Mindfulness stress reduction is a way to actively engage in your health and well being, to activate your own inner resources for health and well being, if you will.
The way I like to characterize this for my anger management or domestic violence clients is becoming more aware more frequently of thoughts or breathing or even heart beats, a quick turning inward to attend to feelings, and stress certainly has a feeling component for me.
I feel it in my gut, and I can tell when I have moved from eustress to distress.
The one thing that I have learned after all these years involved in personal growth work and professional psychoeducation is that it is my thinking that brings the feeling, and if I change my thinking then the feeling changes.
The one thing that nobody taught me is that I have about 60,000 thoughts per day.
According to Mihalyi Csikszentmihalyi,Ph.D., I process sensory data in packets of seven bits of data at a time, and the shortest amount of time between bits of data is 1/18th second, so that movement from eustress to distress happens very rapidly, and my mindfulness stress management should dovetail rather quickly.
The first technique that I found helpful in this mindfulness stress management process was the 'gratitude is the attitude' process that I learned from recovering alchoholic friends.
They pointed out to me, from their extensive experience of working recovery programs, that we are not supposed to have a state of constant bliss or ecstasy or rapture, so we humans switch back and forth between eustress/distress thoughts frequently and mindfulness simply means attending to thinking.
If I am thinking a thought that leaves me feeling distressed, then remembering a positive fun time in 1/18th second will bring an entirely different physiology into my body, and I can learn to sustain the physiology of contentment for longer periods of time, even make it a habit.
I like to say that I can feel good no matter how many alligators are up to my butt, not matter how many external problems there are to solve.
In fact, it turns out that I can manage my attention and physiology in ever more sophisticated ways now using biofeedback tools that are based on research not available too long ago, like heart rate variability biofeedack, utilized very well by the Heartmath folks, and neurofeedback, or EEG biofeedback, which teaches attentional styles in cycles of brain waves, which might cycle, in beta, 15 to 42 cycles per second.
Cycles per second is mindfulness, if you ask me, and I forgot to mention that the Csikszentmihalyi information is from his book FLOW, which describes those moments in my life when I have perhaps lost my mind, at least the part that chatters constantly about problems.
Csikszentmihalyi says that we can tease out the components of 'flow' and replicate them on demand, and live a life of satisfaction doing most anything.
However FLOW training and any other mindfulness stress management training takes regular practice, and one of the tools that I really like is the Heartmath heart rate variability biofeedback tool mentioned above, because it is a computer based tool which shows me how a change in thought impacts my physiology.
I see the change happen. Usually I think the stressful thought, then see the change happen on the computer screen, and change the thought back to a postive fun time from my past, or future, and then I see my heart rate variability move back into coherence, and I feel contentment return to my body until the next stress thought.
In other words, I am tuning into my thinking and attending to it mindfully using a biofeedback screen.
The Heartmath heart rate variability biofeedback tool speeded up the process of mindfulness based stress reduction for me, because it came bundled with a coach which helped me learn how to breathe and direct my thinking.
It took me about 6 practices or 3 hours to learn how to create sustained periods of heart rate variability coherence, which feel very good. More importantly, because of the biofeedback component the brain in my heart learned that it was to create the contentment physiology any time I created the cue thought and breathing pattern, and I could feel the change happen without being hooked up to the computer.
So I have learned it.
Very early in my personal growth experience, a wise person taught me to use the phrase "gratitude is the attitude" when I was resentful or afraid and that phrase has helped me feel better tens of thousands of times.
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