Reduce Stress with Mindfulness

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Most of us experience stress on a daily basis. Those who work in especially stressful careers, such as those in the military, may particularly benefit from practicing mindfulness. There have been numerous studies that have examined the effects of using mindfulness-based training techniques in a variety of ways that can help lower stress and stress-related manifestations amongst troops. Soldiers who practice mindfulness have been shown to have lower rates of stress, better sleep, and less depression, to name a few.

The Science

One study, involving Marines, looked at the effectiveness of mindfulness-based fitness training (MMFT) on resilience mechanisms in Marines preparing for deployment.  The results indicated that Marines who completed the MMFT program had greater reactivity and enhanced recovery (as demonstrated by heart rate), improved breathing rate after stressful training, and improved blood-oxygen-levels. These results indicate that physical stress recovery can be improved for individuals who undergo the MMFT program.

Another study examined the effects of mindfulness training on mental stress as indicated by self-reported sleep quality and PTSD among veterans. The results of the study indicated that just 2 mindfulness based sessions, called “mind-body bridging” or “MBB”, were effective in helping reduce the number of sleep disturbances as well as improve PTSD symptoms. Additionally, reduced symptoms of PTSD and depression was also observed amongst veterans who completed a mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) program.

Practicing mindfulness has been shown to help reduce stress reactivity in civilians as well. The results of a study published in 2015 showed that healthcare workers working in the Intensive Care Unit were better able to handle stress after completing a mindfulness-based training program. The program included meditation, yoga, breathing exercises and gentle stretching.The study also found that those who completed the mindfulness training did not report experiencing lower levels of stress. Rather, they simply responded to to it differently (as measured by stress hormones found in saliva).

Start Practicing

To begin practicing mindfulness, set aside at least 5-15 minutes per day (the more, the better). Find a quiet place (if you can) and sit in a comfortable position. With your eyes closed, begin to pay attention to your breath. Notice it as you breathe in and then exhale. Does your breath feel cool when inhaling and a little warmer when exhaling? Notice when your abdomen rises and falls. When outside thoughts come to your mind, gently bring your attention back to your breath.

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