So many of us are finding it increasingly difficult to cope with the modern-day stresses of our schedules. We are all leading far more time-strapped lives, which makes it difficult for our brains and our bodies to cope. In fact, many people say that during a period of high stress, they become sick as their body starts to shut down.
Yet, the majority of us simply try to keep going without addressing the real problem. However, back in the 1970s, Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn developed a program that involved meditation methods to reduce stress. In doing so, Kabat-Zinn was targeting the impact of stress on mental health. Other health benefits, though, have been touted as a result of using the mindfulness-based stress reduction program. Here, we look at what those are and why the program can work wonders for its patients.
What Are The Health Benefits Of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction?
First and foremost, the main health benefit of mindfulness-based stress reduction is to reduce stress. Stress in our lives can make it more difficult to cope with situations and circumstances. However, the reduction of stress has an impact on many aspects of our lives – such as the fact that becoming stressed in the future is far less likely if you aren’t stressed to begin with. Stress is a vicious and growing cycle that is hard to break. But, given that it can have such a detrimental effect on other parts of our lives, it is critical to try to stop that cycle in its tracks.
Patients of the mindfulness-based stress program have found that they suffer far less from other mental health issues. For starters, those prone to anxiety find that the times that they are acutely anxious are reduced and shorter in span when they do occur. And, because stress and anxiety were reduced, other aspects of their brain functioned better. For example, mood is largely improved as well as the ability to remember things and speak far more articulately. Frustration is thus reduced which helps build confidence.
Importantly, a mindfulness-based stress reduction program also helps prevent people from slipping into, or back into, depression. The program makes people more aware of their feelings and emotions. Those prone to depression, then, identify negative thoughts far earlier than they would have done before. As a result, the program can stop a person from slipping into a far deeper depression by dealing with those negative thoughts before they become too big or out of control.
It has also been found to be a good course of treatment for insomniacs. By reducing stress and anxiety, sleep duration and quality is often improved. That goes on to help reduce stress and anxiety since, with a well-rested body and brain, a person’s ability to cope under strain is enhanced.
Mindfulness-based stress reduction programs have also been found to help patients with chronic pain. For example, those with arthritis have been able to cope better with the pain of their condition, while those who suffer with migraines have also championed the program as a beneficial treatment.
Finally, some doctors are beginning to use mindfulness-based stress reduction programs alongside more traditional treatments of cancer, diabetes and HIV-related conditions. Midwives are also beginning to recommend it to pre and postnatal mothers, who often struggle to deal with the changes in their body, along with the fluctuation of their hormone levels, as well as the newfound stresses that the responsibility of motherhood can bring. It can therefore be seen as a good preventative measure in the fight against pre and post-natal depression or anxiety.
Why Does Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Work?
Mindfulness-based stress reductions programs work because they offer an intensive eight week program that teaches its patients how to improve both physical and mental health through meditation and body awareness. The program aims to arm followers with the tools needed to stop negative patterns of feelings, thoughts, and actions. It is those actions and thoughts which can make future situations and health worse – by magnifying the issues and debilitating a person’s ability to tackle a situation as they would do, were they free from stress.
In practicing mindfulness, emotions become regulated and anxiety is therefore reduced. The mindfulness-based stress program teaches practitioners to accept how they are feeling and cope with those emotions in the here and now, as opposed to ignoring them—only to have them come back bigger and stronger in the future. Simple techniques such as body scan, basic yoga postures, and mindfulness meditation are all ways that the program aims to give practitioners the tools they need to be mentally and, therefore, physically stronger in the future.
How Does Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Work?
The reduction of stress in the body means that this program works in supporting good mental and physical health as stress has been proven to have such negative effects on the mind and body. Stress can promote physiological changes that make your body less able to fight off infections, which is why so many sufferers of stress claim that they feel like their body is shutting down. Plus, stress and anxiety have been shown to either reduce appetite or encourage unhealthy binge eating. Either way, the body is incorrectly fuelled and less able to function properly.
The Benefits Of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction
While the research around the benefits of mindfulness-based stress reduction programs is yet to be as extensive as many medical professionals like to see before confirming findings, the initial results are both promising and positive.
Plus, the link between mental health and physical health is far stronger than we ever thought previously. Therefore, anything that we can do to help improve our mental health will also help our physical health.
Mindfulness can be a key way to break the cycle of poor mental health, which should, in turn, help our bodies to be healthier too.
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Paul Harrison, Editor, THE DAILY MEDITATION.