Four Practices that Will Help You Recognize Sources of Stress in Your Life

We may not notice stress in our lives until its effects become pronounced. These practices will alert you to the danger and its sources.

Stress kills us in so many ways

When you lead a busy life, the combination of tasks at work and around the house, social commitments, and distractions on our devices can increase your exposure to elevated levels of stress. By the time you realize that you’re dealing with chronic stress, you may already need to see a GI doctor or consult with a therapist to relax and cope with anxiety. Early recognition of stress and its possible sources, also called as stressors, in your life is a vital boost to any successful stress management plan. The following practices will help you do that.

Keep a journal

A journal is a valuable tool for productivity and continued learning. Even if you keep it simple-a bullet journal or assorted to-do lists, for instance-,the information you jot down can provide considerable insight into the everyday factors, patterns, and occasional changes that could bring stress into your life. You can take things further by exploring your thoughts and feelings in a more introspective style of writing. This will help you find clarity and deeper insights into what’s currently working for you and which things might not be turning out so well.

Become a reader of good fiction

Many people read self-help books as an aid to personal development, but the occasional dose of fiction allows you to develop reading as a skill. If you start to explore a variety of well-written works of fiction, you can better develop your powers of empathy and observation. Not only does this practice give the pleasure of stimulating your imagination and experiencing a good story, but it also helps you become more aware of what’s happening in life, improves the quality and restfulness of sleep, and actively works to lower your stress levels (even if you aren’t yet aware that you’re dealing with stress).

Engage in mindfulness practice

Similar to the benefits of reading, several mindfulness practices can offer a dual boost-increasing your awareness of possible stressors while helping to offset or balance their effects.

When we think of mindfulness, meditation is often the first thing that comes to mind. Other options include deliberately slowing down and avoiding multitasking to focus on the present; removing devices such as your phone or computer for some time each day; going out for a walk in green spaces to reconnect with nature; and moving your body regularly through a commitment to exercise, such as yoga.

Explore another perspective

Developing an increased sense of awareness doesn’t have to come entirely from your perceptions. It’s essential to explore other people’s perspectives and thereby gain feedback into what’s happening in your life, which you might never acquire on your own. Talk to the people you love and trust, who are in a position to observe you regularly; family, close friends, and longtime colleagues can offer valuable insights as to what might be changing or disrupting your life. While everyone might have a different opinion, and they can be wrong or right on various points, what matters is you maintain frequent conversations with your support network, so you can piece together a better overview of the big picture.

By practicing these techniques, you’ll become more closely attuned to what’s happening in your life each day. This will alert you to stressors and help you better manage the unwanted effects of stress before things get out of hand.

How Does Mindful Meditation Affect Your Brain

 

Mindfulness and Brain
Mindfulness and Brain

How is it possible to make changes to our brain? Instead of going online or playing another game on your phone, try quieting down your mind.

Not possible instantly!

However, try to pay attention to your thoughts and remain passive without reacting.

Research over the years proves that just a few minutes of meditation may make a big difference. Let’s examine how.

What is Meditation?

Meditation is an active form of brain training. This mental training activates increased awareness of the mind. There are various meditation programs prescribed by experts to approach it in different ways.

A review study conducted by Madhav Goyal of John Hopkins looked at the relationship between mindfulness meditation and its effect on brain. This research established that “meditation isn’t a magic bullet for depression, as no treatment is, but it’s one of the tools that may help manage symptoms.”  

Another evidence has linked practising mindfulness to improvements in many parts of the brain.

Researchers suggest that mindfulness can affect the production of chemicals that change our mood. In fact, there are evidences to prove connections between different regions of the brain that change when we are mindful.

“Mindfulness is a kind of mental exercise for your brain. Based on meditation, it helps you to focus on the present moment.”, says Meena Joshi, Mindfulness Expert for Bupa UK.

Technique & Benefit

Mindful Meditation requires focused attention on one specific thing. This object of focus could be anything – it could be your breathing, a sensation in your body or a particular object outside of you. Mindful Meditation focuses on one point and continuously brings your attention back to that focal point when it wanders away.

An intriguing study carried out by the Yale University proved that meditation reduces activity in the brain’s “Me Centre”. This implies that the mind that meditates amply does not think about itself. It transcends beyond this realm.  Mindfulness meditation decreases activity in the default mode network (DMN) or the brain network responsible for mind-wandering and self-referential thoughts.

Being sad or pensive, or moody is typically associated with worrying about the past and future, the ultimate goal of meditation is to prevent this. Several studies have shown that meditation is an effective natural tranquilliser.

