Happy Monday to all you Mindful Minds.. Miss T, here!
You may have seen my post last week, where we jammed a bit about mindfulness and why I’m a big advocate of it. Especially when it comes to practicing it with our kiddos.
Well, today, I’d like to get a bit into the ‘behind-the-scenes’ of mindfulness and explain how it works and what it can do for our body and mind.
Like I said in my last post:
mindfulness, in essence, is our natural state of being;
it is living in and embracing the present moment.
It releases us from all those swirling thoughts in our heads, and brings our focus into the now.
Don’t get me wrong, I know it is an extremely simple concept but it can seem complicated and hold more weight than it seems!
There are even a ton of benefits from incorporating mindfulness practices into your life. Some, you may haven’t even realized.
Yes, Mindfulness is bringing awareness to what is going on around you. And of course, focusing on the world around you brings you out of your own head and reduces anxious and fearful thoughts.
But what else does mindfulness do?
I want to introduce a new term to you (maybe you’ve heard this one before… it’s quite the mouthful!).. It may help you understand the power that lies behind mindfulness.
The study of the effect of the mind on health and resistance to disease
I heard about this term about 3 years ago in a book I read by Dr. Gabor Mate. If you don’t know who he is, Dr. Gabor Mate is a physician and internationally renowned speaker who specializes in addiction, childhood development, and the relationship of stress and illness to the body. His book, that I read, is titled: When the Body Says No – The Cost of Hidden Stress.
This term stood out in my mind. I mean, just look at the word! It took me a couple of tries to make sure I was getting the pronunciation just right.. But mostly, it gave a name to something that I had understood, but couldn’t quite explain.
Even though I had never heard the term psychoneuroimmunology before, now that I understood it, I realized I had already read a lot about it…
I love learning about the inner workings of us humans and our biology. In the past, I’d studied the placebo and nocebo effect a lot. As well as epigenetics (the study of how our behaviours and environment influence our gene expressions). Realizing, all of those were perfect examples of psychoneuroimmunology- where mindset and thoughts dictate reality.
I read many books with stories of instances where a patient’s mindset can have a direct impact on their healing process. And their likelihood to get ill again. Even instances where a particular mindset was the reason for illness in the first place.
Even within my classroom walls, I realized teaching my students to have a growth mindset was psychoneuroimmunology hard at work! Aiding kids to think in a positive mindset makes them more likely to reach their goals, AND creates happier and healthier kids!
I’d seen it all around me and learned all about it in my reading endeavors, but never really knew it had a name… until now! After naming it, I began to see patterns of psychoneuroimmunology all around me!
In my classroom, in the books I read,
and even within my own family.
My sister is someone who has suffered from depression and chronic migraines almost all of her life. She has them quite regularly and was even put on a prescription medication to help her ease the pain of her migraines. It helped for a short while, but overtime, her body adjusted to the medication and she wasn’t getting results.
I started to pay more attention to her migraines. When she got them, and how often. I started to notice an interesting pattern… Her migraines always subsided when she had good days. And they flared up when she had bad days- bouts of depression or when something was causing her extra anxiety, or even when getting into arguments with someone she cared about.
It became very clear to me that her migraines were in direct correlation with her thoughts and overall mental health.
After studying psychoneuroimmunology and conducting some of my own experiments, I am even more confident that with the practice of mindfulness, we can positively influence our mental wellbeing and, in turn, achieve optimal health!
Mindfulness allows us to strengthen our mind by disassociating from our thoughts. It reminds us that, although we are full of thoughts, it doesn’t mean we ARE those thoughts. We simply have them and we can, just as simply, CHOOSE another thought. Mindfulness is about the power of choice. It brings about awareness- about ourselves, our lives and the people around us.
I see Mindfulness as exercise for the mind. Just as we would train our muscles by going to the gym, we can train our mental toughness through mindfulness.
And once again, we can benefit in so many ways from Mindfulness!
By using mindfulness to increase our mental resilience, it initiates a domino effect that translates to an abundance of other health and life improvements!
- Reduced anxiety and depression
- Improved immune system functioning (and other bodily systems!)
- Boosts confidence, self-esteem and self-awareness
- Better memory and cognitive abilities
- Better physical health- increases strength and flexibility
- Stronger and more positive relationships
- Builds resilience – overcome adversity
- Enhances mind/body connection
- Increases focus and attention
Maybe you’re thinking.. Really? I can gain all of that just from the practice of Mindfulness?!
The answer is YES!
I believe that mindfulness is the key to health and wellness!
And just like the study of psychoneuroimmunology reminds us: Our thoughts and psychological processes have an impact on our overall health.
But don’t forget, mindfulness is not a ‘one and done’ activity. Mindfulness is for life. It is about practice and getting those reps of mastery in. Building a solid foundation of mindfulness to live a mindful life.
It includes building a daily practice that fits into your life, that fits your schedule.
Start off slowly, and eventually, you’ll be practicing mindfulness throughout your day, without even thinking about it!
Before you know it, you’ll be a mindfulness ninja!