Mindfulness, health, & stress
Health is a state of physical, mental, and emotional well-being and integrity. New research findings suggest that the primary mechanism by which mindfulness exerts its beneficial effects on health is through regulating our stress response.
"When an individual experiences stress, activity in the prefrontal cortex -- responsible for conscious thinking and planning -- decreases, while activity in the amygdala, hypothalamus and anterior cingulate cortex -- regions that quickly activate the body's stress response -- increases. Mindfulness reverses these patterns during stress; it increases prefrontal activity, which can regulate and turn down the biological stress response."
(Creswell & Lindsay, 2015)
Stress is not inherently bad. Hunger is a form of stress. So is thirst. From an evolutionary standpoint, stress is actually intended to promote health: its discomfort signals that something is out of balance, that we need to pause and consider the moment more completely, and address what is causing the stress.
Rather than ignoring stress or trying to dull our experience, mindfulness enables us to skillfully work with stress as it arises, shifting our relationship with it. In doing so we begin to reverse patterns of perceiving and reacting that are detrimental to our health!