A Mindfulness State of Mind Promotes Well-Being

Mindfulness-based therapeutic approaches are designed to teach individuals how to focus on the present. Many individuals with anxiety and depression have been able to significantly reduce their symptoms by adopting mindfulness breathing exercises (MBE) and other relaxation techniques and improve their level emotional arousal. The goal of mindfulness is to allow people to gain control over their feelings through acceptance. Calming behaviors allow people to replace reactive emotional responses with more adaptive and constructive methods. Additionally, mindfulness positively affects the physiological responses caused by stress, such as high blood pressure and heart rate.

One indicator of healthy functioning is heart rate variability (HRV), which measures the time between heart beats. Existing research has shown that high HRV can indicate a low stress response and better physiological and psychological well-being. The techniques used in mindfulness based therapies have even been proven to reduce severe symptoms of anxiety in people with agoraphobia, panic problems, social phobia and even suicidal thoughts. But until recently, few studies have examined the effects of MBE and mindfulness on HRV directly.

To look more closely at this relationship, Jan M. Burg of the Department of Clinical Psychology and Psychotherapy at Ruhr University Bochum in Germany recently led a study examining 23 college students. The students had learned basic mindfulness techniques and MBE. For her study, Burg assessed the HRV of each participant as they engaged in a brief session of MBE. She found that the participants that were most adept at MBE had the highest levels of HRV. This finding supports the theory that mindfulness positively affects physiological responses. Burg believes that the results of her study demonstrate that HRV is an important component of emotional self-regulation, and further, that mindfulness techniques such as MBE help increase HRV. She added, “Thus, the results suggest that HRV is a physiological correlate of a mindful state.” In sum, Burg believes that this study highlights the importance of being in a mindful state of mind in order to achieve and maintain psychological and physiological well-being.

Burg, J. M., Wolf, O. T., Michalak, J. (2012). Mindfulness as self-regulated attention: Associations with heart rate variability. Swiss Journal of Psychology71.3: 135-139.

Related articles:
The Two Pillars of Mindfulness-Based Therapy
Mindfulness: Finding Peace in the Midst of a Storm
How the Expressive Arts Enhance Mindfulness

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  • bliss

    August 6th, 2012 at 11:11 AM

    You know that feeling that you get when you are so stressed out and your heart is literally beating so madly that you just know it will hop out of your chest? That’s my typical kind of day, but I see from this that this is not a healthy way to live, I am only doing more to damage my body by allowing the pressure to always get to me this way.

  • Darla

    August 7th, 2012 at 11:55 AM

    The breathing exercises definitely help with heart rate.I practice yogic breathing exercises and have had a positive effect on regulating my heart rate for quite a few months now.I am more relaxed in general and even things that used to stress me out to no limits before can only push me to a certain extent now.

  • Mason

    August 7th, 2012 at 4:20 PM

    I don’t really want to go to therapy but I would love to learn more about some breathing exercises and ways to incorporate these into my life. Any thoughts for resources or materials that I may find helpful?

  • geof

    August 7th, 2012 at 8:33 PM

    The thing about mindfulness is this. It isn’t a technique, it’s a better way of being.

    Please don’t rob yourself by trying to cherry-pick bits of it. Doing it properly is easy and will change your life.

    Treat yourself by finding somewhere to take a mindfulness course.

  • Stan

    August 8th, 2012 at 4:34 AM

    any studies been done to measure heart rates after a yoga class for instance? looks like this would be some great promotion for that type of exercise if the heart rate is shown to be at an optimum rate for process ing stress after one has participated in a class such as that

  • linda G

    August 8th, 2012 at 4:19 PM

    I am a massage therapist, and I can instinctively pick out my clients who are practicing mindfulness and are living in the moment versus those who are not so aware of the things in their surroundings and who are suffering as a result of that. I am telling you, those clients who I know really are in tune with themselves, they are far happier and healthier than those others could ever dream of being.I seriously encourage all of them to try to take a good look at the stress in their lives and let us work together to find some ways that could relax them and help them release a lot of that unhealthy negative energy and stress that they are experiencing. Without that kind of dedication to their health then there is not much that my one hour massage can do for them that will continue to benefit them.

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