Is Mindfulness Really Worth Your Time?
There has been a surge of promotion for mindfulness techniques, meditations, and lifestyle changes. That focus makes complete sense in light of the increasingly complex world we live in. We have to have something to help us cope with all the stimulation present in our society and even our homes.
Mindfulness offers a natural approach to handle the stressors of life. Although medications are effective treatments, every individual needs to seek support that works for their individual needs while collaborating with a medical or therapeutic team if needed.
The research available on mindfulness approaches is what you might expect, divided to an extent. There are so many variables to measure in studying mindfulness such as the specific approach, the target group (children to older adults), and the perspectives of those participating, not to mention their unique circumstances.
According to T. L. Saltsman, M.D. Seery, D. E. Ward, T. M. Radsvick, Z. Panlilo, & V. M. Lamarche in the Personality & Social Psychology Bulletin (2020), mindfulness is not necessarily effective at decreasing stress in the moment. It may, however, help a person perceive that they are handling stress better or that the outcome of their experience was positive. Our physiological responses are reacting during the stressful event more or less how we would if we did not have mindfulness in our mental health tool chest.
The good news is, having an approach that supports a more positive view of stressful experiences and offers methods of calming and coping is always a good thing.
A multitude of evidence does support maintaining a mindful approach to life experiences and focusing on a meditative state that engages healthy breathing at some level. Studies suggest mindfulness can help decrease anxiety, depression, general stress, and help treat addiction and pain.
So what can we learn from this?
Mindfulness does appear to be an effective and worthy approach to improve our lives, but we also need to keep in mind its limitations. We can lower our stress responses by regulating our breathing and heartrate when using mindfulness. But during an active event our body may react just as our bodies are designed in order to prepare us for a threat. Afterward using mindfulness can help us regulate more quickly.
I have personally benefited by developing an overall approach to tackling the routines and tasks of everyday life with an “in the moment” perspective. That alone has helped me enjoy simple snippets of time, and even look for them. A soft breeze, the sound of birds singing outside my office window, a warm blanket tucked around me tight on a cool evening, or the giggles of children are experiences I treasure.
There is an overwhelming and endless supply of environmental factors we can chose to savor or ignore. Taking a beautiful setting for granted is normal when you see it constantly. It requires a little effort to use our “in the moment” skills to appreciate that stunning sunset on our evening walk or stop ourselves from interrupting the happy sounds of children playing and just stand still to watch pure happiness unfold.
Mindfulness is a practice like any other activity. Repetition and commitment are key to developing a strong base in mindfulness. I expect it may be similar to sharpening your kitchen knives or going to every baseball practice before the big game. Taking care of our mental health requires that we stay ready for the tough times by keeping our mind in shape.
I believe mindfulness is worth my time and I intend to sharpen the skills I have learned. What have you found in your experience?