What is mindfulness
Mindfulness is a derivative of Buddhism and holds many Buddhist concepts. The majority of which attempt to reach a clear mind and be in the present moment. Sounds easy right? Mindfulness’s main objective is practicing on watching your mind to focus on each moment of the present. Focusing on the present while not judging sensations, emotions or thoughts.
How are we to be in relationship with all of these thoughts that are driving our lives? We are chased out of bed in the morning by our thoughts. Training to watch these and observe them is easy for some and difficult for others. Have there been times when you’ve found yourself immersed in an activity and no other thought occurs within that period of time you become have just been absorbed by the activity. That is similar to mindfulness, being enveloped in the now, being fixated at the task at hand rather than looking to the past or future. if you have had that state of presence, you can practice mindfulness even if you have not, you can learn too.
There is less mysticism with mindfulness, due to its mainstream practicality. Various meditations suggest concentration of breathing or word repetition. Mindfulness does this but additionally conditions you to observe external and internal sensations, emotions, and thoughts without judging or resisting them. Allowing these constant flowing sensations and not trying to abstain or resist them allows them to fall by the wayside. Desisting from judgement of these elements keeps you from drifting into the past and future, and help you focus rather on each individual moment as it occurs. “enhanced attention to and open awareness of current experience or present reality”
Neurological studies have found that mindfulness is related to the activation of brain areas involved in the awareness of body sensations
Mindfulness has been supplementary with a range of favorable psychological health outcomes
It has additionally been proven to even improve sleep. and lower back pain
Additionally, practitioners see improvements in concentration and emotional well-being possibly due to findings relating mindfulness to lowers breathing rate, heart rate, blood pressure, and oxygen consumption. It also lowers epinephrine and cortisol. This effect is due to the body’s relaxation response while meditating.
How can focusing on the mind impact your physical body? Chronic pain reducing attributes.
The mind can impact a lot of about your physiological state. Such as if you feel uplifted during a song or getting a rush during a thrilling movie such as the “Jump scare”. People even burn more calories watching a scary movie due to the mind creating a stress effect. The same can occur with chronic negative thought and reactions to stimuli
Many of these conditions stated above have mechanisms that are related to stress. Mindfulness makes logical sense to decrease anxiety because typically people with extreme anxiety give their thoughts too much power. Mindfulness has a detachment characteristic where you simply understand your thoughts as thoughts and watch them come and go while being nonreactive to them . If you are aware of your reaction or emotion in the first 5 minutes rather than an hour you took away 55 minutes of having higher cortisol levels worrying about the concern of whatever it may be.
The mind is powerful and creates a sense of well-being but it also can create a sense of despair and angst.
When someone has a chronic injury the stress about that injury also helps to produce, sustain, and exacerbate the symptoms of the ailment or state of being stressing about the avoidance of pain exacerbates it. Dr. Ronald Siegel, assistant professor of psychology at Harvard Medical School and faculty editor of the Harvard Special Health Report Positive Psychology, states “Reducing stress reduces symptoms and may also assist in resolving the disorder,”
Avoidance and resistance to this pain or discomfort can lead to chronic stress and actually make the ailments worsen. “Mindfulness helps people cope better by living more fully in the presence of the disease and thereby suffering less.” It can change their unhelpful responses and unhelpful compulsions of concern to the discomfort and pain for the better. Enhancing the ability to monitor emotional responses, which should, in turn, foster more effective emotion regulation. For example those with insomnia, worry about not sleeping and it further intensifies and exacerbates their reaction to lack of sleep.
Simply focusing on several general and more available aspects of the body, such as breathing and posture, can develop an individual’s eating patterns for the better? Sounds like mysticism and voodoo.
Why mindfulness has appeal with weight loss.
Mindfulness can alleviate the fog of distraction. Mindfulness allows individuals to react to signals from their body better. This is due to the acclimation and practice of feeling and focusing on sensations relative to the body. Being more attuned to how you feel sensations will allow you to adjust accordingly and act accordingly. This appropriate or accordant action can be relative to hunger and satiation.
The environment in which the body resides matters
Mindfulness can bring a person back to what they are truly feeling rather than responding to various stimuli on the outside world. The body is an incredible machine that has alerts, alarms, and systems that regulate itself continuously. These systems of regulation include feedback to when an individual is hungry and not hungry referred to as satiety or lack thereof.
These feedback and regulatory patterns can be inhibited though. Inhibition can occur when distracted. Distractions can occur everywhere. Outside cues in the eating environment regularly outweigh physiological hunger and satiety cues sent to the brain.
Distraction can interfere with memory formation of previous consumption but also interferes with the awareness of physiological hunger and satiety cues. If you check out or were distracted while eating a meal your brain didn’t properly form a memory that you were actually at that meal, or it potentially formed a small amount of memory of the meal. This memory formation, or lack thereof, can also disrupt the individual’s next meal leading them to eat even more due to not feeling satiated from the previous feeding.
So the distractions now can impact the future!
