Mindfulness is trending, both online and in real life – and it’s about time! What happens with you decrease stress and anxiety? You enjoy a greater sense of peace, more happiness and increased compassion for yourself and others. All across the city there are mindfulness seminars popping up and groups such as the Mindfulness Meditation New York Collaborative that you can participate in. These groups are great to get support in deepening your practice and find ways to fit it in every day life. We focus on promoting mindfulness and meditation to our patients at 5 Point. It can be beneficial in treating those with chronic pelvic pain, endometriosis, dyspareunia and hip/low back pain.
The first type of mindfulness that I was taught in school was called physiological quieting by Janet Hulme. The goal of the exercise is to normalize your autonomic nervous system so there is a balance between the sympathetic and parasympathetic areas. This translates into other meditative practices such as yoga.
The Science Behind It:
There is a great article by Harvard Health that explains how stress can induce our “fight or flight” response in our body, aka our sympathetic nervous system. This response is a survival mechanism that our body taps into in dangerous situations. Our bodies increase in hormone production and physiological responses during this reaction. However, what ends up happening is that our bodies overreact to normal day stressors such as work life or even traffic jams with these “fight or flight” responses! Over time these reactions really take a toll on our body and can even contribute to brain changes that can cause depression and anxiety and indirectly decreasing sleep and metabolism.
Why it works:
This is where mindfulness comes into play… we want to start heightening our parasympathetic autonomic nervous system, which focuses on “rest and digest.” There is objective research out now that measures how eliciting a relaxation response can counteract the stress response, using mindfulness, deep breathing, visualization, etc.
The internal struggles with meditation:
- … what if you “hate” meditation but know that it is beneficial for your health?! In our busy lives it is so hard to take your free time and put it towards meditation—most of us just want to turn on the TV or do the cardio we have been skipping for the past week! Instead why not try 5 minutes worth of mindfulness before/after you turn on the TV and before you do your 3 mile run.
- What if you think you are bad at meditating? The goal of mindfulness is observing your mind, not “emptying” it. It is NORMAL that your mind will wander during your practice. Be patient with yourself and slowly center yourself.
- Where do I even start? Just start small. Here are a list of free apps that you can download to guide you in practice!
Useful (and free!) meditation apps for iPhone or Android:
Blog post by Physical Therapist Erica Azzaretto