Mindfulness: Fad or Fact?
Mindfulness is everywhere you look. It has become the hot topic of many podcasts, books, and talk shows. If you were to search Instagram, you would see that there are 4,875,770 posts associated with #mindfulness. Big name companies like Google, Salesforce, Aetna, Goldman Sachs, and Bank of America are now offering mindfulness training. With so many speaking the praises of mindfulness, it can make you wonder, “Is mindfulness just hype?”
Let’s take a look at some of the benefits . . .
- Increased Awareness – Have you ever sat down to watch your favorite tv show just to realize, half-way through, that you are scrolling through your Facebook news feed? You suddenly look up and realize you have absolutely no idea what is going on. You become instantly annoyed that you need to rewind back to the beginning of the show. This is mindfulness! Your awareness of your minds ability to wander and the conscious act of refocusing on what you choose to. The more you are able to catch yourself in distracted thinking, the less you will find your mind wandering.
- Reduction in Depression and Anxiety Symptoms – Common symptoms of depression and anxiety include increased heart rate, feelings of hopelessness, a racing mind, sweating, distorted thoughts, nausea, and excessive worry. Depending on the severity of your anxiety disorder, the prevalence of these symptoms can range for once a week to multiple times a day. These symptoms can cause insomnia, decreased productivity at work, and the inability to live, laugh and love. Practicing mindfulness can help one to recognize their symptoms in the moment, take a deep breath, and engage in positive self-talk and feeling, ex: “Everything is going to be ok”, “I am not alone”, “I am worrying about something I can’t control. I need to focus on what I can control”.
- Pain Reduction – In 2001, a study published in the Journal of Neuroscience found that patients that participated in mindful meditation reported a 50% reduction in pain symptoms compared to the control group who did not participate. Hospital pain clinics now prescribe mindfulness meditation to help patients cope with the suffering arising from a wide range of diseases such as cancer, diabetes, heart disease and arthritis. It is also used for back problems, fibromyalgia, coeliac disease, migraine, chronic fatigue, and even multiple sclerosis. Proof in the power of mind over matter.
- Reach Your Fitness Goals – With the holidays upon us, it’s easy to lose track of our fitness goals. Studies have shown that, on average, people gain between 7-12 pounds in the weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Practicing mindfulness can help get through the temptation of falling off the fitness wagon. It’s not about telling yourself, “I can’t sample from the office potluck lunch because then I won’t fit into my goal jeans.” The better focus is to ask yourself how you feel after eating foods you may not generally eat. Will you feel sluggish and have an upset stomach? If you are able to stay mindful, your self-talk may end up sounding like, “I love Sally’s cookies but, any more than 2 and I’m gonna be cranky around 3:00 form my sugar crash.” Mindfulness is helping you to enjoy yourself but stay aware of your limits.
Mindfulness may have got a bad rep due to expectations of having to be sitting cross-legged in a Zen garden or, never being able to be upset, worried, or frustrated because you are constantly living in the moment of constant happiness. However, that couldn’t be further from the truth. Your mind is able to process 127 pieces of information every second and, uninterrupted thoughts are proven to only last around 1-10 seconds for most people. So, what is the point? The point is recognizing what you are feeling when you are feeling it and what is distracting you from living a life where you can live, laugh, and love, each day. Though many may say that Mindfulness is like the placebo effect for life, isn’t that the point? If I think that being mindful is changing my life for the better, it probably is.
Author: Lisa Musialowicz – Footprints to Recovery, Alumni Coordinator