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 .
Why Is Mindfulness Important
Mindfulness is a concept that has its roots in ancient Indian traditions associated with Hinduism and Buddhism. As these religions traveled west and have become increasingly popular, so too has the practice of mindfulness. Perhaps the concepts best ambassador has been yoga. Yoga, which also comes from ancient Indian practices, has helped to popularize the practice of mindfulness even among non-secular practitioners. While some people continue to associate the practice with their spiritual beliefs, others simply practice being mindful without the spiritual underpinnings.
Yoga can be a great vehicle for practicing mindfulness because both concepts instruct practitioners to be keenly aware of their bodies. However, there are other ways to engage in mindfulness that well explore here.
How To Practice Intentional Breathing
1. Sit comfortably and observe your natural breath. Start by finding a comfortable position like sitting upright in a chair or lying on your back. Begin to observe your breath just as it is. Notice where the breath flowsupper chest, lower belly, front, back, or sides. As you do, try to avoid placing judgment on how you are breathing or attaching a story to it. Just as if you were a scientist studying a cell under a microscope, see if you can examine all of the details of your breath one at a time and make mental notes of them. Observe how you are breathing just as you are. Its an interesting exercise. You may notice that the act of observing your breath slows down your respiration rate.
2. Place your hands on your chest and belly. Place your right hand on your breastbone in the center of your chest. Place your left hand so that your thumb is below your navel. Continue to breathe normally and observe whether you are breathing more into your right hand or left hand. See if you can resist the urge to change your breath or make it deeper. Breathe as normally as you can and observe how it is to be in your body, breathing normally. How does it feel? What do you notice? Continue for at least 10 breaths.
7. Notice how you feel. Was the exercise simple or difficult? Did breathing slowly and fully seem usual to you? How do you feel physically? Emotionally? Energetically? If you like, write down your experience.
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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.
Getting Started On Your Own
Some types of meditation primarily involve concentrationrepeating a phrase or focusing on the sensation of breathing, allowing the parade of thoughts that inevitably arise to come and go. Concentration meditation techniques, as well as other activities such as tai chi or yoga, can induce the well-known relaxation response, which is very valuable in reducing the bodys response to stress.
Mindfulness meditation builds upon concentration practices. Heres how it works:
Go with the flow. In mindfulness meditation, once you establish concentration, you observe the flow of inner thoughts, emotions, and bodily sensations without judging them as good or bad.
Pay attention. You also notice external sensations such as sounds, sights, and touch that make up your moment-to-moment experience. The challenge is not to latch onto a particular idea, emotion, or sensation, or to get caught in thinking about the past or the future. Instead, you watch what comes and goes in your mind and discover which mental habits produce a feeling of well-being or suffering.
Stay with it. At times, this process may not seem relaxing at all, but over time it provides a key to greater happiness and self-awareness as you become comfortable with a wider and wider range of your experiences.
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Reduce Stress Through Mindfulness
Mindfulness means purposefully paying attention to the present moment. Practicing mindfulness can be as simple as paying attention to daily life. For example, using your senses to deliberately focus on an activity like watching the sunset.
Todays world can often be hectic and stressful. It can be easy to live on autopilot and feel weighed down by day-to-day stress. But what if there was a way to change how you relate to the world? One simple practice might help you live a healthier, fuller life: mindfulness.
Mindfulness means purposefully paying attention to the present moment. It can help Veterans and their loved ones see things as they really are by observingbut not judgingtheir experiences.
Most of the time were caught either in the past or in the future with our thoughts and were really missing out on whats going on in this moment, said Christiane Wolf, MD, Ph.D., lead consultant for VA CALM, a mindfulness facilitators training program for clinicians. She and clinical psychologist Dr. Greg Serpa, Ph.D., created the first national mindfulness facilitators training program for VA staff.
A lot of people think, well, Im paying attention all the time, Im here in my life. But really in this moment, a lot of us arent right here, said Dr. Serpa. Were either rehearsing the future and thinking about what we have to do next or rehashing the past. Between all the rehearsing and rehashing, we forget that at this moment right here is when were alive.
