What is mindfulness? A simple way to think of it is training your attention to achieve a mental state of calm concentration and positive emotions.
Mindfulness is one of the most popular techniques. It has two main parts: attention and acceptance.
The attention piece is about tuning into your experiences to focus on what’s happening in the present moment. It typically involves directing your awareness to your breath, your thoughts, the physical sensations in your body and the feelings you are experiencing. The acceptance piece involves observing those feelings and sensations without judgment. Instead of responding or reacting to those thoughts or feelings, you aim to note them and let them go.
Researchers reviewed more than 200 studies of mindfulness among healthy people and found mindfulness-based therapy was especially effective for reducing stress, anxiety and depression. Some of the most promising research has looked at people with depression. Several studies have found, for example, that MBCT can significantly reduce relapse in people who have had previous episodes of major depression. What’s more, mindfulness-based interventions can improve physical health, too. For example, mindfulness may reduce pain, fatigue and stress in people with chronic pain.
Researchers believe the benefits of mindfulness are related to its ability to dial down the body’s response to stress.
Chronic stress can impair the body’s immune system and make many other health problems worse. By lowering the stress response, mindfulness may have downstream effects throughout the body.
Psychologists have found that mindfulness influences two different stress pathways in the brain, changing brain structures and activity in regions associated with attention and emotion regulation. In a review of meditation studies, psychology researchers found strong evidence that people who received MBCT were less likely to react with negative thoughts or unhelpful emotional reactions in times of stress. They also found moderate evidence that people who participated in MBCT were better able to focus on the present and less likely to worry and to think about a negative thought or experience over and over.
It can take a little while for mindfulness meditation to feel natural and to become a part of a regular routine. But with practice, one may discover a powerful tool for relieving stress and improving well-being
Mindfulness Meditation: A Research-Proven Way to Reduce Stress
APA.org October 30, 2019
- David Creswell, PhD, and Bassam Khoury, PhD