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Mindfulness: It's Not Just For Spiritual Woo-Woo Types

Mindfulness: It's Not Just For Spiritual Woo-Woo Types

Imagine taking a morsel of food, say, an almond, and savoring it very carefully, giving it your full attention. If someone told you that doing everything you can with that kind of attention would help reduce your stress level at work, relieve bodily symptoms like back pain, and keep you from bad habits like smoking, you might think they were nuts.

Yet that’s exactly what the practice of mindfulness does say practitioners like Buddhists, and increasingly, there’s clinical research to back it up.

What is mindfulness? It’s the act of being aware of the moment — of what you’re thinking and feeling, both emotionally and physically, from one moment to the next. There can be a spiritual component, but anyone, regardless of their religion, can benefit.

Awareness of the moment is supposed to move us away from both regret for the past and anxiety about the future. And in addition to those thoughts that often cloud our mind, throw in a job full of emails, ringing phones and irritating co-workers and the modern person’s stress levels are sky high. To hear about a study proving its effectiveness in reducing stress,

When stressed-out historian and former professor Lillian Waugh at West Virginia University was invited to participate in a study on mindfulness, she was part of the group that was taught techniques to cultivate it — yoga poses, breathing methods and stretches. Waugh's group improved in ways that the other group, who were only handed informational pamphlets on stress, did not. Her group had significantly fewer daily hassles, psychological distress and significantly fewer medical symptoms as a result.

"We taught them how to recognize sources of stress, how stress impacts them, and then what they could do to come out of the vicious cycle of stress reactivity," says lead researcher Kimberly Williams.

I’ve practiced meditation pretty regularly for about year, and although I can still be a stress case, thanks to that simple idea — just to pay attention to the moment without panic — I can get myself out of almost any overwhelming moment if I remember what to do. Just because something is simple, however, doesn’t mean it’s easy. But if practicing mindfulness techniques can relieve all those stress symptoms, it’s definitely better than lighting up, drinking or freaking out.


Join The Conversation
Phil Phil 8 years
You can't deny that there are spiritual woo-woo types in existence. I don't think the term is meant to imply that everyone who takes the time to meditate and actualize is a woo-woo, but rather it singles out the woo-woos that facetiously meditate for the sake of partaking in a popular cultural trend (much like those folks who took the Pan-Africanism of the 60s and 70s to ridiculously comical extremes. The Pan-Africanist woo-woos. Same thing now with people who are superficially eco-conscious--the type that buys a Prius, eats organic, but eats meat with every meal and runs their home air conditioner constantly because Gods forbid they get a little chilly or hot). I'm a bit familiar with the type. I remember an instance having just arrived at the campground parking lot for Coachella 2004. Two folks in monk's garb, I believe Hare Krishnas, came up to us on our haul to the camping grounds. Both were handing out Hindu texts (among them copies of the Bhagavad Gita. Score!). The first monk, an elderly man, came up and engaged us in conversation, offered us his texts and went on his way without question or expectation. The next monk was young, sounded like a salesman, initially offered us some texts, and asked us some question I can't quite remember, then took the books back from us and moved on to try and squeeze someone else when it became clear to him that we wouldn't be contributing any money or whatever he was looking for (water was effing expensive and he seemed quite douchey and I'm naturally less inclined to help out douchebags.). That first person was a fine monk, genuinely benevolent. The second quite obviously a woo-woo who probably deserved a long teabagging.
chatondeneige chatondeneige 8 years
"Spiritual Woo-Woo Types" is probably one of the most disrespectful things I've seen on this site, and that's saying something after your crass "teabagging" comment, Tres. :oy:
Phil Phil 8 years
The relationship between spirituality and cognitive science is an interesting one, and the meditative practices of the Eastern religions have continued to fascinate the world of science. What's beautiful to me about the Eastern religions is that their de facto leader (not just Buddhist as he transcends the religious bounds), the Fourteenth Dalai Lama Tenzin Gyatso, is a leader that is benevolent enough to embrace the role of science in the world. And so, this openness the Eastern religions have had with the world of empiricism has lead to a fundamental understanding of the benefits that mindful meditation can achieve, and so has opened the practice and benefits to so many millions more people around the world. The most disciplined of monks in the art of meditation can do some astonishing things with their bodies normally controlled by our autonomic nervous system, and modern science's understanding of some of these more extraordinary exercises is still fledgling. Mindfulness through deep meditation is much about unlocking the secrets of our bodies, or which there are many, and learning to utilize those secrets. I can only wonder what more a deeper practice of meditation can do.
nancita nancita 8 years
Such a great reminder. I need to be more mindful.
Beaner Beaner 8 years
Dude, that title made me laugh out loud, and I'm a yoga instructor!
Chrstne Chrstne 8 years
I was interested in college, and then I sort of forgot about it. I never actually tried this to reduce stress. Right now, I am on vacation, but I teach in the fall -- I never actually feel stressed from work or something all the time, especially when I am home. However, I noticed that lately, I have started to fret a bit more, or become anxious or who knows what. Maybe something like this will help. It's odd, how stress or anxiety can overcome us, and a lot of the time we can't even pinpoint exactly what threw us over the edge.
dm8bri dm8bri 8 years
I think this totally works. I need to get better at it, however, because my stress levels are almost catastrophic.
lwisne lwisne 8 years
My wife did research in Mindfulness-based stress reduction in grad school, with a very similar setup to the one you present at West Virginia. It works! In general I am a big believer in the idea that the mind controls the body far more than most people give it credit for.
CaterpillarGirl CaterpillarGirl 8 years
"Spiritual woo woo types" Freaking immature Tres.
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