Mindfulness Untangles Us From Stressful Thoughts
Stressful things happen in life, thats for surebut much of the stress we experience on a daily basis is created from stress-inducing thoughts. Thought patterns like worry and rumination are good examples of this. Our thoughts can get us caught up in negativity, stress, anxiety, or even depression.
Mindfulness training helps us to unhook from unhelpful thoughts, which can otherwise pull us into emotional reactivity, stress, and struggle.
Through mindfulness exercises, we train ourselves in relating to our thoughts in new ways. Instead of getting caught up in them, we learn to step back from spinning thoughts by tuning into whats happening in the present moment, such as physical sensations, to help ground us. From this more steady place, we can observe thoughts more calmly, and let them go.
Mindfulness helps give ourselves more mental spaceto think clearly, choose our actions wisely, and stay connected with a steady sense of calm. This is the goal of mindfulness training programs including Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction and Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy .
Over time, the practice of mindfulness meditation helps us to let go of the habit of being caught up in our heads and reacting from our thoughts, and we become more able to stay grounded, balanced, and present as we navigate our way through life.
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How Mindfulness Helps To Unwind Your Stress
Mindfulness meditation has been found to calm the stress response, commonly known as fight-or-flight.
The stress response occurs when the part of your brain called the amygdala perceives a threat. In response, a flood of hormones, including adrenaline and cortisol, are released, causing a range of physiological changes, such as increased respiration and blood flow to your extremities and to your brain, preparing your muscles to go into action and heightening your senses, among other potential life-preserving measures.
When the threat subsides, the parasympathetic nervous system kicks in to slow these reactions and bring your body back to a baseline state.
But the stress response isnt just a reaction to an obvious threat. It can be triggered by anything your brain perceives as a threatlike the psychological stress of feeling overwhelmed, or physical discomfort, such as chronic pain. Regardless of the cause, the brain and the body react in the same way, to prepare you to fight, freeze, or flee.
How To Manage Stress
Waging a battle against stress doesnt make much sense, does it? Its the surest way to increase the stress. Mindfulness lets us interrupt the stress cycle and let in some space and air. Here are 11 easy ways to take time for what matters and put stress in its place.
1. Take a walk
Modern life seems designed to make us stay in one placesitting, standing, or lying downfor long periods of time. Many people dont even remember a time when you had to get up off your butt to walk across the room and change the channel on the TV or go over to the bookshelf to consult the dictionary. Moving has gone out of style, and the balance of mental to physical energy expended can get way out of whack. Find an excuse to use muscles that are feeling lonely and neglected. Raise your heart rate a little. Your body, and mind, will thank you.
2. Eat lunch somewhere pleasant
Taking lunch at your desk ensures your mind will stay in the same frame of reference while youre eating, particularly if youre checking email or doing work at the same time. Go somewhere else to have lunch, hang out with co-workers, let go and enjoy. Then come back to work a little refreshed.
3. Relax your muscles with a body scan
4. Minimize multitasking
5. Get your face out of your phone
6. Look at something green
8. Go for a swim
9. Read something out loud
10. Listen, really listen, to a piece of music
11. Take a vacation
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What Are The Benefits Of Mindfulness
Mindfulness has been studied for many years. According to recent research, it has several benefits for physical and mental health. Some of the strongest health benefits include:
Improves mood Mindfulness training may reduce depression and anxiety. One study found that mindfulness training was as effective as antidepressant medications in preventing a depression relapse.
Reduces stress and its consequences Mindfulness can lead to less intense stress responses. This has many health benefits, such as lowering your blood pressure and strengthening your immune system.
Improves coping with pain People with chronic pain who practice mindfulness meditation report less severe pain and pain-related distress. They are also more active in spite of their pain.
Improves brain functions Practicing mindfulness helps build your ability to pay attention and focus. Over time, this training can sharpen memory and improve mental performance.
