We think of mindfulness as a way to slow down and take stock during times of stress, sadness, or change. But it can provide physical and even medical benefits when incorporated into daily life. You don’t need a high-priced yoga retreat or expensive equipment to see the results either! Working a few minutes peace into your routine can make a big difference, especially if done in conjunction with healthy choices like diet, exercise, rest, and a little head to toe self-care.
The American Psychological Association (APA) explains that “The term ‘mindfulness’ has been used to refer to a psychological state of awareness, the practices that promote this awareness, a mode of processing information and a character trait…[Here] we define mindfulness as a moment-to-moment awareness of one’s experience without judgment. In this sense, mindfulness is a state and not a trait.”
While not a treatment for disease or illness by itself, an attitude of mindfulness is a great ingredient in many situations. It costs only time and willingness and doesn’t rely on medication, special settings and situations, physical ability, or the participation of others. Beyond relaxation and mood elevation, “studies suggest that mindfulness may impact our hearts, brains, immune systems, and more,” say industry researchers. “it’s encouraging to know that something that can be taught and practiced can have an impact on our overall health—not just mental but also physical—more than 2,000 years after it was developed. That’s reason enough to give mindfulness meditation a try.”
Their studies have shown positive benefit in several areas. One could help combat the devastation of heart disease. The CDC reports that “Heart disease is the leading cause of death for men, women, and people of most racial and ethnic groups in the United States. One person dies every 34 seconds in the United States from cardiovascular disease.”
In cases where subjects were randomly assigned mindfulness meditation, patients “had significantly greater reductions in their systolic and diastolic blood pressure than those who learned progressive muscle relaxation, suggesting that mindfulness could help people at risk for heart disease by bringing blood pressure down…Mindfulness may also be good for hearts that are already relatively healthy. Research suggests that meditating can increase respiratory sinus arrhythmia, the natural variations in heart rate that happen when we breathe that indicate better heart health and an increased chance of surviving a heart attack.”
Beyond heart disease, medical caregivers are in agreement. “Research also suggests that mindfulness can help relieve symptoms of a range of different health conditions. Mindfulness practices have been linked to improvements in lower back pain, rheumatoid arthritis, psoriasis, Type 2 diabetes, and fibromyalgia. Because mindfulness can help improve mood and combat stress, it may also be helpful for people who are dealing with chronic illness.”
It also improves immunity response to help fight off viruses and disease, decreases mental decline, and can reduce cell aging. But even for those of us who feel relatively healthy, mindfulness works to combat the anxieties of everyday life. APA doctors say it helps with stress reduction, memory and focus; lowers emotional reactivity; and even boosts relationship satisfaction with our loved ones. “In addition, mindfulness meditation practice appears to increase information processing speed, as well as decrease task effort and having thoughts that are unrelated to the task at hand.”
Want to give mindfulness a try in your life or family? Healthline offers activities broken down by age group or those targeted towards anxiety, group and art based sessions, and even five minute activities. Doctors at the Mayo Clinic provide exercises they suggest practicing “every day for about six months. Over time, you might find that mindfulness becomes effortless. Think of it as a commitment to reconnecting with and nurturing yourself.”
As with any physical or lifestyle change, if you’re dealing with ongoing pain, illness, or injury, speak to your primary care team before starting something new. Then ask if there are other complementary care options which can be added to your wellness journey.
Have problems with balance or mobility? Dr. Chani Henderson is happy to discuss ways chiropractic treatment can be integrated into your lifestyle. She’ll take a detailed personal and medical history then answer any and all questions because of her firm belief “in treating the whole patient, not just covering up symptoms…The better you know your body, the healthier you can be.” Schedule an appointment online or give the team a call at (360) 254-0400 to start working towards a more relaxed and mindful tomorrow.