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Mindfulness and Its Connection to Physical Health

March 24, 2019

Chances are, you know- or are- one of the one in five Americans who experience symptoms of extreme stress on a regular basis. Symptoms include shaking, heart palpitations and depression. Even if you haven’t experienced those particular systems, three out of four doctor’s visits are actually for stress-related illnesses. In fact, stress may actually be the rudimentary cause of approximately 60 percent of all illnesses.

As any doctor can tell you, extreme and repeated stress increases your risk of heart disease by 40 percent, heart attack by 25 percent and stroke by 50 percent! It’s become a proven fact that mental health can directly impact physical health.

If taking on less work, limiting interaction with stress-inducing people, and avoiding other stressors isn’t an option for you, what else can you do? Experts say one of the most effective methods of combating stress is the growing trend of mindfulness. Mindfulness is the process of living in the moment. It’s the awareness of your body, thoughts, feelings, and surroundings.

Mindful.com defines mindfulness as “Mindfulness is the basic human ability to be fully present, aware of where we are and what we’re doing, and not overly reactive or overwhelmed by what’s going on around us.”

Here’s a few common tips to increase your own mindfulness:

  • Body awareness - Note subtle body feelings such as an itches or tingling sensations, but don’t react to them. Take a moment to notice each part of your body from head to toe.
  • Practice your breathing – Concentrate on your breath and drown out any other thoughts that enter your mind with focused breathing.
  • Use each sense - Notice sights, sounds, smells, tastes, and touches, but don’t react.
  • Acknowledge emotions - Accept emotions without judgment. Acknowledge feelings in a relaxed naming of emotions: “happiness,” “frustration,” “sadness.”
  • Count your blessings – Practice gratitude as a regular part of your routine. This allows you to be aware of what makes you happy and supports your journey to being present.
  • Cope with cravings - Acknowledge how your body feels as a craving enters. Substitute your desire for the craving to subside, with the knowledge that it will go away.

Using mindfulness as a tool for mental health has its roots in Buddhism, but many religions include some sort of prayer or meditation techniques to help channel the followers’ thoughts towards a larger perspective on life.

Experts say being mindful can relieve stress, treat heart disease by lowering blood pressure, and can reduce chronic pain. Other proponents of mindfulness include improving sleep, which has a big impact on mental and physical health. It can even alleviate gastrointestinal difficulties, and has been known to be used, in conjunction with other techniques, to treat depression, substance abuse, eating disorders, anxiety disorders and obsessive-compulsive disorder.

Practicing mindfulness on a regular basis could drastically improve your health, both mentally and physically.