The importance of mindfulness in self-regulation and building resilience
As a mind-body practitioner, I truly believe that mindfulness is the most powerful tool I have. I share it with my patients so that they also have access to this tool. Mindfulness is more powerful than any drug, surgery or other medical intervention, but too many patients are not even aware of the existence of this tool. They do not need to consult with doctors or go anywhere else to access them. The ability to be aware is with them 24 hours a day.
Mindfulness can be defined as an “acute consciousness”. This awareness is key, here and now: awareness of moment-to-moment interactions, thoughts, sounds, smells, and so on. The other important component of mindfulness is abstaining from judgment. It is the ability to accept what it is: to sit consciously about emotions, feelings, thoughts and expressions, whether they seem to be putting us in a good place or a negative. There is no need to judge feelings, no need to entertain feelings of self-hatred or self-hatred that arise because of them. We can only be with them. This practice of stillness, of being able to simply remain conscious — whatever we are conscious of — with acceptance has great benefits both physically and emotionally and mentally.
In my opinion, the biggest impact of mindfulness is that it allows us to self-regulate and build resilience. Mindfulness can affect ruminations that are often linked to anxiety or depression, for example, when we experience repetitive negative thoughts. Mindfulness helps us to calm our voices and concentrate. In addition, it helps us to improve our working memory. And as for the cardiovascular system, it lowers blood pressure and heart rate. It also regulates neurotransmitters such as adrenaline, norepinephrine and cortisol levels. Decreases inflammation and helps boost immunity. That’s why, as a non-pharmacological therapeutic intervention, mindfulness is the only thing I always present to my patients and encourage them to learn more.
To illustrate the importance of mindfulness, let’s look at an emotion like anger. I think everyone can relate to anger; we all know how this emotional state feels. So what do we do with it? Keep in mind that I’m not talking about trying to suppress anger or pretending it’s not happening because it’s there, whatever the trigger. But when faced with a situation that causes it, people generally want to feel validated about anger as an emotional response: they want to stay there and justify it. And so they build a story, and the story builds and builds and the anger begins to feel more justified than the initial situation even deserved.
We have the power to choose a different path. We can say, “Okay, she cut me off” or “She was rude to me.” And we can begin to have compassion for that person. We can consider that maybe they are having a hard day. Maybe they rush to take his wife to the hospital because she is about to give birth. Or maybe something is happening in their life that has them in a bad space. We can choose to start with this consideration and not feel so offended by what was said or done. By giving space to our mind to create a different story about why that challenging interaction or situation took place, we can allow our anger to dissipate.
This is really what mindfulness does. Mindfulness allows us to take a moment to pause and stay with whatever the situation is. We don’t have to create a negative story around it or judge it; we can only let it be for a moment. And then we can gather qualities that we all possess and put into practice in our lives. We can focus on being loving; we can have compassion and empathy, right? We can apply these feelings and emotions to any situation to help neutralize our anger.
It is essential that patients understand that their emotions should not govern them. We have control over how we decide to react to any situation in terms of our attitude and behavior. When we practice mindfulness, our emotions, the gateway to the unconscious, change because we are rewinding our neurocircuit and altering our response mechanism. Usually our reactions are instantaneous and automated reflexes, but when we are aware, instead of reacting, we can really afford to respond.
Many patients think that things are happening to them: My Stress, My work, My children, My environment, etc. I always tell patients that stress is a job from the inside out. There are circumstances that can happen to anyone; we all have to deal with situations that cause us negative emotions. But what really affects us on a cellular or physical level is not our outer food, it is our inner response. This is how we decide to respond to any situation. We can influence the stories we build around them; we have absolutely control over it!
See the article by Dra. Cynthia on physical health and the connection between body and mind. She is also an outstanding mind coach in our new Health and Mind-Body Harmony course.
#Mindfulness #Healing #Guided #Meditation #Acute #Awareness
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