How mindfulness may help you

Practicing mindfulness helps promote positive feelings like contentment, self-awareness, empathy and self-control. It can soothe the parts of your brain that produce stress hormones and feed the areas that lift your mood [1].

If you haven’t tried practising mindfulness, it might seem like a strange and complicated thing that you have to go to a class to learn, but there are exercises you can try on your own. Practising mindfulness can be as simple as sitting still for a few moments and concentrating on your own breathing.

There are lots of mobile apps with guided processes for mindfulness. Apps are a helpful option because you can call on them in the times you need them most. Even if you only have time for five or ten minutes, it can still be very beneficial.

It’s worth doing a bit of research to find an app you like using. The practice of mindfulness becomes more powerful when it's a regular habit, and if you don’t like the way an app works, or the sound of the person’s voice, you’re less likely to want to use it. Pick one that you feel you can get into.

What the research tells us


We all face stressful and challenging situations, and these can have an impact on every area of our lives. At any given moment in your life, you might find yourself dealing with stress from study, work, friends and family, money problems, and prolonged existential dread about your future and who you want to be. That’s perfectly normal – it’s how you cope with these stresses that makes the difference.

Some people cope by focusing on a problem and finding solutions and strategies to improve the situation. Other people focus on finding ways to feel better about a situation by reinterpreting it, distancing themselves, or even denying or avoiding it. When the people around you have different coping mechanisms to your own, it can be frustrating.

Mindfulness can help you with your reaction to stressful events. By mentally preparing your mind and body, you’ll start to find you can handle conflict better, and that tough situations won’t get on top of you as much as they used to. Feeling more in control can create some space for you to be the best version of yourself, which has the added side effect of making others around you feel more comfortable in your presence [2].

Mindfulness is geared towards having a moment-to-moment awareness of the world around you. Being truly present can help you become a more effective problem-solver, a better listener, and a calmer and more focused person in general. 

Mindfulness is also great for your mental health. In one study, it was shown to lead to significant improvements in:

  • Stress.
  • Depression and anxiety.
  • Sleep quality.
  • Life satisfaction [3].

 
So, if you’re feeling stressed or anxious, if you’re having trouble sleeping, or if you just find that life gets on top of you more than you’d like it to, you might want to give mindfulness a try. Search for some mindfulness apps through your browser or phone and have a look at the reviews. Some focus on topics like health, sleep, or relationships, and many have free versions that allow you to try them out before you commit. Try a few to find the right one for you.

Have you tried mindfulness? Did you find that it made a difference? Or are you a little sceptical? Are there any apps or tools that you’d recommend? Leave a comment, or share your story below

References

[1] http://franticworld.com/what-can-mindfulness-do-for-you/

[2] http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0005789404800285 Carson, J. W., Carson, K. M., Gil, K. M., & Baucom, D. H. (2004). Mindfulness-based relationship enhancement. Behavior therapy, 35(3), 471-494. ``

[3] http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/early/2014/07/16/peds.2013-3164
Dykens, E. M., Fisher, M. H., Taylor, J. L., Lambert, W., & Miodrag, N. (2014). Reducing distress in mothers of children with autism and other disabilities: a randomized trial. Pediatrics, 134(2), e454-e463.

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