Deadlines at work, relationship struggles, multi-tasking, trying just to get ahead or stay afloat, lack of sleep, and the general insecurity of life. All of it can cause a lot of stress.
But our hectic lifestyles often just don’t allow us to let go.
We may even feel that if we do let go, we’ll go under.
The central nervous system responds to these challenges by going into “fight or flight mode.” If there is no relief or respite, we develop what psychologists call a “chronic elevated stress response,” where the stress response is no longer balanced by the relaxation response.
It’s not easy to find your way out of this chain reaction, and, unfortunately, once a chronic stress response is established, it can not just be switched off through an act of pure will.
Mindfulness is a technique that can bring balance back to your life.
It is a simple, very powerful, way to re-connect with yourself and the world positively and experience every moment to its full potential.
What is mindfulness?
Mindfulness is a way of turning your attention to the present moment, to the world around you and the world inside you, and of calming the mind by focusing on the breath.
Mindfulness is practiced in many different ways, ranging from one-minute mini-sessions to extended meditation practice. It is simple but powerful, has no negative side-effects, costs nothing, and is always available, putting you in charge of your life. The benefits of mindfulness are countless. Let’s look at some of them.
Here are five important benefits of mindfulness:
Benefit 1: Connect with your environment
The path into mindfulness starts by connecting with your senses. Close your eyes and listen to the sounds you hear. Maybe it is the murmur of a stream, maybe it is the distant rumble of traffic. Are there any scents in the air? Flowers, food, fresh laundry? Can you feel the pull of gravity on your body? The contours of your desk and laptop?
Sensory input grounds you in the moment and in your location. Your focus shifts away from the worries about tomorrow and the burdens of yesterday. You are connected. Your mind is free.
Benefit 2: Activate the relaxation response
As your anxiety subsides, your system can relax. Instead of stress hormones, you start producing oxytocin, endorphins, and other hormones that help you recover and heal some of the stress-related damage.
The relaxation response also works on a molecular level and can “switch on” genes that repair inflammation and premature aging induced by stress hormones.
Benefit 3: Live in the present – the only life you have
Your breath always anchors you in the present moment. Observe it, as it goes in and out of your body. Then, gently lengthen your inhalation. Hold your breath for a little bit. Then exhale. Try the 5/5/7 method: breathe in for a count of 5, hold for another count of 5, and exhale for a count of 7.
When you focus on your breath, you live completely in the here and now. And really, that’s the only life you have. It’s where your body lives, all the time. No wonder this breathing technique is healing for both mind and body.
Benefit 4: Enhance creativity
When you stop distracting yourself and stop being afraid, you enter the zone of the creative flow. You are completely immersed in the task of the moment and you flow with it as in a river. This is the state of mind that creates innovation and it is also the state of mind that creates happiness.
Benefit 5: Enrich your relationships
The hormones that are released in the relaxation state are those that connect us to others. Empathy is enhanced. We don’t panic, we don’t strike back out of fear. As we listen to the world around us, we can also listen better to our friends and family. The benefits of mindfulness are the foundation of fulfilling, compassionate relationships.
You can learn mindfulness online, from a counselor, or in local groups. You can practice it alone, wherever you are, whenever you have a moment, or with your partner and children.
Why not give it a try? If you would like more information about the benefits of mindfulness or feel you need guidance, contact me. We’ll work together until mindfulness is as easy as breathing.