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Moving into 2021...mindfully...




The pandemic has no doubt negatively impacted many people’s mental health. Social distancing, isolating and covid restrictions have left many feeling lonely. Mindfulness may be one tool to help deal with the associated stress of living through a pandemic. Mindfulness is not a magic cure all, however, it can help change our perspective and in doing so improve our quality of life. Mindfulness not only helps with stress-related mental illness but it has also been found to enhance immune function which can help protect us from disease [1,2] Furthermore, recent studies have shown that mindfulness can enhance resilience to stressful situations and may have a role in the prevention of mental health disorders [3] This protective factor of mindfulness may prevent us from getting sick or unhappy so it is a win-win. The glimpses of joy we get from mindfulness can really help us restore calm, increase energy and confidence.




So what is Mindfulness? The aim of mindfulness practice is to "maintain awareness of moment-to moment experiences, disengaging oneself from strong attachment to beliefs, thoughts or emotions thereby developing a greater sense of emotional balance and well-being” [4]. By practising mindfulness regularly, it can change the biochemistry of our bodies and the structure of our brains and improve psychological flexibility. The insula has been ascribed numerous roles in higher order cognitive functioning, including awareness of interoceptive experiences. Regions of prefrontal cortex (PFC) and dorsal anterior cingulate cortex (dACC) have been associated more broadly with a range of ‘higher-order’ cognitive processes, including attentional control and emotion regulation, both of which are implicated in the balance of awareness of in-the-moment experiences with non-judgemental acceptance [5].

So, how do you do it? Well, there are various mindfulness apps that can help get you started. Please note some charge a monthly subscription fee and most have in-app purchases.


Here is a list of our favourites…


1. Headspace

2. Calm

3. Insight timer

4. Aura

5. Sattva

6. Inscape

7. Smiling Mind

8. Simple Habit


Be aware too that mindfulness may bring some of the more painful experiences or feelings to light and so it is important to have good support in place and seek help if you find these overwhelming. In a way this too can be advantageous in helping us create a better life for ourselves. We hope the coming year allows us to be more consciously alive and appreciate that every moment of life is precious.

© PCOS Vitality 2020.


References


[1] V.Y. Chang, O. Palesh, R. Caldwell, N. Glasgow, M. Abramson, F. Luskin, M. Gill, A. Burke, C. Koopman, The effects of a mindfulness-based stress reduction program on stress, mindfulness self-efficacy, and positive states of mind, Stress Heal. 20 (2004) 141–147. https://doi.org/10.1002/smi.1011.

[2] R.J. Davidson, J. Kabat-Zinn, J. Schumacher, M. Rosenkranz, D. Muller, S.F. Santorelli, F. Urbanowski, A. Harrington, K. Bonus, J.F. Sheridan, Alterations in Brain and Immune Function Produced by Mindfulness Meditation, Psychosom. Med. 65 (2003) 564–570. https://doi.org/10.1097/01.PSY.0000077505.67574.E3.

[3] C. Conversano, M. Di Giuseppe, M. Miccoli, R. Ciacchini, A. Gemignani, G. Orrù, Mindfulness, age and gender as protective factors against psychological distress during COVID-19 pandemic, Front. Psychol. 11 (2020) 1900. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2020.01900.

[4] D.S. Ludwig, J. Kabat-Zinn, Mindfulness in medicine, JAMA - J. Am. Med. Assoc. 300 (2008) 1350–1352. https://doi.org/10.1001/jama.300.11.1350.

[5] K.S. Young, A.M. van der Velden, M.G. Craske, K.J. Pallesen, L. Fjorback, A. Roepstorff, C.E. Parsons, The impact of mindfulness-based interventions on brain activity: A systematic review of functional magnetic resonance imaging studies, Neurosci. Biobehav. Rev. 84 (2018) 424–433. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.neubiorev.2017.08.003.

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