The Power of Mindfulness

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Mindfulness involves the conscious awareness of the present moment with a nonjudgmental focus. Mindfulness has been found to impact many different health outcomes including cardiovascular disease, obesity, anxiety, depression, and menopause. Different techniques associated with mindfulness include meditation, deep breathing, yoga, pilates, stretching, and mindful eating. Clinicians including physicians and nurses, alike, have been prescribing mindfulness interventions for a variety of different conditions. In addition to prescribing mindfulness interventions, a large majority of physicians and nurses both practice mindfulness techniques themselves.

Recently, researchers have found that greater mindfulness is correlated with lower stress levels and a lower burden of menopausal symptoms. They found that practicing mindfulness can assist with improving psychological symptoms, emotional response to menopausal symptoms, and stress. Further, it has been found to reduce the impact of hot flashes. Clinicians argue that women in midlife who are experiencing menopausal symptoms could greatly benefit from the incorporation of mindfulness practice.

Another health condition that can be influenced through mindfulness is obesity and weight loss. Researchers have found that mindfulness has been associated with greater weight loss. On average, those who practiced mindfulness lost about 5 lbs. more at six months compared to those who did not. They saw additional improvements in self-esteem, self-confidence around weight loss, better relationship with food, and self-compassion. Those who are looking to lose weight might consider also incorporating mindfulness techniques into their weight loss program.

Mindfulness has also been found to enhance disease self-management for chronic illnesses such as diabetes and arthritis. Those who practiced mindfulness were more likely to engage in health behavior action plans. Additional benefits that were observed include improved emotion regulation, self-compassion, and interoceptive awareness.

While researchers and clinicians have long emphasized the benefits of mindfulness, continued research and efforts continue to support the vast array of conditions that can be positively influenced with this technique. Mindfulness can be an important enhancement for those with cardiovascular disease, anxiety, depression, obesity, and menopause. The Healthy Lifestyle Center can help by providing consultations specific to mindfulness practice. We can assist with providing support for adhering to mindfulness and improving physical and mental health outcomes.

By Matt Lewandowski

Sources: Physicians, Nurses Prioritize Mindfulness Differently. Marcia Frellick– Medscape– March 20, 2019; Mindfulness Eases Menopause Symptoms, Stress. Tara Haelle – Medscape– October 11, 2018; Mindfulness Could Help Weight Loss in Obese Individuals. Liam Davenport – Medscape– December 20, 2018; Mindfulness Helps With Disease Self-Management Skills. Nora MacReady – Medscape– December 26, 2018. Photo by Lesly Juarez on Unsplash

Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction

Mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) is a stress management technique that focuses on the present moment. The ultimate premise behind mindfulness practice and meditation is to consciously bring each moment into our awareness. One key emphasis of mindfulness is using a nonjudgmental awareness of our thoughts and emotions. There are a number of positive benefits to incorporating mindfulness into your life including improved psychological outcomes and improved cardiovascular health outcomes.

The following video is an excellent example of mindfulness practice. Follow along as you work to help relieve stress!

By Matt Lewandowski

Understanding and Managing Stress

Stress can play a significant role in negatively impacting an individual’s life. Physical and mental health approaches to stress management should be adopted to help reduce the negative effects of stress and improve overall health. The Healthy Lifestyle Center incorporates an interprofessional approach to helping individual’s take ownership and control of their health.  Stress is a normal response that occurs in the body when presented with a real or perceived threat.  Stress can be dangerous, however, when it interferes with the ability to live a normal life.  Typical symptoms of stress include exhaustion, loss of concentration, irritability, muscle tension, headaches, and ulcers.  Anxiety disorders are the most diagnosed mental illness worldwide. Additionally, the US, researchers have found that 39% of people are more anxious this year than last.  Further, 86% of their sample believe that our mental health affects our physical health.  It is important to address and manage stress to live a healthy life.

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Clinicians outline a few tips for helping to manage stress.  First, it is important to understand how you stress.  Do you experience more physical or mental symptoms? Where in your body do you carry your stress?  Second, we have to identify our sources of stress.  If we can identify the triggers or causes of stress, we can better approach positive ways of managing the stress.  Third, it is critical to learn our own stress signals.  When do we start noticing that we are experiencing stress?  This will help give us an idea of when it is appropriate to use different stress management techniques.  Finally, we need to recognize how we deal with stress and whether we use positive or negative coping strategies.  Negative coping strategies might include drinking alcohol, over eating, or staying in bed all day.  We want to work to identify positive coping strategies for deal with stress so we can promote a healthy life.

We can help manage stress by practicing and adopting healthy lifestyle behaviors. These include eating right, practicing good sleep hygiene, getting regular physical activity, taking appropriate medication, and practicing mindfulness-based stress reduction.  By adopting these healthy lifestyle behaviors, we can help manage our stress more efficiently and effectively as well as living a healthier life.  The Healthy Lifestyle Center can help by providing education on healthy lifestyle behaviors and can help teach and guide you through healthy stress management techniques.

By Matt Lewandowski

 

Sources: American Psychological Association, retrieved from http://www.apa.org/helpcenter/index.aspx; Brooks, M. (May 7, 2018). High anxiety in America: APA poll highlights nationwide worries. 

Retrieved from https://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/896319?nlid=122308_3901&src=wnl_newsalrt_180508_MSCPEDIT&uac=27500FN&impID=1627683&faf=1; How Stress Affects The Body. Retrieved from: https://adrenalfatigue.org/stress-and-your-health/got-stress/stress-affects-body/