Mindfulness and stress
How to increase your ability to be present here and now and cope with stress?
Have you recently noticed that your memory is slipping more than before, that you have difficulty concentrating, feel impatient, and less present in your own life than you used to? Perhaps you are experiencing the same symptoms as 70% of those who visit their primary care doctor?
Stress-related health problems are currently a major challenge for society, the workplace and most of all for the people who experience this in their daily life. During periods with high demands, lack of control and limited social support, we are vulnerable to develop stress-related symptoms and diseases. How can we be better at coping with stress? One possibility is to train; in this case train your attention.
First, an important note of clarification: The employer has an overall responsibility to create the conditions for a healthy working environment. We must not forget that the laws and regulations that govern our work environment constitute an important framework to understand and limit stress at work. But back to our concern; how can we improve our own ability to manage personal stress?
‘Mindfulness’, is the term for a popular and useful perspective to increase our presence through systematic training of attention. Mindfulness in life, when you are alone or together with other people, is a state of mind that is characterized by being attentive to what is going on here and now. This state of mind may be the overall goal and mindfulness is the perspective by which you practice attentiveness in a particular and persistent way; with a purpose, fully present, and without preconceived ideas.
Studies show that you can increase your experience of being present in everyday life by practicing regular meditation, filtering thoughts and feelings in a non-judgmental way; accepting all thoughts, feelings, concerns and associations. When we are mindfully present in our own lives, we tend to feel good, we are more efficient at work, we tolerate more emotions and we endure uncertainty, pain and anxiety in a more reasonable manner. Attention training therefor seems to improve our ability to be satisfied by being present here and now.
In a study performed on people who meditated regularly it was found that these subjects had increased activation of the frontal cortex of the brain compared with those that did not meditate (Kelp et al, 2013). Activity in the frontal cortex is associated with ability to master and gain a sense of satisfaction. Moreover, the results showed that the fear center in the brain (amygdala) was smaller among those who meditated regularly than those who did not. In other words: People who are mentally alert and present may experience increased satisfaction and less fear and negative stress in their lives.
If you wish to know more about how you can use the method of mindfulness, these sources are good starting points:
- Kabat-Zinn, J. Mindfulness for nybegynnere: Arneberg Forlag: 2012
- Siegal, Daniel J. The Mindful Brain, Norton: New York, 2007
- Taren AA et al (2013) Dispositional Mindfulness Co-Varies with Smaller Amygdala and Caudate Volumes in Community Adults
- The science of Mindfulness: Dr.Ron Siegel