We know a lot about stress and how it affects us, both mind and body. So why do we ignore it and let it make us overweight, sick and prematurely old, especially when we can so easily press the reset button with a little bit of mindfulness meditation?
Here’s what we know about stress and the nervous system
When we are stressed, the sympathetic nervous system engages the “fight or flight” response which mobilizes the body for action by
- Increasing the heart and respiration rate
- Releasing Cortisol into the blood stream
- Increases blood pressure
- Slowing down metabolism so that the body can use that energy to find safety.
The nervous system is not very discerning. It has the same reaction whether the stressor is an overbooked schedule or a near car accident. Our nervous systems are just not evolved enough to tell the difference between the two events.
Mindfulness meditation is nothing more than a good habit that has a positive, cumulative affect on our heath. We can not only learn new tasks, but we can cultivate more positive emotions by making mindfulness a habit.
A little stress can keep us focused, but over time “chronic” stress can lead to heart disease, cause memory loss and compromise our immune system, making us more susceptible to a range of illnesses from the common cold to more serious immune disfunction. We add to the problem with negative responses to stressors like poor eating and drinking habits, smoking, and lack of exercise. We can become conditioned to stress and forget that we have a choice in how we react. Instead of making healthy choices we let negative responses to stress become habits. And like any bad habit, stress takes practice.
Here’s what we know about mindfulness
Luckily there is a reset button we can access when we get overtaken by stress. The latest research shows that mindfulness meditation techniques enhance immune function, reduce anxiety, control heart disease, help with weight loss, pain management and prevent depression relapse. Mindfulness meditation is nothing more than a good habit that has a positive, cumulative affect on our heath. This is great news.
Even more encouraging is the research coming out of the Department of Affective Neuroscience at the University of Wisconsin where they are looking at emotions in the lab proving that the adult brain has much more “plasticity” (the ability to grow new neural pathways) than previous believed. We can not only learn new tasks, but we can cultivate more positive emotions by making mindfulness a habit.