THE SCIENCE BEHIND MINDFULNESS. SHOULD YOU TRY IT?
Are you someone that practices mindfulness? I have been meditating for several years regularly. I also journal, do yoga and practice visualization.
I recently did a poll on LinkedIn and asked if the participants practiced mindfulness. I gave a few options (Yoga, Meditation, Journaling) as potential options and the fourth option I listed as “it’s bs”.
Here are the results:
Imagine my genuine surprise when I saw that 23% of people found mindfulness to be bs. I also invited people to comment if they practiced something other than what was listed or to further explain their views.
As someone who tried meditation many years ago and didn’t initially have great success I can somewhat understand where some of this may be coming from. It is often easier to assume something isn’t working than to realize that we may need to be more patient in our practice.
I also believe that some people, mostly in western society, may still view mindfulness as lacking in scientific basis. Perhaps it is a combination of these factors that lead to the responses.
Understanding these things, I thought I would share some recent research on mindfulness. With the growing rate of mental health issues as a result of the pandemic this seemed like a good time to share this information.
WHAT DOES THE RESEARCH SAY?
There are quite a few recent studies that can be found on the impact of mindfulness. Some research is suggesting that meditation may actually physically change the brain itself and help improve several health conditions like high blood pressure, IBS, Ulcerative colitis, PTSD, Anxiety & Depression, and Insomnia.
There have also been studies into several other health conditions where meditation has shown an improved quality of life.
A recent report found that US adults’ usage of mediation tripled from 2012 to 2017. It went from 4.1 percent to 14.2.
Harvard University has launched a large-scale mindfulness research program utilizing fMRI. This technology not only takes pictures of the brain during the scan but also captures brain activity. This allows them to see what happens in the amygdala during a scan. This is the area of the brain that is triggered during our fight/flight response when we are stressed or threatened. You have heard me reference this during other posts and blogs. Their scans showed that after eight weeks of meditation that the participants brains were less activated in the amygdala during a fMRI while being shown emotional content. This suggests that people who meditate regularly are better able to regulate their emotions over time.
RESOURCES FOR THOSE WHO ARE INTERESTED
I mentioned earlier that the first time I tried meditation it didn’t really work for me. The truth is that I didn’t really give it a chance. I started out with a guided meditation and expected immediate results. That’s not how mindfulness practice works.
If you are thinking you might want to try meditation that is the first thing I would share. Have realistic expectations. Like exercise, you aren’t going to have a six pack in a week.
Like most things in life, however, if you are consistent you should see some benefit in a fairly short period of time. That time period is different for everyone.
When I started back to a mediation practice again, I was taught self-guided meditation by someone that had been taught by monks. Pretty amazing opportunity but also a little intimidating. I really liked it though and it stuck.
For those of you that have never meditated before I would suggested starting with guided. There are tons of apps out there that you can try. Headspace, Calm, etc. Many offer an initial free trial. YouTube also offers a lot of free meditation content. Find one you like and make it a daily practice.
Commit to a set time of day (first thing in the morning or before bed works great) and commit to a length of time 5-10 minutes. Make the practice a daily habit for a week. How do you feel? Are you sleeping better? Less reactive emotionally? This is where a daily journal practice is helpful. You can look back to see what your mood has been like.
If you have been having positive results for the week commit to another week, or even two. Continue to track how you feel and what positive changes you are noticing.
Finally, if I can be a resource please get in touch. I offer a complimentary call to all potential clients. Click here to schedule yours via zoom today.