Everyone on the planet has felt a little out of control at times. You get angry or stressed out, tired or overwhelmed. After all, we’re all human. However, one thing as humans that we have on our side is the ability to breathe. Simply taking a deep breath and becoming aware of a moment when you feel your most stressed is profoundly helpful. The idea that breath and awareness help to cope with stress isn’t all in your head either. Pausing during stressful times to become present is an incredibly powerful practice. It’s so powerful in fact that it’s been studied, organized into a program and taught around the world. This process is called Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR), and it can be used to help alleviate chronic pain, reduce stress, and improve your quality of life. MBSR incorporates meditation, body awareness and yoga to help people become more mindful. It was developed at the University of Massachusetts Medical Center in the 1970s by Professor Jon Kabat-Zinn and has been used since to provide calmness and stillness to those that practice it.
Despite having roots in Eastern spiritual practices such as Buddhism and Hinduism, MBSR itself is secular and can benefit anyone that chooses to learn and practice this useful skill.
MBSR teaches participants, through in-person or online courses to be present in any given moment. Noting a definitive joy, pain, anxiety or even a particular taste or smell can help you process it easier, providing you with more fulfillment or peace at any given moment.
The beauty of this practice is that it can be useful for both positive and negative experiences. MBSR can help make you more present at joyous events just as it can help you understand what’s exactly making you anxious during periods of negativity.
Try it for yourself:
Close your eyes, sit in a comfortable position, and focus on your breath for just 2 minutes. Become aware of the way your breath feels moving through your body or the way your body feels in your chair. If a passing thought comes into your mind, acknowledge it and then recenter your focus. After the 2 minutes are over, note the way you feel. Relaxed? More centered? Better poised to tackle the rest of the day? Try to do this once a day or at least when your anxiety gets the better of you. Awareness is an incredible thing, and once you learn to use it, it’s very powerful.
Who would have thought that simply being more aware of yourself can so strongly affect your well-being? Do you think that MBSR is for you? Both online and in-person trainings are available to help you learn and thrive from this technique.
Dr. Takos is a Newport Beach Psychologist specializing in the treatment of adolescents and adults suffering from depression, anxiety, and trauma-and stressor-related disorders.