Mind­ful­ness skills pave the way to liv­ing stress free

Maryland Independent - - Community Forum -

In the last decade sci­en­tific re­search has ex­panded our knowl­edge of stress and the flight or fight re­sponse. It has val­i­dated the use of sim­ple tech­niques that al­low us to di­min­ish the power of the stress re­sponse to con­trol how we re­spond to ev­ery day events. This cre­ates the op­por­tu­nity to choose how we feel from mo­ment to mo­ment.

These tech­niques or skills are based on science-backed, ev­i­dence-based, peer-re­viewed stud­ies that ex­plain how and why these tech­niques work based on hard science.

These skills fall into the cat­e­gory of mind­ful­ness prac­tices. Mind­ful­ness has been used for thou­sands of years as an in­tro­duc­tion to the prac­tice of meditation. West­ern medicine be­gan to em­brace these tech­niques in the mid­dle of the 20th cen­tury and over time their use has been widely ac­cepted as ef­fec­tive in man­ag­ing the stress re­sponse. The ef­fec­tive­ness is proven in the ex­ten­sive re­search de­voted to ex­plain­ing the science be­hind these meth­ods.

Mind­ful­ness is de­fined as the aware­ness that arises from pay­ing at­ten­tion, on pur­pose, in the mo­ment, non-judg­men­tally to what­ever is paramount in our ex­pe­ri­ence of life as it is hap­pen­ing right now. This in­cludes our thoughts, feel­ings, body sen­sa­tions or any­thing re­lated to what we are ex­pe­ri­enc­ing in the mo­ment.

This prac­tice of pay­ing at­ten­tion in the mo­ment al­lows us to re­al­ize that we have al­most nothing but judg­ment go­ing on in our head. We are all fa­mil­iar with that crit­i­cal “in­ner voice” that finds fault with just about ev­ery­thing we do. That voice is tied to our phys­i­ol­ogy and its con­stant ef­fort to keep us safe from any and all harm. As our modern life style has elim­i­nated vir­tu­ally all life-threat­en­ing phys­i­cal events from our daily liv­ing our phys­i­ol­ogy has ex­panded its in­flu­ence to in­clude our psy­cho­log­i­cal state. Is that rude per­son a threat to us? Our phys­i­ol­ogy in the form of the stress re­sponse be­lieves it to be so, and that it needs to pro­tect us from such non-phys­i­cal imag­ined threats in the same way it has pro­tected us from phys­i­cal harm for thou­sands of years. This is an as­pect of the chronic ru­n­away stress re­sponse that I cov­ered in my last let­ter to the ed­i­tor.

Deep breath­ing, or tak­ing a longer and deeper ab­dom­i­nal breath is the sin­gle most pow­er­ful daily prac­tice for pro­mot­ing our health and well-be­ing. When stressed we take short, fast breaths to pre­pare for dan­ger. Chronic stress keeps the brain and vi­tal or­gans starved for oxy­gen be­cause when stressed we only use the up­per third of our lungs. Breath­ing better is the eas­i­est stress re­liev­ing ex­er­cise we can do. It sends more oxy­gen to ev­ery cell in our body which helps us to cre­ate and main­tain a state of men­tal and phys­i­cal calm.

I rec­om­mend that you Google the HeartMath In­sti­tute’s “Heart-Fo­cused Breath­ing” so you can use that tech­nique on a daily ba­sis to take charge of your emo­tions and to help neu­tral­ize the ef­fects of the fight or flight re­sponse.

In our next let­ter, we will elab­o­rate on the use of mind­ful­ness tech­niques to choose how we feel mo­ment to mo­ment in or­der to re­duce the in­ten­sity of the stress re­sponse on our phys­i­ol­ogy and use mind­ful­ness to calm our crit­i­cal in­ner voice.

John Sta­ples, Bryans Road The writer is the pro­gram man­ager for War On Stress, a pro­ject of United Char­i­ta­ble, a 501(c)3 non­profit or­ga­ni­za­tion.

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