This not only can affect how much you eat in the “present” by signaling when to stop eating but also can influence following consumption by signaling how much to eat at a later point in time. Responsiveness hunger and satiety signals indicates how well consumers compensate for previous consumption. This does not necessarily mean consuming less, but rather regulating food intake in such a way that previous consumption is taken into account. This is important because incidental over-consumption may not be harmful when consumers are able to compensate. Compensating across meals can help consumers in attaining a constant energy intake and maintaining a healthy body weight.Responsiveness is important because it influences how an individual approaches the next meal. Mindfulness can improve responsiveness to internal hunger and satiety cues, based on its ability to foster an enhanced state of attention. Distracting people during consumption reduces their memory of what they have eaten and increases following consumption.
Studies on food intake have recently shown that mindfulness-based interventions can reduce binge eating
Additionally, a study evaluated the effectiveness of Mindful Restaurant Eating with women 40 – 59 years of age who ate out 3 times per week. Women lost significantly more weight during the course of the study who practiced mindful eating.
Another example that environment plays a significant role in hunger cues.
Individuals are inclined to eat more when they are served bigger portions.
Ultimately the result isn’t instantaneous, it’s to set up regulatory patterns and positive events made up of multiple meals and moments to determine your health outcomes. Which is why this concept has great appeal in concern for fat loss and weight management.
For example, distracted consumers are less able to compensate for the caloric content of a previously consumed drink that is covertly manipulated to contain either few or many calories. This suggests that attention plays an important role in the awareness and reliance on hunger and satiety cues.
“Our findings show that the focus of mindful attention is crucial to the effects it has; a mindful meditation that focuses attention on the body enhances consumers’ awareness of hunger and satiety cues and increases compensation for previous food intake, but mindfulness meditation with a different focus of attention does not. Also for chronic mindfulness, specifically mindful attention to the body is related to a more stable body weight, suggesting that also in the long run particularly mindful attention to the body, rather than a general mindfulness effect, provides consumers with important health benefits related to food consumption…. that an improved access to hunger and satiety cues is the driving mechanism.” Van De Veer et. al
It appears that focusing on feeling different parts of the body and feeling sensations such as breathing makes a whole system of body sensations more accessible. It increases your awareness of all sensations not just focusing and being mindful of what hunger feels like during the practice.
Trainings of mindfulness
There are different approaches to teach individuals how to reach a state of mindfulness, through focusing attention on bodily sensations, stimuli in the environment, or on both simultaneously. Mindful attention to aspects of the body fosters awareness and reliance on hunger and satiety cues.
This does not necessarily mean consuming less, but rather regulating food intake in such a way that previous consumption is taken into account and what is being consumed now. This is important because incidental overconsumption may not be harmful when consumers are able to compensate. Compensating across meals can help consumers in attaining a constant energy intake and maintaining a healthy body weight.
The two types of mindfulness
Increasing evidence indicates that regularly practicing mindfulness and watching your thoughts arise and fall away. Approach these thoughts and feelings without judgement recognizing them as meaningless thought, has numerous psychological benefits, from aiding weight loss and suppressing anxiousness. In the short term, it can keep you from returning to negative thoughts and change your attitude.
Jon Kabat-Zinn refers to thoughts as “bubbles” and once you view them look at them and see that it is merely a thought which connects to nothing or doesn’t define you then they are fragile and simply pop into nothingness.
How to practice mindfulness
image courtesy of The happy reality project
Sit cross legged or upright in a chair. You want to get settled in your seat and let gravity sit you down. Close your eyes and breathe calmly and slow. Observe any tightness, pain or stress. Breathe deeply and slow as you observe with your attentiveness on that section or portion of your body. Focus on the intensity or null feelings and notice how it changes and alters. If you catch yourself lost in thought (this is normal) then return and focus on the breathe.
Short bouts in the beginning of your practice is recommended because most find it difficult to sit still. Make a commitment of a practice of even two minute guided meditations before bed. Then once you are acclimated to the practice you make extend the time as you please Remember it is a relaxing practice and do not get discouraged during it because as with anything, the more you do it the better you participate in it.. Nameste in touch with our website! Sign up for our newsletter! Follow us on Instagram Like us on Facebook!
You may wish to use a guided meditation or reflection recording or go to a class to acquire how to exercise mindfulness.
Guided meditation sources
“Mindfulness: Not Just For Stress Reduction.” Harvard Health Letter 41.4 (2016):
VAN DE VEER, EVELIEN, ERICA VAN HERPEN, and HANS C. M. VAN TRIJP. “Body And Mind: Mindfulness Helps Consumers To Compensate For Prior Food Intake By Enhancing The Responsiveness To Physiological Cues.” Journal Of Consumer Research 42.5 (2016): 783-803. Business Source Complete.
Courbasson, Christine M., Yasunori Nishikawa, and Leah B. Shapira (2011), “Mindfulness- Action Based Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Concurrent Binge Eating Disorder and Substance Use Disorders,” Eating Disorders, 19, 17–33.