How mindfulness may help you

Mindfulness is becoming more and more popular as a way to let go of your stress and ‘find’ yourself in the midst of your daily (and probably very busy!) life.

Studies have shown [1] that 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.

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 a number of exercises you can try on your own. Practising mindfulness can even 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 when you need them most – if you’re the kind of person who never seems to have a free moment, convenience can be everything. 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 that you enjoy using. The practice of mindfulness becomes more powerful when it becomes a regular habit, so if you don’t like the sound of the person’s voice or what they are saying, you’re less likely to want to listen to the app. Pick one that you feel you can get into!

 

What the research tells us


We all face stressful, difficult and challenging situations, and these can have an impact on every area of our lives.

It’s not realistic to expect stressful moments to go away completely. 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 real 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 the body, you’ll start to find you can handle conflict better, and that tough situations don’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. The evidence for this is right here [2].

Mindfulness is geared towards experiencing the present moment, and 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 find it useful to give mindfulness a try. Search for some mindfulness apps through your browser or phone and have a look at some reviews. Some focus on topics such as 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? We’d love to hear your thoughts – so please do leave us a comment, or share your story. 



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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