Mindfulness — the awareness and acceptance of a situation without judgment — has been shown to have benefits in treating many conditions such as anxiety and depression. It turns out that even a brief introduction to mindfulness helps people deal with physical pain and negative emotions, according to researchers from Columbia University.
After being introduced to only 20-minutes of mindfulness concepts participants were tested in two contexts while undergoing brain imaging scans — one for assessing response to physical pain induced by applying high heat to the forearm and another for gauging their response when presented with negative images.
In both instances, researchers found significant differences in brain signaling pathways when participants were asked to employ mindfulness techniques compared to when they were asked to respond as they normally would.
Participants also self-reported less pain and negative emotions when employing these mindfulness techniques.
So if mindfulness is so effective at pain management, as well as reducing stress, anxiety, depression, and high blood pressure (as has also been reported), what are some simple steps people can take in their daily life to incorporate mindfulness? Here are a few ways you can easily employ mindfulness in your daily life:
Take a moment to stop and simply observe your surroundings without judgment or action. Simply observe the colors, shapes, and sensations around you.
Treat yourself the way you would treat a good friend.
Focus on the breath
Bring your awareness to your breathing, noticing the rhythm, the experience of breathing in and expelling out.
Body scan meditation
Bring your attention to one body part at a time and observe how it feels, starting from the top of your head, and down to your feet.
A good intro to sitting meditation is to sit comfortably with your back straight, but not tense, and simply focus on your breathing, as well as allow your thoughts to come and go as if they were clouds floating through a blue sky.
When walking (or running), just simply focus on the act, observe how it feels, and how your body moves.
Source study: Social, Cognitive, and Affective Neuroscience — Let it be: mindful acceptance down-regulates pain and negative emotion