Overstressed? Need Ways to Relax? Mindfulness Tips
Mindfulness, or mindful meditation, is the practice of inducing a state of calm and focus by paying attention to and/or controlling breathing. A growing trend in the fitness industry, meditation is gaining support as more and more studies demonstrate the many benefits of the practice, such as anxiety relief, the ability to sleep better, and improved cognitive function.
For those who suffer from anxiety, depression or pain, research findings published in the JAMA Internal Medicine suggest that mindful meditation can help ease these psychological stresses. It is believed by researchers that a core component of mindfulness—recognizing an unproductive worry—is the skill that helps stop distracting worries from gaining too much power and providing some anxiety relief. One study even showed that mindfulness-based stress reduction programs led to changes in the amygdala, the region of the brain responsible for the body’s fight or flight response. These changes correlated to a reduction in the stress levels of subjects after practicing mindfulness exercises 40 minutes a day for eight weeks.
The relaxation response evoked by mindfulness has also been found to improve sleep, possibly because many sleep disorders are related to stress. In as little as 20 minutes a day, the act of focusing on the present helps calm overactive minds that are unable to “switch off”.
Improved Cognitive Function
As if reduced anxiety and improved sleep are not enough, mindfulness exercises have also been found to significantly improve attention span, visuo-spatial processing, working memory, and executive functions. Previously, it was believed that only long-term meditators achieved improved cognitive functions, but research has shown that even shorter mindfulness training leads to these benefits.
Meditation Tips for Relaxation
- Find a quiet space and assume a comfortable position.
- Close your eyes and breathe in deeply through your nose and out through your mouth 5 times.
- Return to natural breathing, in and out through your nose, and focus your attention on your breathing, and on how the body moves with each inhalation and exhalation.
- Continue to focus on your breathing. If your attention wanders, recognize the thought, let it go, and bring your attention back to your breathing.
- Begin with 10 minutes a day, and increase weekly by 5 minutes until sessions are at least 20 minutes in length for relaxation benefits.
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