Master stress with mindfulness

By Shayna Brouker • Published: December 21st, 2015
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

The holidays are upon us, and with them lots of festivities, merriment, joy and … stress. Maybe mindfulness is the answer. What can “om” do for you? A lot, it turns out. No longer reserved for the tie-dye clad or Buddhist monks, the practice of mindfulness can be mastered by anyone with a little dedication.

Meditation and practicing mindfulness has been growing in popularity and recent research shows it yields many benefits. It can be as simple as breathing in and out. Mindfulness offers tools to deal with stress and anxiety, and it’s been proven to even help kids’ grades in school. A 12-week program that helped almost 200 first- through third-graders gain awareness of their breath combined with yoga found that they improved their attention and social skills and lowered their test anxiety. It works for grown-ups, too. Meditation and yoga classes helped Aetna employees lower their stress levels and increased their productivity an average of 62 minutes per employee per week.

It can also be effective in treating addictive behaviors such as drug, nicotine and alcohol use, high blood pressure, pain and symptoms of menopause, such as hot flashes.

So how does one meditate? It typically involves sitting still and taking deep breaths while trying to focus the mind and limit background thoughts. Longer is better, but if you’ve only got a few minutes, try incorporating quick steps to mindfulness. For one, when you’re in the grips of stress, just STOP — literally. STOP stands for stop, take a breath, observe your thoughts and proceed with something that will help you help you in that moment, whether it’s taking a deep breath or petting your dog. A little mindfulness can go a long way.