Here's How Mindfulness Affect Your Body, Especially In Times Of Stress, According To Experts
How many times has it been suggested that you start a mindfulness practice? For me, I'd say I'm cresting a million times, but that doesn't mean I've actually dipped my feet into the practice just yet. Maybe you're sick of hearing about it yourself, but when you really think about how mindfulness can affect your body, it's pretty incredible. So even if you consider yourself to be a bit of a skeptic about these things, hear me out, because experts say the practice does live up to the hype.
When people talk about mindfulness, the focus is usually on things like quieting your mind, relieving stress, and turning negative thoughts into positive ones. And yes, mindfulness can help you achieve those things, but according to spiritual teacher and meditation guide, Biet Simkin, the practice is also a way to recognize what she calls "the ultimate truth." She tells Elite Daily in an email, "[Mindfulness] makes you remember who you are and what your purpose is on this planet." In other words, practicing mindfulness is essentially a way to practice being your most natural, authentic self, without any distractions or influences from the outside world. It helps you get in touch with who you really are.
If the skeptic in you has suddenly grown to be a bit more curious, here are a few other fascinating ways mindfulness affects your body.
It Can Help Reduce Anxiety In Real Time
"Mindfulness is one of the best tools for eliminating real-time anxiety and physical stress responses," Kristen Rice, a behavioral health coach, meditation teacher, and energy healer, tells Elite Daily. "Anxiety exists when our fight-or-flight stress response is triggered when thinking about the past or the future."
Most of the time, Rice explains, these perceived "threats" that your body is picking up on when you feel anxious aren’t actually real, or at least, they don't warrant such an intense physiological response. So really, that response only serves to make you feel more overwhelmed, rather than actually solve anything.
That's where mindfulness comes in, according to Rice. "When paired with mindful breathing, the physical results are extremely powerful because, with slow, deep breathing into the belly, you experience biofeedback between the mind and body," she explains. "Your breath slows, and as a result, your body communicates back to the parasympathetic nervous system that you are safe, allowing both your mind and body to calm, slow, and turn off the alarms."
Mindfulness Can Curtail Your Body's Stress Response
One of the major benefits of meditation is stress management, yoga teacher, author, and speaker Jodi Ashbrook, tells Elite Daily. She explains that your brain releases the hormone cortisol when you feel really overwhelmed with stress, and mindfulness can help to manage that reaction.
"Over 18,000 studies have supported the use of meditation as one of the best daily habits for improving mental health and reducing cortisol to manage stress," Ashbrook explains. And as a result, she adds, stress management can contribute to other physical and mental health benefits, like better sleep, better focus, etc.
It Allows You To Control Your Emotional Responses
According to licensed clinical social worker Melissa Ifill, mindfulness can help you gain a better understanding of what you're thinking, what you're feeling, and how you're behaving, which in turn allows for a greater ability to manage emotions and reactions overall.
"This heightened awareness gives us the tools to be able to address these patterns of thought, feelings, and behaviors in ways that can positively impact our mood and our functioning," she tells Elite Daily.
Practicing Mindfulness Can Actually Lower Your Blood Pressure
"Practicing mindfulness balances the autonomic nervous system, which naturally lowers blood pressure," Dr. Dora Wolfe, a licensed clinical psychologist and clinical director of Wolfe Behavioral Health, tells Elite Daily.
And indeed, a scientific review published in the International Journal of Hypertension showed that practicing transcendental meditation is linked to reduced blood pressure in people who have hypertension. Not a bad reason to give it a try, right?
It Also Calms Your Heart Rate
You know when you get upset about something and your heart feels like it's going to rapidly rocket out of your chest? It's one of the worst feelings, for sure, but according to Lillian Daniels, wellness expert and founder of The Happy Knee, practicing mindfulness might be able to help, as it can calm and slow your heart rate.
"[Mindful] practices, such as breathing exercises, actually can calm your heart rate, even in a highly stressful situation," Daniels tells Elite Daily.
Mindfulness Might Help To Promote Positive Body Image
Anything that encourages you to think more positively about your body is worth trying, IMO, and science says mindfulness can help with this, too. In a recent study, researchers from Anglia Ruskin University in England recruited 646 British adults between 18 and 76 years old and asked them to complete a handful of different questionnaires, one of which focused on their bodily awareness, while the rest focused on things like body image, body appreciation, and self-consciousness.
The results, which have been published in the academic journal Body Image, revealed a connection between a person's ability to read their body's internal signals (such as hunger or emotional discomfort) and their body image. Basically, the researchers found that the greater the person's bodily awareness, the more positive they felt overall about their body. And while the study's press release noted that more research is needed to confirm these findings, lead study author Jenny Todd said in a statement, "This could have implications for promoting positive body image, for example modifying interoceptive awareness through mindfulness-based practices."