A New Study Suggests That Practicing Acceptance Helps Reduce Our Stress More Than Simple Mindful Awareness
Life can be stressful. Whether its the stress that comes with having too much work to do in too little time, fulfilling caregiving obligations, or dealing with a major illness or setback, sometimes it can be hard to cope.
In response to stress, many people today are turning to meditation or mindfulness apps . But not all mindfulness practice is equally effective for combatting stress, a new study suggests. Its possible that some of our practices may be missing a vital ingredient: acceptance.
In this study, researchers randomly assigned 137 stressed adults of various ages and ethnicities to one of three programs: an eight-week Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction course, where they learned to mindfully pay attention to their present-moment experiences in an accepting, nonjudgmental way an MBSR course without instructions on acceptance or no course. The courses included many lessonsfor example, how to pay attention to your breath and your body sensations, and how to eat food or take a walk mindfullyas well as practice time outside of class. Before, during, and afterwards, participants reported five times daily about how stressed they felt in the moment and whether theyd experienced a stressful event since their last report.
Stress diminishes as you take in more of your experience, she says. Thats the transformative part.
I, for one, plan to do just that.
Mindfulness Mechanisms In Depression
Depression and anxiety can be thought of as disorders of time. In depression, you are focused on the past. You feel as if a loss has already occurrede.g. lost loved one, relationship, job, or valued object. With anxiety, you feel as if a loss is going to occur in the futurea catastrophe is looming. Mindfulness has powerful antidepressant and antianxiety effects because its focus is on the present moment. When you focus on the present moment, you let go of the past and the future. If you are focused on your body sensations you arent focusing on the past or future.
What Is Mindfulness And How Does It Contribute To Our Overall Well
Mindfulness can be defined as the awareness that emerges when we are paying attention in a particular way in the present moment, nonjudgmentally, to the unfolding of that moment-to-moment experience in our lives. That’s a mouthful, so let me tell you what it actually is. I think of mindfulness as the opposite to automatic thinking. Often in our lives we are automatic thinkers. We get somewhere and we think, How did I get there? Our mind is somewhere else much of the time and that is normal. Mindfulness is a capacity and a skill that we can learn to bring us into present moment awareness so that we can engage fully with what is rather than with what was or what we think might be coming. What are we currently thinking? What are we feeling? What are we doing right now? Instead of spending so much time in the past and so much time in the future, mindfulness asks us to consider and be present in the here and now. People that are more mindful are more focused, they’re more productive at work and they’re more resilient. They have less anxiety, less depression, they sleep better and they enjoy their relationships more. Mindful people have an overall better quality of life.
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Limitations And Future Directions
MOOCs generally tend to have high attrition rates. The high attrition in survey responses between baseline and post-intervention means it is possible that positively biased people provided full data, and that the effect estimates may have been inflated as a result. Further, there was no unique identifying variable to support linking of demographic, pre- and post-intervention data, and to enable participant characteristics to be linked with outcome data for profile analyses. The absence of a unique identifier meant demographic data was not linked with outcome data and several thousand cases could not be confidently matched across time points. The potential for longitudinal analyses on the full data set was not realized.
The degree of covariance between items across all scales was less than the 50% threshold recommended by Harman’s test . This suggests there was not severe common method variance, although this bias must be acknowledged. However, all findings were theoretically supported, and the use of validated scales provide ex-ante control for common method bias .
Mindfulness For Social Anxiety
When people experience social anxiety, they have worries and fears about being judged by others or embarrassing themselves in front of people. This anxiety can range from mildly annoying to debilitating. Whatever the degree of severity, social anxiety disorder can lead to avoidance and withdrawal and cause people to miss out on much-needed human interaction.
Mindfulness can change your relationship with your fears of being judged or making a fool out of yourself because it takes power away from those fears and gives it back to you. Whether in a real interaction with others or an imagined one, keep anxiety from taking over by breathing slowly and deeply. This regulates your nervous system and prevents the fight-or-flight response from kicking in.8 Then, choose a focal point that youll return to again and again for the duration of your interaction.
It can be very helpful to carry a focus object with you, a small object that you can concentrate on when you notice anxiety building. Study its appearance and texture to keep your attention away from your anxiety.
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What Techniques In Mindfulness Might Help Me Through A Typical Day Are Tai Chi Yoga And Aromatherapy Somehow Connected To Being Mindful
Again, mindfulness is actually a skill and an awareness that can be taught, and there are ways to cultivate mindfulness. There’s a difference between a formal practice and an informal practice. You can do an informal practice while brushing your teeth, taking a shower or drinking your coffee just do it in a mindful way. You might start 60 seconds a day, that’s all you have to do to begin a mindfulness practice.
