Thinking Your Way to Happy and Healthy

November 6th, 2017 by Dr. Michael Glass

How Mind Makes Us Matter

 

What is mindfulness? Maybe you’re picturing a temple of Buddhist monks chanting in unison. However, more and more Americans are coming to realize that mindfulness is a useful tool that works extremely well in our hectic, modern world. Neuroscientists are even busy testing the benefits of mindfulness, as a recent Time article points out. Mindfulness is all about noticing our patterns of thinking, and our behaviors.

It’s about taking time out of our busy days to understand ourselves.

And research has shown that mindfulness actually works.

Understanding Our Habits

jogging womanBeing mindful also means being more aware of our habits. A recent study by a team of British psychologists found that young adults use their smartphones about twice as much as they say they do. This shows how unthinkingly we follow our routines, oftentimes to our detriment. Being mindful means that we think about what we’re doing. Instead of using our mornings to check our Facebook updates, or scroll through our newsfeeds, we could use that lost time for healthy activities. We could walk the dog around the block, or start that morning yoga routine we never seem to have time for. Being mindful allows us to understand our habits and hopefully change them for the better.

Mind The Body

Mindfulness not only improves our mental well-being, but our physical self, too. This is because being mindful can lead to less stress. A recent study by the American Psychological Association found that 34% of Americans reported a significant increase in stress since last year.

Stress brings a host of negative health factors, including a higher likelihood of cardiovascular diseases, poorer immune functions, and premature signs of aging.

Stress can even diminish our telomeres, the protective coverings over our DNA, which can lead to a shortened lifespan.waterlily with stones and bamboo

But when we take stock of things, we understand what’s really important, and what we could do without. This can lead to significantly less stress in our lives, which is good for our minds and our bodies.

An emerging branch of science called psychodermatology studies the connections between our mental health and our skin’s appearance. When we’re stressed out, our brain sends a signal to the adrenal glands to release the hormone cortisol. Cortisol gives the body much needed energy to deal with stressful situations, but it also signals inflammatory processes. Cortisol can also lead to increased oil production, and that can wreak havoc on our skin. Over time, constant stress can have adverse effects on collagen, which can lead to premature wrinkles and lines.

Don’t Freak Out

It isn’t all bad news, however. Being mindful isn’t that hard to accomplish. In fact, it goes hand and hand with relaxation. Practice slow, deep breathing exercises.

Take 5 -10 minutes out of your day to be in a quiet space, sans TV and phone.

Hear yourself think, and let those thoughts come and go without reacting to them. By practicing simple exercises like these, we can start to observe and understand our behaviors, and change them for the better. Being mindful isn’t only useful for our minds; it’s the first step in living a happy, healthy lifestyle. 775.204.3508