We live in extremely stressful times. From compounding threats to our global sustainability and security to individual stressors around health, safety, and economic well-being, we have a great deal weighing on our minds.
Adding to this mayhem, modern technology relentlessly puts all our concerns front and center where our brains can’t help but remain on high alert.
For both your mental and physical health, you must find ways to decompress from the many stressors in your life, a way to take a "brain break," if you will.
Unfortunately, too many people turn to alcohol and chemicals to artificially numb themselves from the troubles, which ends up only adding to their problems.
A far better choice is to take a "brain break" that involves slowing down and going inward with mindfulness.
This ability is available to everyone. All it requires is placing your conscious attention on the present moment and letting go of unproductive thoughts and worries.
It’s a way to connect authentically to the here and now without letting past regrets or future fears take their excessive toll on your mental state.
What’s more, an accumulation of evidence-based research proves the direct and indirect benefits of mindfulness.
Neuroscientists have found that the practice of mindfulness meditation triggers neurotransmitters that alleviate stress and anxiety.
As a telling sign of the times, nearly one in five people in the U.S. suffers from an anxiety disorder — such as Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD), Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD), and anxiety stemming from phobias (intense fears).
And those experiencing any of these mental health challenges are also found to be predisposed to diseases related to neurological health, including heart attack, cancer, and different types of infections.
The best antidote is a regular mindfulness practice.
It triggers neurotransmitters in the brain, including dopamine, serotonin, and melatonin. All play a key role in modulating and regulating behavior and anxiety.
Mindfulness is even better than drugs, which can have harmful side effects, as it effectively reduces existing anxiety and helps prevent any future stressors.
Among the many studies attesting to the benefits of mindfulness meditation on mental health included, for example, in which PTSD survivors were divided into two groups.
The first group underwent eight weeks of psychoeducation, while the other group practiced mindfulness meditation for the same period of time.
Researchers found better results in reducing PTSD in the group practicing mindfulness.
Mindfulness is a way to shift attention away from a threatening stimulus and toward a more accepting, gracious, and peaceful way of being in the world.
To begin a mindfulness practice, use this meditation to still the mind and connect to present-moment awareness:
Find a quiet place to sit.
Close your eyes.
Feel yourself where you are right now.
Note what you are sensing: any sounds, thoughts, feelings, or bodily sensations.
Tell yourself it’s OK to let everything and everyone go.
Put your focus and awareness onto your breath.
Take a few deep breaths in and out.
If your mind begins to wander at any time, bring your focus and awareness back to your breath, which will always bring you back to the present moment.
Say silently, "I am in this moment of now."
Say silently, "Now is all there is."
Say silently, "I accept this moment that I’m in."
You can repeat this to yourself as many times as you wish.
When you’re ready, slowly open your eyes. Be aware that you’re still in the moment of "now" and that there’s no need to rush out of it.
Take your time transitioning out of your meditation.
Return to that inner place of relaxation whenever you feel like you need another "brain break."
Ora Nadrich is a certified life coach and mindfulness teacher. She's also the president of the Institute for Transformational Thinking and author of Live True: A Mindfulness Guide to Authenticity. For more information, visit her website.