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WHY MINDFULNESS?

Mindfulness is paying attention to the present moment with curiosity and kindness. It’s a daily practice that promotes mental health and flexibility. Inner Explorer is based on the world-renowned Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) program linked to nearly 6000 published papers. It begins with sitting, breathing and sense (sound, touch, taste, smell, and sight) exercises. Daily mindfulness practices improve attention, behavior, creativity and resilience to bolster all learning.

Reduces Stress

Prolonged stress leads to a shift in the brain from thinking to reacting. Decisions are replaced by fight or flight reactions. Without intervention, chronic stress strengthens destructive brain patterns. With mindfulness the brain’s ability to process and think is improved. Plus, increased awareness of thoughts and feelings further reduces reactivity and strengthens the relaxation response which reduces the heart rate and calms other body systems.

Boosts Immune Function

Chronic stress negatively impacts our immune system. When we experience stress for extended periods of time, cortisol --the stress hormone--is released. This hormone triggers inflammation known to wreak havoc on our immune system and our physical health. In fact, stress contributes to 80 percent of disease
Various studies have shown that mindfulness:

  • · Reduces inflammatory markers
  • · Increases the number of ‘communication’ cells that alert other cells to defend against infection
  • · Increases levels of antibodies to help prevent illness
  • · Positively influences the parts of the brain that help guide the immune system’s response.

Enhances Learning

Prolonged stress leads to a shift in the brain from thinking to reacting. Decisions are replaced by fight or flight reactions. Without intervention, chronic stress strengthens destructive brain patterns. With mindfulness the brain’s ability to process and think is improved. Plus, increased awareness of thoughts and feelings further reduces reactivity and strengthens the relaxation response which reduces the heart rate and calms other body systems.

5 Ways to Create Calm from Chaos

Focus on your breath to stabilize your attention. As you inhale, feel the movement of your abdomen, as you exhale, notice if the air feels cool or warm as it travels through your nose or mouth. Do this for a few cycles and notice if you feel more relaxed. Mindful breathing calms the body and the anxious mind. Anxiety can overwhelm us with what MIGHT happen. Our brain has a ‘negativity bias’, so we often imagine the worst-case scenario. When we stay in the present, the bias is overcome, and we can better manage the now. By focusing our senses on every activity, from washing our hands, to preparing meals at home and even standing in long lines, we can practice mindfulness and remain calm.

Basic Breathing Practice

Challenged with new uncertainties, it’s natural to focus on the bad, the restrictions, the fears. Our current situation necessitates life changes. But we can appreciate the benefits of slowing down and connecting more closely with friends and family, if not in person, through video chats, calls, and even letters. Normalcy has its own chaos, with families often running in many different directions. Instead, take advantage of this gift of time together. While it may seem difficult to appreciate during hardship, research shows that gratitude lifts our spirits and strengthens our ability to cope.

Gratitude Practice

Stop. Take a breath. Observe. Proceed. Use this technique anytime, anywhere. The pause is powerful. When you find yourself reacting to a person or situation or even your own thoughts, you can use this simple, effective approach to take a pause and move from reactivity to responsiveness. It only takes a minute.

S.T.O.P. Practice

The stressors in our lives are growing. Now we have unanticipated health, financial, and logistical concerns that were unimaginable a few weeks ago. It’s important to nourish ourselves physically and emotionally. Ways to practice self-care include getting eight hours of good quality sleep, consuming proper nutrition, exercising and experiencing the outdoors (while still practicing social distancing). Find time to take deep breaths and listen to music, etc.; practicing self-care will improve your health and well-being.

Sound Practice

There are many books, podcasts and articles about the benefits of mindfulness (links?). Research shows it reduces stress and anxiety, improves immune function and increases attention and performance. The critical element is daily practice, which can be challenging to integrate into an already busy schedule. During this time of uncertainty, we invite you to download the Inner Explorer family app, and begin practicing with your children every day.

The Allstate logo is the property of Allstate Inc. | Inner Explorer is a non-profit organization covered under Section 501(c)3 of the United States Internal Revenue Code.

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