Category

Mindfulness

6 Ways That Mindfulness Reduces Stress

By Meditation, MindfulnessNo Comments

 

 

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.

3. Acceptance

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.

 

 

5 Daily Mindfulness Practices

By Meditation, MindfulnessNo Comments



Mindfulness is a term that is often brought up but… what does it really mean? Mindfulness refers to a state of awareness of the present moment and it arises from paying close attention to current experiences without judgement. Practicing mindfulness can of course be done with meditation which is the ultimate way to slow down, become aware, regulate emotions and thoughts, and relieve stress. Mindfulness, however, does not necessarily require a meditation practice which is good news if you have a busy schedule and do not have time to set aside to meditate. Let’s explore some simple yet effective ways that you can practice mindfulness on a daily basis.

1. Being Mindful During Conversations

Have you ever had a conversation with someone and while they are speaking, finding your thoughts drifting elsewhere? How about glancing at your phone while talking to someone or even worse, scrolling through social media or texting during a conversation? Sometimes it’s not a matter of disrespect and maybe instead it’s due to the fact that our minds are racing, we’re distracted, and not aware of the present moment. If you find yourself distracted and distant in conversations, practice mindfulness by maintaining eye contact and turning off your phone or keep it far away from you. Additionally, when the other person is speaking, listen to their tone of voice and the context of the conversation carefully and reply accordingly. This might seem like an unnecessary step but often times, people aren’t truly listening and instead they are constructing what they are planning on saying next. Truly listening, with judgment, and adding value with your response instead of a random statement is a wonderful way to practice mindfulness.

2. Being Mindful During Exercise/Yoga

This same concept applies to exercising and doing yoga; is your mind elsewhere during this time? Practicing a mind-body connection during a work out actually makes the exercises more effective. For instance, while you are lifting weights, if you focus on how your muscles feel as well as your breathing instead of a random thought, you will be able to lift more weights. Bringing your awareness to your body during strenuous activities allows your body to perform at its best by engaging your muscles to their fullest ability. If you find this difficult, try working out without headphones and simply focusing on deep inhales and exhales while exercising and bringing your attention to how your body feels. Practicing mindfulness on the mat might seem intuitive but you might be thinking about an array of different things while doing yoga without even noticing it. Shifting your attention to your breath and the alignment of your body during yoga allows you to receive the full benefits while immersing yourself in the present moment and connecting with yourself on a spiritual level.

3. Being Mindful While Eating

How long does it take you on average to eat a meal; 30 minutes, 1 hour? Many of us are eager to sit down and eat when we’re hungry and often times, we don’t even chew our food appropriately let alone consciously enjoy every bite. By eating slowly and chewing thorouhgly, we are able to enjoy the flavors of our food far more than when we rush to empty our plate. One way to practice this is by eating 3-5 small meals throughout the day so that you have an appetite before eating, but you are not starving and you can control the speed at which you are consuming the meal. Apart from how fast we eat, mindful eating also has to do with what we eat. Cooking is a wonderful way to incorporate mindfulness into our lives because we are aware of each and every ingredient that is going into our body. Being vegetarian or vegan is also something to potentially consider in the context of mindful eating because of multiple health benefits and the effects on animal welfare and the environment.

4. Being Mindful While Breathing

Practicing mindful breathing is simple in theory but not that simple in practice. Breathing is an ongoing and automatic function of the body that we usually don’t put too much thought into. By bringing our awareness to every inhale and exhale, our breathing becomes more conscious rather than passive. The idea is to simply observe the breath without necessarily altering it. By shifting attention to the breath, especially during stressful or overwhelming moments, you will feel more relaxed, collected, and calm. Another way to practice mindfulness while breathing is by taking a deep inhale, holding your breath for a few seconds and then releasing any tension through a deep exhale. Repeat this as many times as needed in order to relieve stress. The beauty of mindful breathing is that it turns a reflexive behavior that we take for granted into a conscious act.

5. Being Mindful of Daily Experiences

Routines lead to habits which lead to a decreased response to stimuli in our daily lives. To put simply, when we do the same thing day after day, we sometimes forget to fully enjoy every aspect of it and actions become automatic. There are some simple changes that you can incorporate into your routine that will allow you to become aware of and appreciate everything you experience. When you make a cup of coffee or tea in the morning, feel the warmth of your mug on your hands and enjoy every warm, delicious sip that you take. While taking a shower or bath, observe the way that your body feels and how wonderful it is to feel warm and clean. Overall, learning to pay attention to the little things in our daily lives allows us to enjoy them so much more.

Increased awareness can be applied to each and every thing that we do that we normally take for granted such as driving, walking, eating, drinking, resting, breathing, talking, and exercising. Practicing mindfulness heightens our senses and enriches our experiences while teaching us that nothing should be overlooked or taken for granted.


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.