I watched an insightful programme recently, entitled Trust me, I’m a Doctor which, in a bid to discover the most effective ways to tackle the symptoms of stress, recruited seventy-one volunteers, and allocated them into four different groups, each of which was given a different activity to pursue, over an eight-week period.
The first group, which got together every Saturday, was given gardening and conservation activities to complete. The second group was given a yoga course. The third group implemented ten minutes of mindfulness every day, focusing on the present moment. The remaining volunteers were the control group.
Levels of cortisol, the stress hormone released by the adrenal gland, were measured in all the participants both at the start of the experiment and at the end. Our bodies naturally release a big burst of it in the morning, known as the cortisol awakening response (CAR) and then the levels lower throughout the day.
“Professor Angela Clow and Dr. Nina Smyth of the University of Westminster found that, compared with the control group, everyone who engaged in any of the activities had an increase in their CAR, so lower levels of cortisol throughout the remainder of the day.
Individually, the yoga group saw a healthy reduction of cortisol during the day and a small increase in CAR. The conservation group’s CAR rose by 20% and the Mindfulness group’s CAR rose by a staggering 58%. Interestingly, for the people who actually enjoyed their activities, they saw an even bigger rise in their CAR, with the mindfulness group raising it to an astonishing 78%. So mindfulness is scientifically proven to reduce stress and even more so if you enjoy it.
Let me explain a bit more.
When it comes to mindfulness, although meditation is a prominent but not necessarily essential part of this doctrine, the following foundational characteristics of it create a practice that instils a whole new sense of wellbeing within the participant, something that sets it above the rest.
“This may be the first time you have thought about mindfulness, or you may have heard about it long ago and just dismissed it as another ‘namby-pamby, hippyish’ pastime, but whatever your thoughts, you can only begin to benefit from it by having the correct attitude.
If you think it is a waste of time and a pointless exercise, then it will be: it’s as simple as that. If, however, you firmly believe in the foundational powers it can have over your wellbeing and frame of mind, it is only a matter of time before you start to benefit from the wondrous gifts it can bring.
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