In life, we are all subjected to anxiety. Perhaps some may feel anxiety more intensely than others. After all, we each handle stress differently. The concept of mindfulness has been circulating for quite some time now. Lately, it has become popular in the media. Mindfulness is not some concept abused in order to sell products in various stores. Mindfulness is not just a simple term to make coloring cool for marketing purposes.
I looked into the technique that colouring books were proudly exhibiting. There is a science behind mindfulness that is deeply interesting for anyone who wants to rid stress and/or anxiety. It has been said to be a form of cognitive therapy. I did some reading on the matter and found an interesting blog post by Tom Ireland, a guest blogger for Scientific American, that encouraged me to pursue mindfulness. Ireland wrote, based on research through an MRI scan, that there is evidence that the brain’s “fight or flight center, the amygdala, appears to shrink” after “an eight-week course of mindfulness” . In turn, after a short course of mindfulness, the brain adapts to cope with stress more effectively. As a result, we are left feeling less anxious.
In addition to this, according to Parabl, a therapy service, after just an eight week course of mindfulness there is a 70% reduction in anxiety . Just eight weeks of practice in mindfulness can cause changes in the brain relating to self awareness, memory, learning and compassion. Therefore, not only are you easing your anxiety – you are, to an extent, improving your physical mindset and approach to daily activities.
How exactly does one be mindful? Mindfulness is: “The quality or state of being conscious of something.” A mindful exercise helps you to reach a specific “state” of consciousness in which you are more focused on the present moment rather than being dragged down by worries of the future. Mindfulness alerts all of your senses so that you can unlock this “state”. This understandably links to the shrinkage of the “amygdala”. Mindfulness teaches us how to be constantly aware and how to deal with things as they come rather than being consistently irrational.
How can you practice mindfulness? There are ways in which you can be mindful of the present, but there are several activities you can do to practice mindfulness. Common mindful exercises that have helped me in particular are those that use only one sense at a time (for example, hearing). You may feel particularly stressed one day, in this case it would be best to sit down and just focus on the sounds. This may take your mind off of your anxiety for a moment. This takes patience and practice because you cannot focus right away. Some consider yoga to be a form of mindfulness. It really depends on what you’re partial to.
When I first tried mindfulness, I did not take it seriously. When you’re anxious to begin with, it can be hard to concentrate on anything but the stress, never mind the sounds in the room. Though, I pursued mindfulness and I admittedly feel a difference in myself and the way I think when I feel particularly tense. I use the app ‘Pacifica‘, which helps me to meditate after mindfulness. This is especially helpful if you’re a particularly anxious person. Pacifica allows you to listen to soothing sounds after the mindfulness audio exercise, which is only four or so minutes long. I am not sponsored in saying this, either. If you’re somebody who has only just been exposed to mindfulness as an exercise through this article, I would recommend an app. Pacifica is only one of many. An app trains you to eventually use mindfulness without the aid of an app. It can also be reassuring to have an app on your phone that you can click in order to grasp this “state”.
The practice of mindfulness is very much underrated. Now that I rely on this technique, I realize that it is so much more than just a fad. Once you get past the beginning of the Pacifica app, the monotonous voice will soon help you. I guarantee that your thoughts will drift, but this is just the beginning.