Mindfulness is still an increasingly popular buzz-word in our media and society. Here in Calderdale we teach the main flagship of mindfulness courses; The MBSR as it is known or for the full title – mindfulness based stress reduction. This is an excellent course but what benefits can it bring me you may ask. Here is a list of the most common ones, that have been linked to an enormous amount of clinical research. Enjoy !
If you read our piece on Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR), you know that mindfulness is considered a key element to fighting stress. An entire stress reduction program, with decades of experience and tens of thousands of practitioners, is an excellent indication that mindfulness works.
In addition to the outcomes of MBSR, there have been numerous studies backing up the idea that mindfulness reduces stress. One study on present-moment awareness found that it facilitates an adaptive response to daily stressors (Donald, Atkins, Parker, Christie, & Ryan, 2016). Another study by Donald and Atkins (2016) found evidence that mindfulness produced less avoidance and more approach coping as a response to stress than relaxation or self-affirmation controls.
Mindfulness can also help alleviate stress by improving emotion regulation, leading to a better mood and better ability to handle stress (Remmers, Topolinski, & Koole, 2016).
The impact of mindfulness on stress can also be seen in several specific groups, including:
- Those who suffer from restless legs syndrome (Bablas, Yap, Cunnington, Swieca, & Greenwood, 2016).
- Parents (Gouveia, Carona, Canavarro, & Moreira, 2016).
- Healthcare professionals (Burton, Burgess, Dean, Koutsopoulou, & Hugh-Jones, 2017).
- Veterans with depression and/or PTSD (Felleman, Stewart, Simpson, & Heppner, 2016).
- Police officers (Bergman, Christopher, & Bowen, 2016).
For an excellent dive into how mindfulness affects the experience of stress, check out the “Little Book of Mindfulness” by Rebecca Howden and Medibank. I’ll leave it to them to dive into the nitty-gritty, but I’ll describe their explanation of the relaxation response.
Howden and Medibank first list the symptoms of stress, including:
- Constantly feeling anxious and worried
- Feeling irritable, agitated and easily annoyed
- Argumentative and defensive with friends and family
- Restless sleeping
- Low levels of energy, often waking up feeling tired
- Restless and frenetic mind
- Often self-critical and/or critical of others
- Feeling flat and uninspired
- Having difficulty concentrating
- Skin rashes and conditions
- Clenching your jaw muscles and grinding your teeth at night
- Headaches and migraines
When you induce a state of relaxation, which can be achieved through mindfulness, another kind of meditation, or other activities, you can reap the benefits, including:
- Increased immune function
- Lowered blood pressure
- Lowered heart rate
- Increased awareness
- Increased attention and focus
- Increased clarity in thinking and perception
- Lowered anxiety levels
- Experience of being calm and internally still
- Experience of feeling connected
Gaining these benefits can be as simple as closing your eyes and being silent for a few minutes a day. This is a practice that is so easy, anyone can do it! It is remembering to do it that can be problematic for some of us !