Mindfulness, Stress and Training the Mind

stressful-morning

Are you stressed? Reports suggest that between 26% and 40% of all workers feel stressed or "burnt out". This has consequences and it is believed that some 60% of doctor visits stem from stress-related complaints and illnesses.  This being the case, removing the sources of stress and improving the way that individuals self-manage their state would make an impact on the pressures on the NHS that we seem to hear about on a daily basis.  In this article we touch on mindfulness meditation and a new device called the PIP which allows simple and easy, anytime/anywhere stress relief when learning to meditate seems a bit of a stretch.

In a previous article we mentioned the "Healthy Mind" factors which are seven activites which have a complementary and beneficial effect on body and mind. One of those factors is Time In: About reflection, attunement and mindfulness. As we will see it's more than simple relaxation.

Stress is wired in for our survival

The primary unconscious drive of our body system is survival. So when confronted with stress the brain strives to reestablish and maintain homeostasis by activating and controlling both hormonal and autonomic nervous systems (ANS).  Stress responses are mediated by "circuits" in the limbic forebrain (the hypothalamus and the brainstem) so that the hormonal and ANS responses are shaped by the mode and intensity of the stress.

As long ago as the 70's Herbert Benson explored the importance and practice of the relaxation response.  We know that relaxation decreases sympathetic pathway activation and heart rate and muscle tension reduce. Basically lots of studies show that relaxation is a good thing when it comes to getting into balance.  However, what we are referring to as Time In - is much more than relaxation - and relaxation is only one aspect of the much broader practice of meditation.  Of course there are countless forms and methods of meditation - some evolved from religuous practices and some from more earthly intent.  It's probably true that many people who could benefit from meditation wouldn't practice it because it has associations that don't appeal for one reason or another.

 Mindfulness is one form of meditation that has received significant attention from neuroscientists recently. Mindfulness has been defined as:-

"Paying attention in a particular way, on purpose, in the present moment and non-judgementally"

One of the nice things about this is that rather than feeling compelled to change or struggle with the environment or the situation we find ourselves in, the practitioner just has to become aware and accept the thoughts, feelings and body sensations that arise in the present moment.

Mindfulness meditation activates the prefrontal cortex and the anterior cingulate cortex.  Long term practice seems to be associated with an enhancement of cerebral areas related to attention and emotion regulation.  It has physiological, cognitive, stress management and social benefits.  It's serves as a technique to bring our ANS into balance and this is fundamental to good health.

Although meditation is effective in relieving stress it takes commitment to learn and some individuals who don't have guidance may "worry" that they are not doing it right (somewhat non-productive).  Using biofeedback techniques to introduce the practice of meditation allows the approach to become quantified and the individual can see exactly how they are performing.

Of course individuals will not routinely have access to NeXus Biofeedback technology at home or work - but what we are able to offer now is a simple, inexpensive tool for a client to use at home.  The PIP device allows quantified biofeedback for everyone to spend "Time in" to banish stress from their lives. Using neat and discreet technology the small PIP device is held in the hand and can sense the subtle changes in the skin that are indicative of our ANS balance.  The PIP links to an App and to 4 engaging games that deploy biofeedback principles in a fun and effective way. Mindfulness experience in a quantified sense.  The new My PIP cloud platform takes this learning to a new level.  Your training data can be synced and reviewed on the cloud. In fact if you have a PIP device at home each member of your family can have their own My PIP account and use the family device.  More shortly.