Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction:
In Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction: how often do you find yourself feeling stressed? Whether it’s getting a notice from your doctor about an upcoming checkup, speaking in front of an audience at work, or dealing with the effects of your daily commute, stress will happen to almost anyone at some point.
Luckily, there are ways to reduce that stress without medication—including mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR). Here are some of the surprising benefits of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) and how you can use them to reduce stress in your life.
What Is Mindfulness?
Mindfulness is a well-known practice used to help reduce stress. Many people think of it as meditation, but mindfulness is actually more than that. In fact, you can be mindful without meditating—and sometimes it’s better not to meditate.
The two activities involve very different skills and ultimately lead to different results: Meditation involves purposely shifting your attention away from things you want or need to focus on (like an overfull inbox), whereas mindfulness helps you stay focused on your tasks and goals without getting distracted by other thoughts or ideas.
While people often find mindfulness easier to get into, it doesn’t replace some forms of meditation for reducing stress. And no matter which kind of mindfulness you do, it should always come with health benefits!
Why Is MBSR Effective?
When we think about meditation, many of us have a specific image in mind: an Asian man in monk robes sitting on a mountain peak.
While these visualizations can be helpful when creating your own meditation practice, it’s important to remember that there are many different types of meditation—so no matter who you are, there’s one that will be good for you. It also doesn’t matter where you meditate—at home or at work or while sitting on a park bench.
As long as you can sit comfortably and don’t need to move right away (i.e., not in class or while driving), where you meditate doesn’t matter at all.
Let’s Talk About Meditation
More people are meditating than ever before, but it’s not exactly something we talk about. However, in a society where mental health is increasingly stigmatized and seen as weak, we need to give meditation a chance.
It’s more than just sitting around thinking about nothing—it actually has some significant physical benefits. Those who meditate regularly have been shown to have reduced levels of inflammation, improved cardiovascular health, and slower cellular aging.
And these are only three advantages out of an entire laundry list! If you’re looking for a way to improve your physical and mental well-being simultaneously, you might want to consider giving meditation a try!
Let’s Look at Guided Meditation
You can practice mindfulness in any location or position, whether you’re sitting on a bench or standing in line at Starbucks.
To start a guided meditation, close your eyes and concentrate on your breathing for about 20 seconds. When you notice your mind has wandered (and it will!), simply acknowledge that and then turn your attention back to your breath. Let go of judgmental thoughts, such as I should be concentrating more or My breath smells bad.
Simply focus on deep breathing from there until you feel ready to stop—and make sure to set a timer so you don’t get distracted by other activities! If possible, sit quietly afterward and allow yourself time to reflect on what just happened before jumping back into work mode.
Don’t Forget Self-Care
The key to stress reduction is not just learning to deal with stress; it’s learning how to prevent it in order to reduce its negative impact on your mind and body.
One big component that gets overlooked: self-care. It’s important to take time each day—even if it’s only five minutes at a time—to take care of yourself physically, mentally, and emotionally.
This doesn’t have to mean expensive spa treatments or shopping sprees every weekend (though these can be nice). In fact, simply going for a walk outside can increase your energy level and help you feel more connected with nature around you. When you begin incorporating self-care into your everyday routine, you’ll see positive results in other areas as well.
Start Slow and Stick with It
MBSR has been around for a long time, and there’s a reason for that. It works. However, you can’t just jump in at full speed on day one. You’re essentially learning how to meditate after years of not doing it regularly.
That takes time. Consider starting with one five-minute session per day and slowly working your way up to 20 minutes or more each day (or longer sessions as needed).
When done consistently, you’ll start seeing benefits in your daily life as well as in your mental health. Set goals for yourself along the way and remember why you started—to reduce stress, increase calmness and improve your overall mental well-being.
What Are the Long Term Effects?
All forms of meditation, including mindfulness, can induce relaxation by changing certain brain waves. By using technology to measure brain activity, scientists have been able to determine what changes occur during these sessions.
According to an eight year study conducted by Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital, researchers found that long term meditators had higher levels of gamma brainwaves in comparison to those who do not practice meditation.
These brainwaves are associated with consciousness and alertness. Long term meditators also exhibited less alpha wave activity; these are related to drowsiness and disengagement from mental tasks. As a result, participants experienced more clarity and awareness in their daily lives than non-meditators following a short session of meditation.
The Mindful Way Workbook by Ronald D. Siegel and Dr. Lilian Cheung (US), Instant Calm: Harnessing the Power of Your Personal Connection to Nature by Amanda Jane Bennett, Art Therapy for Trauma by Elizabeth Newson (UK).
The Healing Self: A Journey for Optimal Wellbeing by Barbara Kingsolver
Things That Make Us Happy: My Personal Search for What Really Matters by Matthew Walker and Smile or Die:
How Positive Thinking Fooled America and Promotes False Hope—and How a More Authentic Confidence—In Ourselves, in Each Other, and in Life Itself Can Put Us on Course to Realistic Happiness by Ann Lamott (US).