Mindfulness Meditation by Dr Iraniha
For a long time, meditation was thought to be a practice exclusive to special people who isolated themselves from society, sat down on the bare floor with their eyes closed and their legs crossed for hours and hours with no obvious benefit. But over last two decades there have been a surge in understanding the real value of meditation, supported by scientific research. Mindfulness meditation is not a spiritual or religious ritual, but it is considered a powerful mental practice with potential of not only improving our mental health and wellness, but also strengthening our mind to cope against stressful conditions. Stress is an individual perception of a physical, mental, or emotional stimulus as a challenging, threatening, or overwhelming event, when it exceeds our available coping resources. When we encounter the stressor, it is sensed, processed and appraised in our brain which then activates the stress response. The way our brain appraises the stressful event depends on our priorities, goals, values, beliefs, and experiences. The pre-frontal region of our brain is responsible to modulate this stress response. Therefore, any technique or method that has the ability to manipulate or change the elements in this equation could potentially influence how we perceive the stressful events or cope with them.
What is Mindfulness Meditation?
Mindfulness meditation is a mental practice to strengthen our pre-frontal region. This concept is based on neuroplasticity, the ability of our brain to change its structure with experience, whether with creation of new neurons or formation of new connections and circuits. Mindfulness meditation is a practice of paying attention in the present moment, non-judgmentally. It is a practice of redirecting our attention back on our bodily sensations over and over. This potentially allows the growth and maturation of our pre-frontal region which is also the main location responsible for the function of attention in the brain. There are other scientific explanations of how meditation may change our brain function and structure, however, the most important fact supported by many scientific studies, is that the people who practice mindfulness meditation have shown better response to the stressful events and recover faster. Formal meditation has also demonstrated other physical and mental benefits, such as enhancing the immune function, improving well-being in patients with chronic pain, fibromyalgia, and heart disease, reducing anxiety, diminishing the risk of relapse in patients with depression and promoting abstinence in patients with substance abuse. It also has been suggested that meditation has potential to enhance some of our cognitive abilities such as sustained attention, emotional stability and positive attitude toward perceived stress.
Mindfulness meditation allows us to step out of our complex and crowded mind, stay quiet, and notice our bodily sensations, practice our attention, observe and acknowledge our thoughts and emotions without judgement and then let them go. It allows us to better understand ourselves, our feelings and our inner resources and become more resilient. Mindfulness meditation gives us the ability to see more clearly and have a different perspective of the world around us.
Applying Mindfulness Meditation in a daily basis.
In our health care system where health care professionals constantly battle with pain and suffering in a daily basis, mindfulness meditation with its potentials is a great tool for enhancing our mental well-being and improving our resilience. Therefore I would recommend to every hospital governing executives, that similar to the current “lunch time” and “break time” for our health care professionals, there should be a dedicated daily 15 minutes recess as the “Reflection Time”, So the health care professionals could reflect on the values of their profession and engage in mental or physical practices like mindfulness meditation and/or yoga to enhance their well-being , heighten their moral and strengthen their resilience at the work place.