Lets consider a mindful shower. Think about when you’re actually in the shower. You’re thinking about your day, you’re thinking about what’s coming up. What are you going to wear? What do the kids have for breakfast? What time is it? As opposed to that: See if you can really notice in the moment how your body feels. Use all of your senses. What do you smell? Do you smell the aromas in the shower? What do you feel? What do you hear?
You can also cultivate mindfulness through yoga and tai chi, which are examples of movement-based therapies or movement meditations. They have mindfulness as a core component of what they are. For example, if you’re in a yoga class, your instructor might say to you, Come back to what you feel now. What are you thinking? What are you feeling? In the practice, you’re asked to think about your present moment experience. Do you ever get to the end of a yoga class and think, Oh, I was thinking about my emails? No, you wont, because the practice actually helps cultivate awareness.
Laboratory Research On Immediate Effects Of Mindfulness Interventions
In addition to correlational and clinical intervention research on mindfulness, a third line of empirical research has examined the immediate effects of brief mindfulness interventions in controlled laboratory settings on a variety of emotion-related processes, including recovery from dysphoric mood, emotional reactivity to aversive or emotionally provocative stimuli, and willingness to return to or persist on an unpleasant task. Such laboratory studies have the advantage of more easily isolating mindfulness practice from other elements typically present in clinical intervention packages, thus allowing greater control over independent variables and stronger conclusions about causal effects.
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Accepting Choosing And Taking Action
Acceptance and Commitment Therapy offers clients a mindful way out of their fears and anxiety and the opportunity to regain control over their lives in three steps :
- AcceptUsing mindfulness to accept the anxiety being experienced. Mindfulness has the potential to disarm the struggle between unwanted thoughts and feelings .
- ChooseChoosing a direction in life by identifying values and life goals.
- Take actionTaking the steps required to realize those goals and committing to action and change.
ACT does not perpetuate the struggle through managing emotional and mental pain instead, mindful self-compassion changes the clientâs relationship with anxious discomfort and how they act in its presence .
Are You Interested In Learning More About Mindfulness
Our 6-week Mindfulness course teaches the learner what mindfulness is, the importance of mindfulness in relationships, the neuroscience of self-compassion, and an understanding of how to apply mindfulness in your life.
Our CPD Accredited Understanding Stress course teaches the learner what stress is, how it can be managed and prevented, and how you can support someone who is struggling with stress.
For more information on how stress, including stress-management through mindfulness, .
At Shawmind, we want to make it easier for you to handle moments of poor mental health by reducing stigma and increasing awareness and support options. Thats why all funds raised through our online courses support Headucation our mission to train teachers in the basics of mental health support.
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The Stress Breath Exercise
The Importance Of Consistent Practice
âEach morning we are born again. What we do today is what matters most.â
While everyone has something to gain from practicing mindfulness, there is one caveat: to reap the maximum benefits of mindfulness, it truly needs to be a practice, meaning that it must occur regularly and often.
Nearly all of the articles mentioned above on the benefits of mindfulness are based on a mindfulness practice of five to eight weeks, or more. While a regular practice is vital, it does not need to be a huge commitment. Even a brief, 10-minute daily practice can result in more efficient cognition and better self-regulation !
Another study on the effects of a 10-minute mindfulness exercise showed that even just a few minutes of mindfulness practice can lead to better executive attention and recognition memory, leading to better performance on a simple task .
If you need some tips on how to commit to a regular mindfulness practice, try the following :
Another helpful way to support your commitment to a daily practice of mindfulness is to assign a different value to each dayâs practice.
Dr. Amit Sood, the chair of the Mayo Mind Body Initiative, provides the following mindfulness schedule as a template:
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How Do You Learn Mindfulness
Mindfulness can be practised in person, either through a group course or a one-to-one with a trained mindfulness coach. There are online courses, books and audio, too, where you can learn through self-directed practice at home. Even though mindfulness is understood to have Buddhist origins, you dont need to be religious or spiritual to practise mindfulness.
Mindfulness has been incorporated into psychological therapies and stress reduction programmes.
Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy
MBCT is recommended by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence for the prevention of relapse in recurrent depression. It combines mindfulness techniques, like meditation, breathing exercises, and stretching, with elements from Cognitive Behavioural Therapy to help break the negative thought patterns that are characteristic of recurrent depression.
Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction
MBSR aims to address prolonged periods of stress that can lead to poor mental and physical health. MBSR can be helpful as a single treatment to manage stress in individuals who do not experience mental ill health, as well as a joint intervention with other treatments for people who have symptoms of anxiety, as MBSR is at the core of psychotherapies such as Acceptance and Commitment Therapy and Dialectical Behavioural Therapy .
Antidepressants: The Good And The Bad
The history of antidepressant response became clearer with the STAR*D study starting in 2006. It revealed that up to 50% of individuals receiving antidepressants achieved remission after 24 weeks of two medication trials. Unfortunately, that left 50% who had not. We wanted to improve on that number and help those who were still suffering despite two or more medication trials.
To respond to this problem, I led the Practicing Alternatives to Heal Depression Study sponsored by the National Institutes of Health. We found that mindfulness had powerful effects in reducing depression and anxiety. It also helped increase self-compassion while reducing ruminations. Ruminations are endless loops of thoughts that increase depression while not helping to find solutions to troublesome situations.
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Enhanced Ability To Deal With Illness
Perhaps one of the most studied groups in terms of the impacts of mindfulness is cancer patients and others who are suffering from a chronic or potentially terminal illness.
Mindfulness may not take away their symptoms, but it can help make them more manageable.
For example, the eCALM trial, a therapy program for cancer patients, found that mindfulness can reduce symptoms of stress, enhance spirituality and non-reactivity to experience, facilitate post-traumatic growth, and enhance vigor while relieving fatigue .
Another cancer-specific mindfulness program decreased rumination and worry and increased observing and nonjudging in cancer patients .
An exploration of MBSR for those suffering from chronic low back pain found that mindfulness improved patientsâ ability to function independently and resulted in less back pain than treatment as usual .
Mindfulness can also help patients to focus less on the pain, improving their quality of life
A study on the use of MBSR with lung cancer patients and their partners showed that mindfulness can instigate a process of positive change in patients and their partners, as well as relieving caregiver burden in partners .
Similarly, a review of MBSR for family caregivers found that mindfulness can decrease stress, depression, and anxiety in those caring for a loved one who is sick .
How To Practice Mindfulness
If you have the time, learning and practicing a few concentration exercises and studying meditation, would be most helpful. However, even without them you can learn to practice mindfulness.
All you need to do is to strive to pay attention to whatever you are doing in the present moment. When you eat, focus on eating, when you drink, focus on the act of drinking, when you work, just focus on your work, and when having fun, just enjoy the fun, without thinking of other things.
Do one thing at a time, with your full attention on it.
Yes, your mind will constantly wander away, because this is what it is accustomed to do. However, you can teach your mind new habits.
Every time you become aware that your mind wandered away to other thoughts, just attempt to bring it back to your current moment activity, with no impatience, tension or anger.
As you continue practicing being mindful and attentive, gradually, your patience would grow, as well as your ability to be aware of the present moment and your present activities. You will notice that fewer worries are disturbing you, your mind is becoming calm, and you are feeling more peaceful, balanced stress-free.
If you are interested in simple working methods to have more control of your attention, calm the restless activity of your mind, and become more mindful, consider reading and studying the book âCalm Down the Nonstop Chatter of Your Mindâ mentioned below.
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The Documentary Of You
Mindfulness can be used to view life and who you are with compassion and forgiveness .
The Documentary of You worksheet helps reduce the anxiety associated with how you feel.
You may begin to see that the sensations, thoughts, and feelings associated with anxiety are like words on a page. We can observe them without letting them control our thoughts, feelings, or behavior.
We Can Still Be Productive Without The Stress
Technology has impacted every aspect of our lives. In so many ways, these advances are great. But technology has also ushered in a state of constant connectivity, largely displacing the natural cycles of high productivity balanced by periods of rest. Now were always on, always connectedand our bodies and minds dont get a chance to fully rest and restore. This just makes us feel more stressed and overwhelmed.
Despite these impacts, theres a perception that stress equals productivity that in order to succeed, we have to be on, all the time.
Yet when were busy we tend to become frazzled, lose focus, and to start multitasking, a process that might seem efficient but that actually makes us up to 40% less productive and more prone to making mistakes.
Research shows that mindfulness training helps us get tasks done more efficiently, with less mistakes, and without the backdrop of heightened stress. Mindfulness makes us more clear headed and focused on what were doing. It also makes us less distracted.
In the workplace, researchers find that mindfulness meditation training decreases burnout and improves employees sense of well-being, both of which are important for job satisfaction.
Its not a stretch to say that mindfulness is an essential ally in busy times and for busy people.
So, how, exactly, does one go about practicing mindfulness to help reduce stress and stay productive? Here are some tips to help get you started.
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