When we talk about staying physically healthy, we need to deepen the conversation. New scientific studies prove that what's going on in our minds is at least, if not more, important than what we are eating and even how active we are. Stress is deadly, and negative emotional states like depression and anxiety have been linked to everything from a lowered immune system to diseases like cancer.
But the good news is that mindfulness has been proven effective at lowering stress levels and reversing depression and anxiety. This means one of the most effective medicines in the world is available to you at any time: Your own mind.
How Mindfulness Works
Mindfulness can be cultivated in a variety of ways, from meditation techniques to working with a therapist or consultant who has been trained in mindfulness principles. The goal of mindfulness is to be aware of your own thoughts as they are happening and to learn to not react every time a disturbing one passes through. It is a simple concept that is easier said than done, which is why many people seek help from experienced practitioners.
The Benefits of Mindfulness
According to a recent summary of mindfulness research published by UCLA, mindfulness practices cause a change to both brain structure and antibody production in as short as eight weeks. They also found that the stress hormone cortisol, which is responsible for inflammation, was lowered in the same amount of time.
A review of studies done at Boston University looking at the effect of mindfulness-based therapy on depression and anxiety found a robust (positive) effect on both. Since depression is now the leading cause of disability worldwide, and anxiety is also at a crisis level, the fact that mindfulness techniques are effective in turning around these modern plagues is reason enough to celebrate.
But stress and mental health are not the only place where mindfulness can be used as natural medicine. An analysis of the health benefits of mindfulness therapy done by the University of Freiburg in Germany found that the practice was helpful for those dealing with a wide range of chronic illnesses and recommends it as a natural coping mechanism for stress and pain.
Mindfulness for Optimal Health
Those who pride themselves on eating right and staying active need to make sure they are not ignoring the mental aspect of optimal health. More and more studies continue to show how important mindfulness is to our physical state--not to mention the fact it makes us think more clearly and feel happier as well. There are many reasons to begin a mindfulness practice, so get in touch when you're ready to learn more.
Written by: Katie Sandler