There is more and more research suggesting the powerful affect of mindfulness practice on cognitive and emotional coping.
Mindfulness practices encourage people to use their senses and brains attention to focus on the here and now.
These practices are effective in slowing down our cognitive, emotional and behavioural reactions in different situations. This can be especially useful in stressful and demanding situations, where making clear choices is often far more effective than making impulsive or rushed decisions.
When we are confronted by difficult situations and emotions, our brain often goes into heightened flight, fright or freeze states. This is often as a result of cortisol and adrenaline being released by the brain. This often results in us being reactive and defensive, rather than using all the parts of brain to make good balanced choices.
Grounding practices allow us to slow these moments down, so that we can use all the parts of our brain and make better choices. This happens when the amygdala (emotional centre) shrinks, and the hippocampus (critical thinking, memory centres) and pre-frontal cortex (decision-making centres) light up. This in effect allows us to access more intelligent parts of brains in these moments.
These techniques can be compared to dropping an anchor out in a choppy sea. The anchors can be small techniques like, taking control of our breath, visualising a calming scene, taking a walk, or splashing our face with water. These often break the momentum of the escalating thoughts and feelings, so that we can make better choices.
Additionally, if let to it’s own devices, the brain is often preoccupied with defensive thoughts about the past and future. This is all part of a clever system to keep us safe and alive. However, when we take manual control of our brain we can give it the rest and benefit of just being in there here and now. There is value in starting small, and growing your mindfulness appreciation and practice over time.
Mindfulness practices can be as simple as:
- Taking manual control of your breathing
- Walking quietly, slowly and deliberately
- Stretching your body with awareness
- Consciously noticing what you see and hear in the present
- Eating and drinking slowly, with full appreciation
- Putting your feet flat on the ground and connecting with the here and now
- Closing your eyes and checking in with your mind, body and emotions
- Repeating encouraging affirmations to your self