Traffic jams. Job woes. Visits from the in-laws. Life is full of stress. One of the best ways to counter stress is to pay attention to what is going on. That may sound counterintuitive, but paying attention is the first step toward cultivating mindfulness. As the October 2011 issue of the Harvard Mental Health Letter reports, mindfulness is an effective therapeutic technique for a range of mental health problems (as well as physical ones).
The practice of mindfulness, which has its roots in Buddhism, teaches people to live each moment as it unfolds. The idea is to focus attention on what is happening in the present and accept it without judgment. Although a variety of mindfulness techniques exist, most involve some type of meditation — a focus on a particular word, phrase, or physical experience that helps calm both mind and body.
Dr. Michael Miller, editor in chief of the Harvard Mental Health Letter, notes that mindfulness meditation can help prevent relapse in people who have had several past episodes of major depression. Research also suggests that the practice of mindfulness can help alleviate anxiety and reduce physical symptoms such as pain or hot flashes. The article discusses several do-it-yourself mindfulness meditation techniques that people can try on their own at home.
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