many times of anxiety or stress, we forget to breathe. You should take a moment to stop what you’re doing and take some deep breaths during these times. When practicing this type of mindfulness, you should focus on feeling yourself inhaling a deep breath and then slowly releasing it out of your body.
- Paying Attention: Paying attention to the things going on around you can help you a lot in your life. During this exercise, you should take some time to slow down and focus on all of your five senses- taste, smell, touch, sound, and sight. This can help you slow down and experience your environment in a whole new way.
- Walking Meditation: For this practice, you will need some room to walk around. This could be a walk inside your home or outside at a park. You’ll want to start by walking slowly and focus on walking. While walking, you should be aware of all of your five senses while focusing on your movement.
- Sitting Meditation: For this mindfulness practice, you will need a nice and quiet place with a chair. You will want your feel grounded, back straight, and place your hands on your thighs—breath through your nose and clear your mind. You will want to focus on how it feels to take a breath in and how it flows out of your body. If you have some thoughts that interrupt this process, it’s okay! Take some time to acknowledge them, and then go back to focusing on your breath. It will take time to develop to do this without any thoughts coming through while you’re sitting there.
- Body Scan Meditation: For this meditation, you will need some space to lie down. You will want to extend your arms and legs outwards away from your torso. From here, you need to focus on each part of your body. You can start at the top of your body and work your way down. The goal is to focus on each body part and focus on your thoughts, emotions, and feelings for each part. Notice things such as a tightness in your chest or a pit in your stomach. This may mean you are carrying some tension in your body that needs release.
Benefits of Practicing Mindfulness
The mental, emotional, and health benefits of mindfulness include:
- Decreasing Stress: Mindfulness can reduce your stress levels because it helps you tap into your inner thoughts and reflect on them. Additionally, it can help you identify patterns of stress. From there, you can address the situation and make a plan to combat your stress.
- Decreasing Depression Symptoms: Mindfulness helps one practice self-compassion, and studies have linked this to reducing depression symptoms. Self-compassion allows one not to be as critical of one’s self.
- Improved Overall Health: Practicing mindfulness will improve your overall health. This is because people take the time to think and then reflect on their actions. In addition, studies have shown mindfulness can “enhance or increase multiple behaviors related to health.”
- Improved Academic Success: A student who practices mindfulness can improve their academic success. This is because practicing mindfulness has been shown to help one better regulate their emotions and increase focus.
- Reducing Burnout: According to Dane and Brummel’s (2014) study, mindfulness techniques can reduce burnout and employee turnover. This study showed that the more an employee practiced mindfulness, the lower probability of them leaving their jobs. In addition, you can apply mindfulness to cope with stress pain, emotional pain, and physical pain if you pay attention to sensations in your body. You don’t necessarily need a certified MBSR instructor to walk you through the mindfulness techniques. There are many ways to practice exercises like mindful eating, observing thoughts or feelings, and mindful stretching or yoga wherever and whenever you’re ready.
- Improved Memory: If you’re looking to boost your memory, consider mindfulness meditation. In a 2019 study, participants who practiced mindfulness showed improved memory skills, but their brains changed. Brain images showed an increase in the part of the brain associated with memory, known as the hippocampus, which experienced volume changes.
- Strengthening Your Relationships: Your interpersonal relationships can be strengthened with mindfulness techniques. A 2018 study concluded that those who practiced mindfulness tend to be more accepting of their partner’s flaws or imperfections.
This article outlines what mindfulness is, its benefits, the background on the MBSR course & its techniques, and how to apply mindfulness exercises in your everyday life to reduce stress, blood pressure, anxiety, and depression. You are now ready to practice mindfulness with a variety of practices from breathing, living in the present, accepting yourself, and so on.
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