Helps with weight management Some mindfulness techniques have been shown to reduce overeating and obesity.
The benefits of mindfulness training may persist for years, because learning to be mindful is something that can be applied to your daily routine.
Mindfulness Training Can Help Support Students At Risk Of Mental Health Problems Concludes A Randomised Controlled Trial Carried Out By Researchers At The University Of Cambridge
This is, to the best of our knowledge, the most robust study to date to assess mindfulness training for students, and backs up previous studies that suggest it can improve mental health and wellbeing during stressful periods
While the prevalence of anxiety and depression among first year undergraduates is lower than the general population, it increases to overtake this during their second year. The number of students accessing counselling services in the UK grew by 50% from 2010 to 2015, surpassing the growth in the number of students during the same period. There is little consensus as to whether students are suffering more mental disorders, are less resilient than in the past or whether there is less stigma attached to accessing support. Regardless, mental health support services for students are becoming stretched.
Recent years have seen increasing interest in mindfulness, a means of training attention for the purpose of mental wellbeing based on the practice of meditation. There is evidence that mindfulness training can improve symptoms of common mental health issues such as anxiety and depression. However, there is little robust evidence on the effectiveness of mindfulness training in preventing such problems in university students.
The researchers also looked at other measures, such as self-reported wellbeing. They found that mindfulness training improved wellbeing during the exam period when compared with the usual support.
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How Effective Is Mbsr
The effectiveness of MBSR can vary depending on your health condition. Below, weve broken down how effective MBSR can be for various health conditions.
For people living with mental health conditions, research has found that MBSR may help:
Improve cognitive abilities for people with conditions like early-stage dementia
Reduce anxiety, stress, and emotional exhaustion in employees
For people experiencing physical symptoms of a health condition, MBSR may help:
Improve sleep quality in people with sleep disturbances
Relieve pain in people living with chronic low back pain
Keep in mind that MBSR wont cure a health condition. But it can serve as a powerful ally in your health journey. For example, one study found that MBSR helped women who completed breast cancer treatment. It helped lower their fear and anxiety about their cancer coming back.
Mindfulness Makes Us Less Reactive
When stressful things happen, we often become reactive. We may end up saying or doing things we regret later and our vision of the situation at hand can become clouded by a storm of emotions and flood of unhelpful thoughts. Sometimes our reactions make things worse.
Mindfulness helps us better manage stressful situations because it trains us to regulate our emotions, step back from our thoughts, and gives us the mental perspective to choose our thoughts, words, and actions more deliberately. In short, mindfulness helps us respond instead of react.
We can employ mindful breathing exercises to help us find a calmer center when our thoughts and emotions start to spin
We can ask ourselves questions, such as Is it true? to discern the true nature of an upset.
Breathing mindfully and using our awareness to understand whats present for us are just two ways that we can use mindfulness to manage stress and to respond more effectively to situations instead of simply reacting.
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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.
When To Use Caution
Any type of self-reflective inner work has the potential to bring difficult feelings or thoughts to light. This can be particularly true if you have a history of trauma or if you have been diagnosed with a condition such as post-traumatic stress disorder or complex PTSD.
There are few guidelines regarding the potential side effects or situations where caution should be used. Researchers have reported instances where participants have experienced distressing adverse effects when practicing mindfulness and meditation that were serious enough to require additional treatment.
One study found that around 6% of participants who practiced mindfulness experienced side effects that included increased anxiety, dissociation, social withdrawal, and emotional numbness. However, the authors note that these effects were also accompanied by significant improvements in symptoms of depression.
This doesnât mean that you shouldnât try mindfulness. Instead, it simply means that you should use some caution and be aware that it is not a panacea for immediate well-being. Mindfulness and other inner work practices may make you feel worse before you begin to feel better.
Focusing deeply on your inner self can trigger uncomfortable or even distressing feelings, so you should be aware of this potential and have emotional tools you can utilize to help cope with such experiences.
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