Why Mindfulness Has A Cooling Effect On Stress


The health benefits of mindfulness have been evidenced for some time, but have you ever wondered if performing quiet non-meditative activities might be as effective?

It seems that while quiet non-meditative activities may have their own unique benefits, they do not affect our body’s anti-inflammatory pathways the way mindfulness does, according to researchers in Wisconsin, Spain and France.

This is important news concerning mental health since inflammation is a suspected culprit in the development of depression, schizophrenia, autism and ADHD.

"Our findings set the foundation for future studies to further assess meditation strategies for the treatment of chronic inflammatory conditions," said Richard J. Davidson, University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Mindfulness vs. Quiet Activity

The scientists studied genetic changes in two groups of people after each group participated in eight hours of activity. One group included experienced mindfulness meditators who spent their activity day practicing intensive mindfulness. The other group of participants were untrained in mindfulness and spent their day doing non-meditative quiet activities.

After the day of activity, scientists found genetic changes in the mindfulness group that correspond with quicker physical recovery from stress. The changes were noticed in genes that are the usual targets of anti-inflammatory, analgesic drugs (e.g., aspirin and ibuprofen). These findings help us understand why mindfulness practice benefits people suffering from inflammatory disorders.

  1. There were no differences in the tested genes between the two groups at the study’s start.
  2. After each group completed eight hours activity, the genetic alterations discovered in the mindfulness participants were not found in the non-meditating quiet activity subjects.
  3. Some genes showed no changes in either group. Mindfulness clearly affected gene expression along specific regulatory pathways.

"Our genes are quite dynamic in their expression and these results suggest that the calmness of our mind can actually have a potential influence on their expression," says Davidson.

Two-Minute Mindfulness

Most of us will not be doing eight hours of intensive mindfulness, especially if we are learning the practice. Fortunately, a couple minutes of mindfulness practice repeated throughout the day can provide our mind and body with its benefits.

Essentially, mindfulness is being attentive to whatever is taking place each moment or paying sole attention to whatever task is being done. It can be practiced anywhere, anytime.

We may be mindful during department meetings, while listening to customers or to our children, when driving, while unloading the dishwasher, or while mowing the lawn. If you notice your attention wandering during mindfulness practice, it is not a big deal; just bring your awareness back to the activity or the moment and continue.

Source: U of Wisconsin News


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