“If you truly want to change your life you must first change your mind.” ~Donald Altman

If you’ve been following me and my personal story, you know that in 2011 I woke up feeling like a cliché victim of burnout.

It was then that I began the long journey of burnout recovery. Years later after overhauling my entire diet and lifestyle I realized I had undergone a truly miraculous and amazing transformation. Much of that transformation I owe to partaking in a consistent daily mindfulness practice. If you don’t know what mindfulness is this quote from James Baraz sums it up nicely.

“Mindfulness is simply being aware of what is happening right now without wishing it were different; enjoying the pleasant without holding on when it changes (which it will); being with the unpleasant without fearing it will always be this way (which it won’t).” – Mindfulness and meditation teacher James Baraz

Early on in my path of self-discovery, I held onto a bit of weirdness associated with new age themes such as mindfulness, consciousness, and awakening. These themes evoked images of Buddhist monks living a life of celibacy and silence – people I didn’t resonate with. Truthfully, I didn’t even know if Buddhist monks were celibate or silent; that was just a deep seated stereotype that wanted to hold me back from personal growth. Don’t be that person. Push beyond any fear to see if Mindfulness might be for you. It might help you find your centre. Unless you are a donut.

After pushing through some of those stereotypes, I have now become a passionate advocate for the use of mindfulness as a key strategy to fighting stress and in the recovery of burnout. Especially among people in helping professions who I believe need it now more than ever.

I believe making mindfulness mainstream and not something that is just done at high end yoga studios is vital to the health and wellbeing of our community.

The web is crawling with all kinds of studies and research completed over decades with various types of people, this is a pretty great indication that mindfulness works.

Here is what some of the research is telling us about mindfulness for stress reduction if you aren’t yet convinced:

Mindfulness facilitates an adaptive response to daily stressors and that mindfulness produced less avoidance and more approach coping as a response to stress than relaxation. (Donald, Atkins, Parker, Christie, & Ryan, 2016).

Mindfulness can improve emotion regulation, leading to a better mood and better ability to handle and improves both explicit and implicit mood regulation. (Remmers, Topolinski, & Koole, 2016).

Mindfulness can improve restless legs syndrome (Bablas, Yap, Cunnington, Swieca, & Greenwood, 2016).

Mindfulness in parenting is “associated with lower levels of parenting stress, higher levels of authoritative parenting style, and lower levels of authoritarian and permissive parenting styles.” (Gouveia, Carona, Canavarro, & Moreira, 2016).

Mindfulness for healthcare professionals “showed significant improvements were also found in physician empathy, serenity, burnout, sense of self” (Bazarko et al., 2013)

Veterans with depression and/or PTSD showed “there were clinically significant reductions in PTSD and depression symptoms…”(Felleman, Stewart, Simpson, & Heppner, 2016).

Mindfulness for Police officers“demonstrated that discrete facets of mindfulness accounted for significant differential variance in the reduction of organizational stress, operational stress, and anger” (Bergman, Christopher, & Bowen, 2016).

Other touted benefits have included…

  • Increased attention and focus
  • Increased clarity in thinking and perception
  • Increased memory function
  • Increased relationship satisfaction
  • Lowered anxiety levels
  • Experience of calm and internal stillness
  • Experience of feeling connected
  • Higher brain functioning
  • Increased empathic response
  • Increased immune function
  • Lowered blood pressure
  • Lowered heart rate
  • Increased awareness

Mindfulness is as simple as carving out a few minutes each day to breathe, focus on the moment without judgement, and be silent. When your mind wanders (and it will) simply bring it back to the present moment and focus back on the breath. This is such a simple idea that even 5 year olds can learn this. Although the act won’t feel easy at first, keep at it and you will begin to understand the benefits in no time.

