Mindfulness & managing stress

Mindfulness & managing stress


What pops into your mind when you think of mindfulness?

Mindfulness means "we should focus our minds on the present moment." But what exactly is mindfulness? It's the practice of being fully aware of where we are and what we're doing without becoming overly reactive or overwhelmed by what's happening around us.

Mindfulness helps us tune into our thoughts and feelings without getting lost. It can be a powerful tool in managing stress. Too much thinking and worrying can drain our energy and make life overwhelming. Research published in the Journal of Research in Personality shows that present-moment awareness is a key feature of mindfulness, which increases stress resilience and effective coping.

Studies suggest that practising mindfulness can reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression, lower blood pressure, and improve sleep quality. Learn about mindfulness in more detail, and the best techniques to incorporate into your daily life are below.

The effects of stress

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, stress is how the brain and body respond to any change, challenge, or demand. Life can be stressful, and everyone may experience stress occasionally. When it comes to stress there tend to be different types of stress:

Physiological Response
This stress is related to the physical strain on the body caused by factors such as illness or lack of sleep.

Psychological Stress
Psychological stress stems from internal cognitive and emotional pressure like anxiety, depression, etc.

Cultural stress
This stress arises from societal and cultural expectations and norms, such as identity crises and emotional distress.

Anticipatory Stress
This stress is the fear or anxiety about future events or situations. It involves worrying about potential threats or challenges that might occur.

Benefits of mindfulness

Here is how mindfulness helps in managing your stress.

Mindfulness reduces negative thought patterns
The main benefit of mindfulness is breaking the cycle of negative thinking. It reduces the activity in the part of your brain called the amygdala. Mindfulness helps you avoid getting caught up in worries about the future or regrets about the past. This shift in focus can significantly reduce feelings of stress and anxiety.

Mindfulness enhances emotional regulation
Mindfulness improves emotional regulation and helps individuals become more aware of their emotions without being overwhelmed. This awareness allows for better management of emotional responses.

You experience better focus
Practising mindfulness will increase your focus, which can help you complete your work more efficiently. You will likely get into "the zone" or "flow," as Mihaly calls it in psychology.

Helps you to be more relaxed and Calm
Mindfulness practices such as deep breathing, body scans, and meditation activate the body's relaxation response. This helps counteract the stress response, reducing physical symptoms like muscle tension and elevated heart rate. Regular practice can lead to a sustained sense of calm and relaxation.

Enjoy better sleep
Stress often disrupts sleep patterns, but mindfulness can help improve sleep quality. Techniques like mindful breathing and progressive relaxation calm the mind and body, making it easier to fall and stay asleep. Better sleep contributes to overall stress reduction and improved health.

How to sit for Meditation Practice?

Meditation can be practised in many ways, but sitting is one of the most common and effective ways. Here is how you need to sit for medication.

Choose a comfortable seat
Sit with your feet flat on the ground and your back straight. Sit cross-legged on the floor with your hips on a cushion to help maintain a straight spine. Make sure your back remains straight.

Find your posture
Keep your back straight but not rigid. Rest your hands on your knees or in your lap. If sitting cross-legged, ensure your knees are lower than your hips for better support.

Align your head and neck
Keep your head aligned with your spine, with your chin slightly tucked in. This helps keep your neck straight and reduces strain.

Close your eyes
You can close your eyes to minimize distractions or keep them open with a soft gaze directed a few feet in front of you. Take a few moments to relax your body. Check for any areas of tension and consciously release them.

How to meditate?

A recent study reveals that an eight-week meditation program significantly changed the expression of 172 genes responsible for regulating inflammation, circadian rhythms, and glucose metabolism. These genetic changes were associated with a notable reduction in blood pressure.

Focus on your breath
Pay attention to your breathing. Notice the sensations of the breath entering and leaving your nostrils and the rise and fall of your chest or abdomen.

Observe Your thoughts—during meditation
Thoughts will inevitably arise. Instead of engaging with them, simply observe them and let them pass. Return your focus to your breath each time you notice your mind wandering.

Practice Mindfulness
Engage with the present moment. Be aware of your body, breath, and surroundings without judgment. Some people find it helpful to use a mantra—a word or phrase repeated silently—to maintain focus. Examples include "Om" and "Peace".

Meditation offers a powerful tool for stress management and improving overall well-being. Regular mindfulness helps individuals stay present, break the cycle of negative thinking, and cultivate a sense of calm and relaxation.

Final thoughts

Overall, meditation can be a powerful technique for managing stress levels. The key to noticing its benefits is being consistent. Always meditate in a comfortable place that's convenient for you.

If you just want to experience mindfulness, though, you don't necessarily have to meditate to achieve this. It could simply be reflecting on your own thoughts, running, reading, or taking time out from your devices.

Remember, if you don't manage your stress, you could be at risk of a range of other health problems!