Summer is right around corner and you should start it off right with some mindfulness. Growing faster than our fast paced lifestyles are the alarming rates of depression diagnoses (Health line, 2016).
Why are we so unhappy? Could it be because we are always too focused on the future and we forget to stop and appreciate everything we have in the present? Many of us have heard this numerous times before yet fail to appreciate what it actually means.
Mindfulness is a popular stress reduction technique that aims to bring your mind to a state of active, open attention on the present. In mindfulness, you observe your thoughts and feelings from a distance, without judging or labeling them as good or bad (Davis & Hayes, 2011).
You may be wondering whether there is any evidence to support the effectiveness of mindfulness. Research shows mindfulness can alter amygdala activity in your brain and serve as a preventative or buffering role in depressive mood (Way et al., 2010). Similarly, Erismand & Roemer (2010) found that participants that practiced mindfulness had more positive emotions than those that did not practice mindfulness. Other studies showed positive feelings and working memory capacity increased in proportion to actual amount of mindfulness practice (Jha et al., 2010). Chambers et al. (2008) found emotional regulation during stressful periods was better in groups that practiced mindfulness.
Take a moment and try it for yourself:
Stop what you are doing. Forget about that long list of things you have to do. Close your eyes. Bring your mind to the present. Focus on how you are feeling at this moment. What are the sensations you are feeling? If your mind drifts to the past or the present, bring it back and focus on the present. Initially it may take you 5, 10 or even 20 times to keep bringing your mind to the present but the more you practice bringing your mind to the present, the easier it will be. Remember stress arises from thinking of either the past or the future. Do this throughout your day and you will notice yourself appreciate the day to day moments and what is happening right now.
For more information on mindfulness practices and research, check out our previous posts on the subject here.
Chambers, R., Lo, B. C. Y., & Allen, N. B. (2008). The impact of intensive mindfulness training on attentional control, cognitive style, and affect. Cognitive Therapy and Research, 32, 303–322. doi:10.1007/s10608- 007–9119-0
Davis, D. M., & Hayes, J. A. (2011). What Are the Benefits of Mindfulness? A Practice Review of Psychotherapy-Related Research. Psychotherapy, 48(2), 198-208.
Erisman, S. M., & Roemer, L. (2010). A preliminary investigation of the effects of experimentally induced mindfulness on emotional responding to film clips. Emotion, 10, 72– 82. doi:10.1037/a0017162
Health Line. (2016). Retrieved from http://www.healthline.com/health/depression/statistics-infographic
Jha, A. P., Stanley, E. A., Kiyonaga, A., Wong, L., & Gelfand, L. (2010). Examining the protective effects of mindfulness training on working memory capacity and affective experience. Emotion, 10, 54 – 64. doi: 10.1037/a0018438
Way, B. M., Creswell, J. D., Eisenberger, N. L., & Lieberman, M. D. (2010). Dispositional mindfulness and depressive symptomatology: Correlations with limbic and self-referential neural activity during rest. Emotion, 10, 12–24. doi:10.1037/a0018312