Mindfulness & Relaxation response.
Mindfulness is the practice of being fully present and engaged in the moment. It involves paying attention to our thoughts, feelings, and physical sensations without judgment. When we are mindful, we become more aware of our thoughts and feelings, and we can respond to them in a more conscious and deliberate way. This helps us to reduce stress, improve our mood, and increase our overall sense of well-being.
There are many scientific studies that support the benefits of mindfulness. For example, a study published in the Journal of Clinical Psychology found that practising mindfulness for just eight weeks led to a significant reduction in symptoms of anxiety and depression. Another study published in the Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology found that mindfulness can improve sleep quality, reduce symptoms of stress, and increase overall life satisfaction.
One of the reasons why mindfulness is so effective in managing stress is because it helps us to become more aware of our thoughts and feelings and to respond to them in a more conscious and deliberate way. When we are under stress, our thoughts can become negative and irrational, leading to feelings of anxiety and frustration. Mindfulness helps us to recognize these thoughts and to replace them with more positive and rational thoughts.
We currently live in a fast-paced world, wherein we barely dedicate our time and energy to breathing. This constant exposure to stress has a widespread effect on our bodies. However, there is a simple behavioral adjustment technique to address this, called the relaxation response.
The relaxation response is a state of physical deep rest, wherein the response to stress is addressed through a meditative state. It was discovered by Dr Benson of Harvard Medical School, wherein the practice has the benefits of decreasing:
- heart rate
- blood pressure
- respiratory rate
- pulse rate
- oxygen consumption
- muscle tension
- cortisol levels
- noradrenaline levels
Not only this, but it may also help with the symptoms of several conditions such as arthritis, hypertension, depression, insomnia, anxiety, as well as ageing. There is an anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidation benefit that counteracts the effects of stress, working on a genomic level.
In order to practise the relaxation response, sit quietly and comfortably, and close your eyes. Relax all your muscles, starting from your feet, and working up to your face. Now, shift your focus towards your breathing.
Breathe slowly through your nose, and as you breathe out, silently say the word, “one”, repeatedly. Continue doing this for 10 to 20 minutes, and as you finish, continue sitting quietly for a couple of minutes, and then slowly open your eyes.
Stay in this position for a while, and do not stand up. Whenever you get distracted by thoughts, ignore them as much as possible. This technique may be done once or twice daily, and avoid doing it within 2 hours after any meal due to the interference brought about by digestion.
With regular meditation, you will develop a routine that would lead to a healthier body, a calmer mind, and a peaceful soul.
Dr Menka Gupta
IFMCP, MSc, MBBS
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