Do you ever feel overwhelmed with work, can’t stay focused in class, or simply feel down most of the time? If so, you may have gotten caught up in the whirlwind style of functioning known as “multitasking.” It is likely that we all have at some point or another and for some, there is no way around it, so what can we do to combat the stresses of the busy lifestyles of 2017?
You shouldn’t have to uproot your whole working style or job just to find peace of mind. Today I’m going to propose a solution that you may have overlooked, mindfulness meditation. The following are the benefits that we know of today:
- Decreased anxiety
- Decreased depression
- Increased empathy
- With decreased negative feelings like sadness, tension, and anger
- Decreased stress
- Increased focus
- Decreased blood pressure
- While also improving the transportation of oxygen and carbon-dioxide
- Increased immune function
As you can see, mindfulness does a lot more than simply strengthen our ability to focus. While you will see some of these benefits after your first time, there is evidence showing that after 8 weeks of practice neurologists seen an increase in gray matter density in brain regions associated with learning, memory processing, and emotional regulation.
Mindfulness is just one style of meditation. There are myriad resources out there to help you get started, but Headspace is my favorite. Have you tried meditating before? If so, let me know your thoughts on the practice and your favorite style.
“You practice mindfulness, on the one hand, to be calm and peaceful. On the other hand, as you practice mindfulness and live a life of peace, you inspire hope for a future of peace.” – Thích Nhất Hạnh
Learning to cultivate mindfulness might be as effective as antidepressants in preventing depression relapses, recent research published in The Lancet suggests.
Mindfulness – or the state of attending to the present moment in a nonjudgmental way – is a concept that has been around for millennia in Eastern cultures that practice Buddhism. However, it has only been in the last century or so that Mindfulness Meditation has entered the Western world. Even more recently, Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) has been employed in a clinical setting to treat anxiety and depression.
In this study, around 200 participants with recurring depression weaned off antidepressants and began group MBCT, while another 200 stayed on their same antidepressant medication. After two years, both groups had similar relapse rates – a little over 40%. While these rates are still rather steep, it shows that MBCT is as effective as maintaining antidepressant use. According to The Lancet’s press release, one participant believed that mindfulness taught him a set of skills that put him in charge of his depression, rather than a pill.
Group classes still incur a cost, but they may be a more cost-effective alternative to many people with depression. In addition, MBCT teaches patients skills that, if applied in daily life, can potentially last a lifetime. This study is consistent with a whole body of literature touting the beneficial effects of mindfulness. So whether you’re dealing with depression or just want to maintain your mental health, take a deep breath and find more moments to be mindful.
Photo credit: Alice Popkorn via Flickr
Now that the sparkle and excitement of the New Year has faded away, so too have a few of our resolutions. What we once were so steadfastly declaring to change in 2015 may already be a faint memory from the past. And while your attempts to eat better, sleep more, and procrastinate less may already be waning, I urge you to at least try to slow down.
Or at least that’s what the experts of “stillness” say.
If you’re not familiar with TED Talks, the slogan “ideas worth spreading” says it all. From storytelling to String theory, these 15-30 minute talks cover a variety of subjects, and previous speakers include household names like Bill Clinton and Stephen Hawking. A recent article on http://ideas.ted.com features a conversation between two former TED speakers, Buddhist monk Matthieu Ricard and writer Pico Iyer, exploring their thoughts on happiness, mindfulness, and the importance of occasionally being still.
While many of us may only pay attention to our health when something is unmistakably wrong, it’s worth noting that the World Health Organization (WHO) describes health as not only the absence of disease, but also as “a state of complete physical, mental and social-well being.” Whether you’re a student, employee, parent, or fellow wanderer through life, take a minute (or a few) to read the TED conversation and see why being mindful can be of such value to your overall health and well-being.