In the middle of a stressful day or even week, it can seem counterintuitive to step away from the stress to take a moment for yourself; after all, if the work doesn’t stop, why should you? However, there is increasingly more and more evidence pointing to the fact that taking a pause to refocus and recenter yourself might be the most effective method.
Meditation and mindfulness are two practices that are gaining traction for their focus on being present in the moment with an emphasis on breathing. By practicing these mental health exercises, you can gain clarity through concentration, reduce stress, increase your general awareness, improve your health and sleep! Here’s how:
Breathing Can Help You Manage Stress
In the world today, it can become easy for stress to become more of a way of life than merely a biological response. High levels of stress can cause increased levels of cortisol – the stress hormone – which can lead to the production of inflammatory chemicals called cytokines within the body. High levels of cortisol can also increase blood pressure, disrupt sleep patterns, and worsen underlying anxiety and depression. Through breathing exercises, you can work to lower your cortisol levels and promote a better sense of peace within your body.
Meditation Can Improve Sleep
As noted, increased levels of stress can have all kinds of disastrous effects on the body, including the way it disturbs sleep patterns, leading to exhaustion, fatigue, and even more serious chronic health problems. More than half of Americans over the age of 55 have difficulties sleeping, whether it’s falling asleep or staying asleep. A study conducted in California found mindfulness exercises that include breathing alongside conscious eating, movement awareness, and others resulted in improved sleep quality from the start to the end of the study.
Meditation Can Ease Mental Illness
In the United States, each year, approximately 40 million adults, or more than 18% of the population, struggles with anxiety; concurrently, 16.2 million adults in America, or 6.7% of the population, struggles with depression. These numbers are alongside the millions more suffering from severe mental illnesses like PTSD, schizophrenia, and ADHD. Studies indicate that meditation – in any of its variations – can have positive effects for its stress-reducing ability. It has for me with my struggles.
Meditation and mindfulness are incredibly helpful tools to have on hand in stressful situations and practice regularly to help one better manage when stressful situations arise. While it can be difficult for those with anxiety or high stress to focus on meditation, regular practice can help the process become more comfortable and can help save you from additional burdens in times of high stress. Meditation is hard at first for everyone and that is okay, as it is the whole point. Meditation is the mind exercise to get better at catching one’s own thoughts. Once they are caught, they can be tamed and controlled.
“All beings face challenges. But, what they do next as their decisions to resolve the challenges is what determines the results.” – David Roylance