Whether you want to begin your mindfulness journey or increase your practice, you can consider downloading one of the many apps available to assist in your mindfulness practice. Here are a few suggestions…

MEDITATION & SOUNDS

Meditation & Sounds by Verv includes offering goal-based meditation courses, 5-minutes “911” single meditations, relaxing sounds, and how-to essentials. They also offer personalized meditation courses based on your goal (productivity, self-esteem, sleep, anxiety, relationship, weight loss and other programs) They offer 50+ sounds up to your mood and a special KIDS SLEEP pack, as well as a relaxing music packs for satisfying different needs.They have meditations available to help with: anxiety, creativity, happiness, stress management, productivity, relationship, self-Love, sleep, sport motivation, and even weight Loss

CALM

Calm offers guided meditations to help you become more relaxed. This app offers meditations, a sleep function to help you get more restful sleep and wake up feeling refreshed, a calming music function, video lessons on mindful movement and gentle stretching, an audio masterclasses function taught by world renowned mindfulness experts, and a nature scenes function which includes sounds to encourage relaxation. The meditations range from 3-minute to 25-minute sessions. This app is great for encouraging a routine of mindfulness practice. Within the app offerings there are also breathing exercises, unguided meditations, sleep stories, and a number of soothing sounds to help you improve and induce sleep.

BUDDHIFY

Besides having one of the coolest names, this app get your serious about maintaining a mindfulness practice! Buddhify allows users access to more than 11 hours of meditation programs. They offer meditations to help you sleep, ones to take a break from work. This app also has a check-in system allowing you to see your progress over time.

INSIGHT TIMER

This app offers over 4,500 free guided meditations from over 1,000 meditation guides. There is also some cool music tracks. There are options to customize your meditation using background sounds and meditation tool to create an experience unique to you.

SMILING MIND

I love this one for kids especially. It can be tailored to different age, you are never too young to begin mindfulness training. This app allows you to create accounts for various family members. Teachers and youth care practitioners can also use the app to bring mindfulness into their children’s experience.

MEDITATION PRO TIMER

Meditation Timer Pro features simple exercises to help you enhance your mindfulness practice. This app allows you to focus on mediating without thinking or worrying about the time. Like many of the others, this app also allows you to keep track of your progress. With Meditation Timer Pro, you can practice meditation anywhere and anytime.

SATTVA MEDITATIONS & MANTRAS

This app motivates you to practice mindfulness every day. There are lots of exercises including timers and chants which some people find a soothing experience. This also encourages you to check your heart rate via the app and participate in challenges with other users. The app also has information on the benefits of mindfulness.

STOP, BREATHE & THINK

This app has a ton of options for guided meditation, so if you’re looking for variety in your practice, this one is for you. This has options for guided meditations for areas of sleep, compassion, depression, and anxiety. You can adjust sounds to your liking, and record your progress throughout the year.

CITATIONS:

Remmers, C., Topolinski, S., & Koole, S. L. (2016). Why being mindful may have more benefits than you realize: Mindfulness improves both explicit and implicit mood regulation. Mindfulness, 7(4), 829-837.

Remmers, C., Topolinski, S., & Koole, S. L. (2016). Why being mindful may have more benefits than you realize: Mindfulness improves both explicit and implicit mood regulation. Mindfulness, 7(4), 829-837.

Bablas, V., Yap, K., Cunnington, D., Swieca, J. & Greenwood, KM. (2016). Mindfulness-based stress reduction for restless legs syndrome: A proof of concept trial. Mindfulness,7(2), 396-408. United States of America: Springer New York LLC.

Gouveia, M. J., Carona, C., Canavarro, M. C., & Moreira, H. (2016). Self-compassion and dispositional mindfulness are associated with parenting styles and parenting stress: The mediating role of mindful parenting. Mindfulness, 7(3), 700-712.

Dawn Bazarko, Rebecca A. Cate, Francisca Azocar & Mary Jo Kreitzer (2013) The Impact of an Innovative Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Program on the Health and Well-Being of Nurses Employed in a Corporate Setting, Journal of Workplace Behavioral Health, 28:2, 107-133, DOI: 10.1080/15555240.2013.779518

Felleman, B. I., Stewart, D. G., Simpson, T. L., Heppner, P. S., & Kearney, D. J. (2016). Predictors of depression and PTSD treatment response among veterans participating in mindfulness-based stress reduction. Mindfulness, 7(4), 886-895.

Bergman, Aaron & Christopher, Michael & Bowen, Sarah. (2016). Changes in Facets of Mindfulness Predict Stress and Anger Outcomes for Police Officers. Mindfulness. 7. 10.1007/s12671-016-0522-z.

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