London, UK -- (ReleaseWire) -- 07/23/2014 -- Many studies have revealed how mindfulness, the practice of consciously directing our attention in the present moment, reduces stress and improves the quality of life of people suffering with illnesses from asthma to ulcerative colitis.
Watchfit Mindfulness Consultant, Leigh Tremaine, explains that many illnesses and their flare-ups can be triggered by episodes of stress and poor lifestyle choices. For example, ulcerative colitis, a chronic inflammatory bowel disease that has no cure, is subject to flare-ups that may be caused by stress. Leigh explains that the practice of mindfulness can often be used to treat and manage illnesses such as ulcerative colitis that currently have no cure and and have limited benefit from medication. Furthermore, mindfulness has no side-effects except that of greater wellness.
In a randomised controlled trial of mindfulness-based stress reduction to prevent flare-up in patients with inactive ulcerative colitis, researchers at Rush University in Chicago recently found that mindfulness was effective in lowering perceived stress and in preventing the characteristic drop in quality of life among sufferers of this disease.
"Stress has a big effect on us", explains Leigh. "It provides us with the motivation for change and resolution when we are in difficult situations, known classically as the Fight-or-Flight Response. But on the negative side, stress can impair our quality of life, decision-making, memory, and productivity, and can raise blood pressure, suppress immune response, and increase weight gain. It is also implicated in depression and mental illness. It therefore makes sense to utilise effective tools such as mindfulness for lowering stress and lowering our risk of developing stress-based diseases, including heart disease."
So how do we practise mindfulness? "When we hear such terms as mindfulness-based stress reduction, mindfulness can sound a bit daunting to learn and practice, when in fact it isn't," explains Leigh. "Mindfulness may be part of many different health programmes and approaches, but when it comes down to it, it is really just about being more fully present and bringing our attention back to the present moment where we are most ourselves and most resourceful. We can all do this."
Mindfulness can begin with taking some deep breaths which trigger the nervous system to slow our heart rate, lower our blood pressure and decrease our cortisol levels. Then we can focus our attention on our breath as we breathe in and out. If our mind wanders, that is okay, we simply bring our attention back to our breath. Gradually we can extend our awareness to more and more of the present moment, which is the place of being, where we are most alive.
Bringing our attention back to the present moment with mindfulness releases our fixation on the past and the future, and releases our attachment to compulsive thoughts that can drain our energy, limit our choices, and raise our stress levels. Being in the present moment, free of attachment to the contents of our mind also puts is in our most resourceful and productive state since we can then choose our thoughts and feelings, rather than drift into them automatically or unconsciously.
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