Shifting into a conscious state of mind, focusing on the present moment, and increasing overall awareness is often referred to as mindfulness. Practicing mindfulness consistently has multiple benefits such as improved general health, pain relief, academic success, increased self-awareness, better attention span, increased sense of gratitude, and stress relief. Reducing stress is a common motivation to practice mindfulness, often through meditation, because it is truly effective at doing so. Stress is experienced by all of us, to some degree, and the good news is that there is a simple and holistic way to relieve it… through a daily practice mindfulness. Mindfulness can be practiced through meditation or simply through a more aware and conscious view of our experiences and feelings. There are many ways that mindfulness helps to reduce stress by making us feel calmer, allowing us to regulate our emotions, by reducing activity in the amygdala, and by teaching acceptance, awareness, and gratitude.
1. Developing a Calm Demeanor
It is not a surprise that practicing mindfulness makes us feel calmer; the question is how exactly? Mindfulness meditation reduces the production of a stress hormone called cortisol, resulting in relaxation. Most of us are continuously thinking about errands, social interactions, future plans, and responsibilities which can be anxiety-inducing and overwhelming. Thepresence of this ongoing, inner chatter hinders our ability to focus, be aware, and truly enjoy the present. Practicing mindfulness is a wonderful way to press pause, set everything aside, and re-connect with yourself. Setting aside even 5-10 minutes daily to breathe and meditate is incredibly beneficial for your physical, emotional, and mental well being. Ultimately, you feel calmer, more composed, and more focused.
2. Better Emotion Regulation
The ability to regulate one’s emotions is important because it can lead to mood improvement (ideal for those who experience many ups and downs) and long-term well being. Emotions directly affect our moods which is why it is important to develop another sense of awareness of ourselves through mindfulness. By practicing mindfulness, you can condition yourself to pay more attention to the different feelings and sensations that you experience on a daily basis. Overall, by being more aware of emotions, we are able to experience more compassion, empathy, and understanding while not allowing negative emotions to affect us as much. One incredible benefit that mindfulness meditation offers is resilience which is a buffer when dealing with emotional highs and lows. Set time aside, especially during moments of stress, and simply become aware of what you are feeling. Without trying to suppress anything, observe the effects of your emotions on your body and your mind with patience.
The practice of mindfulness has a beautiful way of teaching acceptance and essentially, how to be at peace with your surroundings without trying to alter them. Passing judgment is a common human tendency that is difficult to shake off however, mindfulness allows us to develop a neutral stance towards the feelings and thoughts that we experience. The ability to observe your thoughts passing by, one by one, without trying to alter or criticize anything can be achieved through mindfulness meditation. Accepting feelings of stress and allowing them to pass instead of fighting those feelings makes stress more bearable. The imperfections and difficult moments of life make the good moments even better which is why accepting adversity is so important in terms of combatting stress.
4. Less Activity in the Amygdala
To put simply, the amygdala refers to a set neurons in the brain which is responsible for the processing and regulation of emotions, memory, and survival instincts. This part of the brain is also stimulated when we experience stress and fear. Practicing mindfulness consistently can actually allow us to be more self-aware and concentrated while making better decisions to the decreased activity in the amygdala. Other benefits also include better problem solving skills while facilitating learning and of course, relieving overall feelings of tension and stress. Simply mindfulness habits such as becoming aware of how food tastes and eating slowly, breathing deeply, listening carefully, and focusing on how your body feels while working out can provide these benefits.
5. Increased Awareness
The concept of increasing your overall awareness has already been briefly mentioned but let’s dive deeper into this concept. Most of our actions tend to be automatic due to habit and routines such as eating, drinking, resting, walking, talking, etc. Basic human functions are often taken for granted and of course, this is normal. When we are exposed to something long enough to repeated stimuli, our response decreases just like how we notice the scent of a candle in a room but after a while, we do not notice it anymore. By increasing awareness through mindfulness, we are able to notice and uproot negative tendencies while choosing not to respond with stress or panic in difficult situations. With awareness comes appreciation of the wonderful things we experience daily along with a newfound sense of well-being. That being said, when mindfulness is implemented, awareness eliminates stress.
6. Increased Sense of Gratitude
It’s easy to overlook the beautiful scenery that we see every day and it’s easy to take things for granted. It’s also easy to forget the blessings that exist in our lives because we are used to them being there. Gratitude is an incredibly powerful feeling that can overpower stress. With a mindfulness practice, you become aware of absolutely everything, internally and externally. Then, you go on to accept everything that you are experiencing as part of your journey. After awareness and acceptance, comes gratitude for everything, physical and nonphysical, that surrounds you. It’s difficult to feel stressed and tense when the feeling of gratitude overwhelms you; although your adversity is valid and should not be suppressed, focusing on the good things and people in your life makes difficulties seem manageable and temporary.
Practicing mindfulness, either through meditation or other habits, on a daily basis can provide incredible benefits for your mind and body regarding stress relief. By accepting, becoming more aware, feeling grateful, and embracing a calm demeanor through mindfulness, stress can be reduced.
Stella Versteeg was exposed to yoga early in life from her father – traveling to India to practice yoga with her family. Living in ashrams and being surrounded by the beautiful and intricate Indian culture, from a young age, Stella was able appreciate and learn about the origin of yoga as well as meditation. Stella received her 200 HR yoga training from YogaRenew in 2018. She currently runs a blog, Ride Your Wave Yoga, which shares yoga tips, poses, nutrition, travel and mindfulness. Her goal is to spread honesty, love and awareness about a yogic lifestyle through her blog posts as well as create a supportive, inspired community. She aspires to share as much information as possible about the wonderful lifestyle that yoga has to offer and continuously evolve in her personal own practice.