The benefits of a mindfulness practice continue to appear in the headlines of local, national, and global news outlets. We now read about police departments, hospitals, the military, mental health professionals and teachers using mindfulness to increase productivity, clarity, health, mood, performance, and relieve stress.
Daily mindfulness practices have been linked to healthy glucose levels, yet another reason to be mindful, relax, and go with the flow.
An eight-week Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction “MBSR” trial was proven effective in easing physical pain and demonstrates again the benefits of using MBSR. An eight-week MBSR trial has proven effective in easing pain so it’s not surprising hospitals use MBSR to help alleviate post-operative pain.
A recent study looked at 38 participants at Kaiser Permanente, Colorado, who suffered mostly from back or joint pain or psychological distress. Patients were assessed at the beginning and end of the program and at one year after the baseline assessment. Changes in how they used the health-care system were compared for the six-month period before the first MBSR class and 18 months after completion of the class. During the class, participants were introduced to core MBSR practices, including a guided body scan, some yoga, and sitting and walking meditation.
Not only did the patients report significant improvements in mental and physical function after taking the course, but they significantly decreased their use of health services such as emergency rooms and specialty care. Certainly, we can use an organic and natural method of pain relief!
A regular mindfulness practice offers many benefits:
- Sixty seconds of being mindful several times throughout the day creates a powerful change in the neural pathways in the brain. Upon waking and at bedtime are fertile times for being mindful and observing thoughts.
- Mindfulness improves creativity, attention span, working memory, and enhances decision-making.
- Meditation enhances brain functioning and increases grey matter in areas related to empathy, attention, self-control, and self-awareness.
- For those new to meditation, three to five minutes of meditation each day will create more rapid changes in the brain’s neural pathways than three 10 minute sessions each week.
- The rewards of observing thoughts daily without judgment have wellness impacts beyond comprehension. The mind’s function is to report a running commentary each moment; it is the ultimate judge and story-teller.
- Mindfulness often changes the perceptual tolerance level of physical and emotional pain with regular practice. Chronic pain may be significantly reduced with regular mindfulness and meditation practices
- Meditation improves the immune system functioning. Regular meditators are admitted to the hospital less often (Psychosomatic Medicine 564–70, 2007)
Mindfulness is a potent therapy for stress-reduction, depression, anxiety, and attention deficit disorder.
- Regular mindfulness-based meditation promotes health and wellness:
- Heart rate returns to balance
- Respiration returns to balance
- Blood pressure returns to balance
- Brain waves slow from beta to alpha
- Unconscious mind sends old debris to consciousness to be cleared
- American Heart Association’s Journal of Hypertension in 1995 and 1996 indicates that meditation can be as effective as anti-hypertensive drugs, and is side-effect free!
More helpful information here: MBSR.
“When it comes to chronic pain, the key is learning to live with it rather than vainly trying to avoid or eradicate it,” Christiane Wolf, M.D., reports in the April 2015 issue of Mindful magazine.
Dr. Wolf says a regular meditation practice is the best ongoing foundation for working with pain.
Wolf reports it helps to shift the locus of control from the outside (this is happening to me and there is nothing I can do about it) to the inside (this is happening and I seem to have a choice about how I relate to it).
Let’s go a step further than Dr. Wolf’s report and briefly look at mindfulness as it relates to free will.
As long as there is a belief that there is an individual ability to choose, then there seems to be “choosing” to be mindful of what is unfolding. But do we choose? Most of us believe we are born to be choosers. Here is an article showing how choosing is always claimed by the body/mind after the fact.
When the belief in being a chooser and making choices falls away, when the judging mechanism and preferences fall away, energy and appearances are seen simply as impersonal awareness.
Our original nature is beyond labels and a mental understanding. It transcends the rational and relative brain, transcends illusions of personal appearances. What is – is nameless, timeless, limitless, infinite, edgeless.