For years now, meditation and mindfulness practices have been hot in the Western world. There are mindfulness exercises for work, for kids, for inmates. Really for any subset of people you can think of — there is a mindfulness practice out there. Everyone wants to know how they can use mindfulness to slow down yet stay productive.
All in all, mindfulness is pretty popular. But we have to realize that it is more than just a fad to hop aboard. Mindfulness is actually a powerful tool that can alter our fundamental brain patterns and help us deal with intense life situations.
We all know what it feels like to fly off the handle when we get really angry with someone, or to want to run away from an emotionally painful situation. Learning how to handle these volatile situations isn’t usually something we learn in school. Often it seems more like trial and error to figure out how to get through challenging moments like these.
But experts say that mindfulness is a critical tool for navigating the intense times in our lives. Fear is a strong biological response to stress, triggered by the release of hormones from the amygdala in the brain. And there are clear bodily reactions to this hormone rush, such as tightening of our limbs, and the inability to remember the good things about the people that we’re in conflict with.
Those who study mindfulness say that simple breathing exercises can help us come back to the present moment and short-circuit the fear response that our brains are drumming into our bodies. Mindfulness is key to toxic-stress reduction for executives and many others with high-pressure lifestyles. Perhaps we can all learn to use mindfulness as the clear tool that it is.
Image Credit: Gustavo Frazao via Shutterstock
Stefani is a writer and urban planner based in Oakland, CA. She holds a master’s in City and Regional Planning from UC Berkeley and a bachelor’s in Human Biology from Stanford University. In her free time, she is often found reading diverse literature, writing stories, or enjoying the outdoors. Follow her on Twitter: @stefanicox