For developing brains of children, the results of mindful meditation are even more promising. To deal with modern stresses, many schools have introduced yoga and meditation into their curriculum.

Several studies have confirmed the cognitive and emotional benefits of meditation on school children as well as adults. Some of the benefits of meditation include:

  • Better Focus
  • Less Anxiety
  • More Creativity
  • More Compassion
  • Better Memory
  • Less Stress &
  • More Gray Matter (associated with energy and intelligence)

 

In fact, a sub-genre of meditation, called Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR), developed by Jon Kabat-Zinn at the University of Massachusetts’ Center for Mindfulness aims to reduce a person’s stress level, physically and mentally. Studies have proved its efficacy in reducing anxiety even years after the initial 8-week course.

Benefits of Mindful Meditation

In recent years, the public attention has soared about mindful meditation.

Mindful Based Stress Reduction(MBSR) brings about real time change in brain regions involving attention and relief from symptoms of social anxiety, as per Stanford University team research. Therefore, people with social anxiety disorder can benefit from it as well.

  • Well designed studies have shown benefits for patients of depression, chronic pain, and anxiety engaging in a mindfulness meditation program, with effects similar to other existing treatments. Research has also shown benefits of mindfulness meditation on an array of conditions both physical and mental, including irritable bowel syndrome, fibromyalgia, psoriasis, anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder.
  • With more studies, researchers have concluded that human mind is a very complex organ and that mindfulness brings about real changes in the brain.

These changes are both simple and very complicated, and that mindfulness is helping us change our minds for the better. Since mind and body work in unison, there are many more unexpected ways that we could expect the results as per the stimuli.

Mindfulness experts reported feeling less pain than people who didn’t practice mindfulness. By not drawing on memories of pain, the experts were able to feel less pain.

  • Another significant benefit of meditation was better brain preservation. A very interesting study from UCLA has pointed out to the benefits of meditation. Meditators who had been practicing meditation for twenty years or longer had better preserved brains and the volume of grey matter was significantly higher too. Even the brain loss that happens with prolonged age is lesser in them.

According to Scientific American Journal, “the effects of mindfulness have been great to see it move away from being a spiritual thing towards proper science and clinical evidence, as stress is a huge problem and has a huge impact on many people’s health. Being able to take time out and focus our mind is increasingly important.”

The quasi-spiritual connotations of meditation have so far prevented mindfulness from being hailed as an antidote to this frantic chaos of  New Age. Mindfulness has come to stay and in few years time, it could become as much a part of our mundane chores like taking a bath or sleeping are.

Contributor Bio – The article is presented by Sharda Hospital. Sharda Hospital is one of the largest super speciality hospitals in Delhi National Capital Region (NCR).

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Meditation Exercise to Reduce Anxiety and Depression

This is guest post by Ms. Jessica Tanner about using mindfulness meditation to reduce anxiety and depression.

How can Meditation Help?

If you have anxiety or depression, meditation can help you relax and regain control over your thoughts and situation. The thing about meditation is (if you do a Mindfulness exercise) that it allows you to be in the present moment and focus only on now. This allows you to take control over your thoughts, which often times control you, and keep you in this negative and depressed state, where you feel trapped and like there is no way up. Of course your first action when experiencing symptoms of depression, should be to contact people who can help you such as your doctor. They are there to help you get through this. Meditation can be used as a complementary treatment alongside any other treatment.

Mindfulness meditation
Mindfulness meditation is very effective for anxiety and depression.

Continue reading “Meditation Exercise to Reduce Anxiety and Depression”

Mindfulness Meditation: What It Is, What It Does, and How You Can Do It!

Here is an informative article on mindfulness meditation I stumbled upon today :-

Whether you’re a veteran meditator looking to enhance your repertoire of wellness techniques, or a beginner looking for a meditative practice that’s a right fit, mindfulness meditation is a great place to start.

Here’s a look at what it is, where it came from and how it evolved, what its benefits are, as well as a look at some helpful tips to get you started.

What is Mindfulness Meditation?

Mindfulness meditation
A woman doing mindfulness meditation

In an interview with Maia Szalavitz, health writer and neuroscience journalist for Time.com, Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn says, “My working definition of mindfulness is the awareness that arises through paying attention on purpose in the present moment – non-judgmentally. And the non-judgmental part is the kicker, because we’ve got ideas and opinions about virtually everything.” Continue reading “Mindfulness Meditation: What It Is, What It Does, and How You Can Do It!”